Shireen Fashion Blog
Paula, Kookie & Molly my hair chronicle ...
Posted by Shireen Sandoval 04/01/13, 7:11pm
I didn't lose my hair all at once. It came out little by little, here and there. It trailed behind me like a brillant mystery novel, leaving little clues to my whereabouts. First, I noticed it on my pillow. Then my shower drain. I'd find strands on my shoulders and frantically pick them off. Eventually a clump would follow. Each piece was like a string of rope coming untethered. The once strong, tightly bound fibers unraveled around me. Over time, my magnificent mane became minuscule. The bottom shed so much it turned see-through. The top, typically full, thinned-out into a lackluster, lifeless thing that just laid there. It was a case of "hair today, gone tomorrow" literally.
It upset me. A lot. I was sick and nature was taking the lead. My hair was just following suit. I sobbed like a crazy person. I tried a silk pillow case. I didn't brush it. I didn't put heat on it. Forget chemicals. I did everything I could possibly do to save my 'do but to no avail; the majority of it still fell out. I wanted to curl up and disappear, but I couldn't, I wouldn't. I had to suck it up, brush it off and let the burden fall from my shoulders. There was a more important war that needed to be waged. My body was in the grips of Guillain-Barre'. I was fighting for my life. Did it really matter if I had good hair? The practical answer would be no, but in my styled reality, it was yes. I work on television, as an entertainment reporter. How you look is important. During this time, I received a lot of mean-spirited emails. People, with ease, hidden behind a computer keyboard wrote me things like: "Your hair looks horrible. You're too thin! You're so gaunt! What have you done to your face? Why do you starve yourself? You look so ugly!!" Talk about a bad hair day.
The words hurt me, deeply. I became painfully self-conscious. I knew I would never be the same Shireen I used to be. That girl rudely snuck out the back door, without even saying good-bye. She took the health that I had taken for granted and made off with my hair, too. A five letter word comes to mind. I tried replying to the not so kind messages, but I was too worn-out and weary from illness; just like my hair. We both needed a break. I gathered myself together and pulled back my few frizzy little tuffs. This allowed me to see and concentrate more clearly on my recovery.
Before a sudden illness, you're all waving your Crystal Gayle hair around. Until one day you notice it's a little damaged on the ends. You can see it, feel it, something's just not right. So you go to trim it, like any normal person would. On the way, you even think maybe it's time for a change. You entertain a pretty pixie cut, maybe some layers to lighten your face, or what about a dramatic color change? You've always wanted to go red! The options look good until "OOPS," without warning, you get shaved to the bone; with news you're sick. You can't believe it. You try to feel your way around the naked terrain but it's just so surreal you can't wrap your head around it. You're totally bald and exposed. Swept up in the fact that your body is failing you. You ask your doctor: "How did this happen? Will I ever be the same? Will I, can I recover?" When you get home, still in shock, you run to the mirror to check-out your new look, but a stranger stares back at you. It's a style you never thought you'd have to wear and one you know MOST people can't & don't get away with.
As my immune system took a hard nose-dive. My weight did, too. I lost more than 20 pounds. My hair, face & body became ravaged by illness. For the most part, I lived with it in silence. I wasn't ready to share it. I was just trying to get through it. With time and the help of good doctors, I embraced the new me. The sick me. I grew out of being embarrassed by my GBS. I became proud that I was fighting it, beating it, allbeit with less hair. I cut the few locks that I had left. I tried bangs. I cut it again. I let my natural color grow back. It's almost black. Even though my style had gone flat and I was smack dab in the middle of a hairy situation, I never gave up hope on my hair. It sounds silly, but I knew if researchers believed: "A single strand of healthy hair can hold the weight of two elephants." I'd be okay. I still had at least half a pachyderm in me.
Paula, the owner of Paula's Salon on South Beach, single-handedly saved the last few locks I had left. She was devoted to them. Paula bought me special shampoos & conditioners. She found treatments to help sick hair. Paula knew my follicles were failing me. Yet, she would not. She was my coiffure champion and cheerleader. Like a well-trained doctor, she helped me explore my options. We tried wigs, clip-in hair extensions and falls, trying fanatically to find the right fit.
My bosses at Channel 7 gave me the freedom to undergo treatment for my illness. They supported me. They worried about me. My co-workers at Deco Drive became my biggest advocates and protectors. My Intravenous Immunoglobulin and aggressive neuro meds spanned over a year's time. I spent days upon days - with needles stuck in my body - thinking about the past and hoping for a future. I had continual headaches and major bed head. I wore little skullies to pass the time and to pass the mirrors in my apartment. I didn't have the luxury of splitting hairs.
Every few months, I would grow restless and try to comb through life like a normal person. My strands weren't having it, though. Those are what I call my blonde moments. One time, I tried attending a party and was asked to leave upon my arrival. The host had learned I'd contracted a "virus" (that's how GBS usually starts. Mine was triggered from a simple case of the flu.) He was convinced I was contagious. I wasn't. I asked why he'd invited me. He teased: "I didn't think you'd actually come." I sulked off and cried in my car. To his defense, I looked pretty strung out. I had track marks (from constant IVIG) littering my arms and legs. When I got home, I felt the gravitas of my illness and how it had affected every corner of my life. I was drunk with sadness and I knew not even The Hair of the Dog could solve this hangover.
The next day, determined to put the hair raising experience behind me, I clipped on my phony pony (that's my fake pony tail I bought at Walgreens) and went to one of my favorite restaurants in Surfside. The day would turn out to be special - for two reasons. The first, I was craving a salad. During my illness, I survived on Ensure, white rice, oatmeal, noodles, tea and sprite. Anything else I would vomit. The fact that I was craving greens was a good thing. My body was healing. The second, I met a waitress that totally changed my strandless situation. She set my salad down in front of me and I just stared at her hair. It was fabulous. "Anything else I can get you?" she said in a sing-songy cadence. "Yes, can I have your hair?" I quipped. She laughed and told me: "It's fake."
It was a hot summer day when I met Kookie. I was nervous. I rung my hands together and stared at my pale, sickly reflection in the salon mirror. Kookie greeted me with a soft, feathery hello and yes, her tresses were terrific. We hit it off right away. We talked a lot. About my illness, about my hair, even about my love life (that's a whole 'nother blog.) Kookie just has this way about her. Before I knew it, I told her my whole life story and it's a long one. I told her about the waitress that parted my sorrows by referring me. I made a follow-up appointment. The next week with perfect prescision Kookie sectioned, braided and wove hair onto my head. I cried. My new hair made me feel semi-whole again. I hadn't realized how cut-off I'd felt from the normal me. The healthy me. That bleached out space in my heart was filling up with the most beautiful color of brunette. Paula coined Kookie's lovely creation "Molly." That was two years ago.
My "real" hair is finally growing back, but Molly was real, too. A real life-saver. She extended my reality - you know like a "fake it til you make it" kind of thing. My close friends always ask me about Molly. I love it. I love that people care enough to ask about my hair (indirectly, asking me about my health.) Paula & Kookie fought my follicle woes like warriors and straightened-out an incredibly matted situation. Paula, Kookie & Molly my hair chronicle... taught me, sometimes you have to let things die so you can fight to live.
Let your hair down at http://www.paulassalon.com or with Kookie Maffett (by appointment only)