It’s Only Hair

8 04 2011

It’s interesting to me how one moment–one tiny second in our entire lives–can sometimes change everything. You are going along, minding your own business, doing whatever it is that you do, and BAM! Things change. You change. You are no longer the person you were a moment ago.

On Sunday, my mom had what we first thought was a TIA, and then thought was a small stroke, and then discovered was a brain tumor.

My world completely changed.

It isn’t that I’ve taken my mom for granted, exactly. I’ve always been grateful for her. She does so much for so many people–me, as the one blessed to be her daughter, most of all.

I think it was that the future, the one I had built in my mind, suddenly wasn’t so certain. The nebulous figure Death that I knew would visit my immediate family sometime had suddenly gotten sharp edges and came into much more focus than I am comfortable with.

The same thing happened 2 1/2 years ago. My mother-in-law got cancer and we held our collective breath, hoping Death wouldn’t notice us.

Thankfully, he walked on by. Or perhaps I should say “miraculously,” because I truly think it was a miracle.

However, at the time of her diagnosis I remember feeling completely useless. What could I do, so far away? My heart ached. I couldn’t cure cancer. I couldn’t even understand half of the explanations.

I recall getting ready for bed one night in the middle of her treatment. I looked at myself as I brushed my hair, crying and praying. And I thought of something I could do.

“I’ll grow out my hair,” I thought. “I’ll give it to Locks of Love so they can use it to make a wig for someone who has cancer.”


This is a picture from the early fall in 2008, soon before her diagnosis. I’ve always been a short-hair kind of person. I had my moments of growing out the mane, but it never really made it past my shoulders–and that was in 7th grade. I thought I looked better (and it was certainly easier) with short hair.

From then until now, I’ve grown out my hair. My hair stylist was convinced I’d get attached to it and change my mind.

By the beginning of 2010, it was brushing my shoulders. I liked it in some ways, and in other ways it drove me crazy. Long hair takes so much effort, what with the drying and straightening or curling. When I put in the effort, it looked pretty good. All too often, though, I’d be pressed for time (what? Who, me?) and it would end up in a ponytail or a messy bun.

When I went and got my haircut last week (seriously, it was just last week. Even though it feels like it was about six months ago.), I told her I was still going to donate it. I’d figured it would take another year to grow it long enough to be able to cut it off at my chin and have the required ten inches to donate.

I can’t tell you how many times I wished  I could cut my hair over the last 2 1/2 years. I didn’t count. But every time I wanted to cut my hair I’d remember my mother-in-law and how happy she was to have a wig so she didn’t feel embarrassed about her bald head. I’d think to myself, “It’s only hair.”

So when I woke up at 3 am the other day and was thinking too much about how helpless I was, I realized that’s what I could do. I could shave off my hair. If I was shaving my head, there would be ten inches.

The longer I thought about it, the more determined I became to do it. I worried a little about how it would come off–would I appear like a martyr? I didn’t want to seem like that. I wanted to help somehow, and it seemed like one way I could do that would be to experience hats and head wraps and very little hair with my mother.

At one point I realized I was doing it more for myself than I was for her. I needed to do this.

In the scriptures, God and the prophets are continually urging the people to remember. Remember the great things I’ve done for your fathers. Remember Lot’s wife. Ye are slow to remember the Lord. Remember how great the Lord has blessed you.

It’s part of the mortal condition to be distracted. So many lessons I’ve had to learn more than once because I haven’t sufficiently remembered what I needed to.

I realized I wasn’t only shaving my head because I love my mother, and it sure as heck wasn’t to be a martyr. I shaved off my hair so that every time I see myself in the mirror, every time I feel the wind touch my scalp, every time I put on a hat, I can remember how great the Lord has blessed me to give me such a mother.

Her surgery is today to remove the tumor. I appreciate so much all of your prayers.



30 responses

8 04 2011
El Jefe

Great post, Wendy. And, even better: yours will grow back (this, of course, from a bald/ing man’s perspective).

Love you!

El Jefe

8 04 2011

What a great post. What did your kids think? Praying for strength for you today.

8 04 2011
8 04 2011

She is in my prayers, and you are beautiful. She is in my whole family’s prayers as are you and yours.

8 04 2011

I’m glad you took me along your thought process because I thought, “My mom would be so mad at me if I shaved my head.” It’s seems perfect to me now – that you shaved your head – now it seems like the best choice. I pray everything goes well today. You and your Mama are just so GOOD that you are an example to so many people.
luv ya

8 04 2011
Annette & Neal

That was beautiful Wendy. Thank you for sharing your journey. My mom and I read it together and we were both touched–I was in tears. All your pictures are beautiful. You were writing is amazing. We love you and are praying for you and your family.

8 04 2011
Dixie Burt

Wendy, you’re a sweetheart, just like your mother. I love your family, I love your mother. I love serving with her. She calms my spirit, and has helped me to remember that my calling is from the Lord, and that he will guide me to what I need to do for all those girls. May the Lord give you the strength you need at this time. With a prayer in my heart. And Hello! my makeup was a waste of time today, and it’s okay.

8 04 2011

You are incredible Wendy. Thank You!

8 04 2011

You look beautiful. Amazing how it shines through even more now that there is no hair to hide behind.

8 04 2011
Cami Mortensen

Thanks for sharing your heart, Wendy. This was beautiful ~ like you!

8 04 2011

Wendy, you are such a beautiful person, just like your mother! She has been such a great example to me! You are now another great example of love and courage and I pray that peace and comfort will be you and your family at this time. Thanks for sharing with us!

8 04 2011
Sherie Schwendiman

Thank you Wendy. Love you and your mom. Prayed for a miracle last night, being the selfish person I am. You know, I never know if you should do that, but I just couldn’t help but ask for a miracle. The news sounds so sweet today. I hope it continues for about 35-40 more years. Tell your mama, we love her.

8 04 2011
Marjene Erikson

We are so touched by your amazing way of putting your thoughts and feelings into words, Wendy. You, your mom and the entire family are in our prayers. You are darling with or without hair, and WE LOVE YOU!

8 04 2011

MASTERFULLY written – a wonderful tribute to your mom – believe me, she’ll cry her eyes out when she’s up to reading it AND feel so blessed to have such a great daughter . . . but she already KNOWS that! You’re a GEM.

8 04 2011
Emily Belnap

I followed the link from your mom’s page. I just don’t know what to say. You are inspiring.

8 04 2011

I absolutley loved spending time with your children today! You probably already know what an inspiration you have been to me, but just in case you didn’t, I thought you should. I was just telling my own Mom the other day that you are one of the most amazing people I have ever met. I love you very much and I pray that we (your family) can help and support you in anyway possible through this difficult trial. I think I might grow my hair and donate it, too!

8 04 2011
Mark Carson

Always the inspiration…Thanks for being the special person you are to me and Tami. Love ya girl.

9 04 2011

Dear Wendy,

I love you so much. You have been so kind and loving to me. I was very touched that you grew your hair out to remember me. I am a short hair person, too–not quite as short as it was 2 1/2 years ago!–so I am very touched that you lasted through 2 1/2 years growing your hair, washing, drying, fixing, etc.. What a tribute! I’m glad you had enough hair to donate to Locks of Love after going through all that!

Now you have made an extra special tribute to your Mom and you are cute! It’s cold with just fuzz, isn’t it!

We love your Mom! I have contemplated shaving my head or growing out my hair or wearing hats again in honor and support of Elaine. Unfortunately, any way you “cut it” I am not nearly as cute as you are with no hair OR, I’m sure, with long hair, either. Previously I’ve felt that the longer my hair got, the uglier I got. However– when I was hairless, I bought a long, beautiful golden wig and wore it a few times for fun and was told I looked 10 years younger!!!!! (But my hair has been decidedly gray since chemotherapy, and so far I’ve let it be gray.) So now I probably look 10 years older (or eeks) maybe 20 years older (10 + 10)! And long gray hair?– hmmmm–might look 30 years older?

Your Mom is a wonderful woman and I’ve appreciated her love and kindness (and your family’s) to us–truly Christlike. We continue to pray for her.



9 04 2011
Camille Pocock

Wendy, you are beautiful! You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers!

9 04 2011

Oh Wendy, you look beautiful! Your mom must be so proud of her daughter. And someone is going to love all that gorgeous hair you donated. I was admiring it when I saw you a few weeks ago. What a special gift. Love you!

10 04 2011

What they said. And what I said in the message on facebook, too.
Sending a hug!

11 04 2011
Tanya Gunnell

I finally just got connected to your mom’s site and popped over here on the link. I totally identify with your post! I donated my hair for the first time after Debi’s stroke. It’s amazing how perspectives change once real life-and-death trials hit home. I’m praying for you all, especially your great mom. We both lucked out in the mom department!!

14 04 2011
Mrs. Olsen

Aaah. This was beautiful. You have a nice head! All my prayers to you, your family, and your sweet mother. I wish I could bring her a plate of her very own licorice caramels (because mine wouldn’t turn out).

I hope you are able to spend lots of time with her over the coming months. Take care!

14 04 2011

You are beautiful Wendy. Your family has been in my prayers.

15 04 2011

Simple gorgeous. Inside and out. I am grateful to know you!

15 04 2011

You look awesome!!

20 04 2011

You are beautiful – inside and out. Hugs and prayers.

21 04 2011

Wendy! It has been so long since I’ve seen you. That first picture of you with your hair dark and shorter looks so much like your mom! You are beautiful, inside and out. Our prayers are with you and your family. We loved being neighbors with the best cook in the world. A little bit embarassing how we would fight over the orange rolls when your family would come to dinner. Your mom made the best orange rolls and chocolate chip cookies and licorice carmels. Mmmmmm….they are still my favorite recipes. I agree with you–your mom is an amazing person who does a lot for others! We love you guys!

24 04 2011

My dear sweet Wendy. I have been so blessed to have you for my daughter. You have been a ray of sunshine for us these past 3 weeks. I know your Spring break wasn’t what either one of us were planning but I am so grateful for the Lord’s tender mercies that you were here and not up in Auburn. You are so strong and we love you so much and thank you for all you have done for us. I’m sure I will be talking to you daily. Thanks for all you are and all you do. We love you.

31 05 2011

Wendy–Thanks for keeping us all updated on your mom. I really appreciate it since I live in Salt Lake City. You are an inspiration to me. I don’t know how you keep up with all that you have to do. Good thing you are young. You are truly loved not only by your family but by all of the Don and Vera Archibald family. Keep up the good work.
Love ya,

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