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Why Wearing a Wig Is Just One Part of My Cancer Journey

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I’ve never defined my beauty by my hair. Let’s face it, my hair has never been anything more than just “nice.” But it’s funny how quickly thoughts change when you’re staring back at the balder, paler version of the feminine reflection you used to see. 

I turned 31 on a Tuesday, and by Wednesday evening, I was a product of my diagnosis: lymphoma. Hodgkin’s lymphoma. 

I cried. And when I say I cried, I wailed like a hysterical fool. You may as well have told me I had six months to live because in those minutes of doctor to patient counseling, I felt defeated. I will probably hang on to those words for the rest of my life: “You have cancer.”

I screamed as I held my husband. I’m not sure who was shaking more at that moment, although it really didn’t matter. I knew we were in this together, and in that earth-shattering moment, I strangely felt happy at the same time — happy to know I had a partner in this. I was lucky enough to have a spouse and best friend to ensure I would never feel alone. He’s the strongest person I know who wouldn’t let me fail or be weak, for he’s been through hell and back to rebuild this family from the ground up to not let cancer get in the way. How could I stay sad?

Ashly Greene with her wig

So that brings me back to the hair. Wanting to actually feel in control of my situation, I deliberately shaved my head. I felt mesmerized by the sound of the clippers as I flipped the switch. They seemed to purr at me, and an overwhelming calm came over me. As I put the blades to my scalp, I pushed through and watched the strands fall to the bathroom floor. And again. And again. Until I was full on “G.I. Jane” style.

It was exhilarating. I couldn’t help but smile and giggle, but this high wouldn’t last long. Soon the tears would return when the realization occurred that this, in fact, was my reality. My hair wasn’t growing back in, and I would be forced to live bald for a good year. It hurt.

Being happy is so much more fun, and anyone who knows me knows I love to smile and laugh. So this is when I introduced myself to “Wylene the Wig.” I named her since she’s going to be such a huge part of our lives for the next year or so. Wearing her makes me feel alive again. She singlehandedly gives me back my dignity, my desire to feel girly and my confidence to walk through a grocery store incognito to protect against the looks, glances and stares that say, “Oh, she has cancer.”

But cancer has so many faces. My wig is only one of these faces. Meaning, just because I love how I feel when I’m wearing Wylene, doesn’t mean I hide from being bald. Bald is beautiful, but it is so much more than beauty. Bald signifies strength and resilience and bald is the hand I was dealt. 

Follow this journey on lifeloveandlymphoma.

The Mighty, in partnership with Fuck Cancer, is asking the following: What was one thing you thought immediately after your diagnosis that you completely changed your mind about? Find out how to email us a story submission here.

Originally published: September 13, 2016
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