It’s not “just hair”

I had just dug my Navy uniform out of a storage box last night in anticipation of my first day back today. This baby hadn’t seen daylight in about 10 months and I was ready to dust off my boots (isn’t that a country song?) and get back to my part-time military life. After some much needled snuggles with Chloe and Cassie this morning, I put my uniform on and immediately went to the mirror to check it out. It had been so long since I last wore it I forgot what it looked like, but it all quickly came back to me. Yup, this uniform was just as unflattering as I had remembered and I was loving it. It was a nice change from the dresses and thick makeup that I typically wear to work. Just as I was in the middle of admiring my uniform in the mirror, a devastating realization hit me out of nowhere.

I can’t wear my wig.

The hair on my wig is too long to wear down in uniform and it’s too short to fit into a bun. I tried on some old wigs that I hadn’t worn in months and quickly remembered why I hadn’t worn them. Seriously, what was I thinking when I bought these?

I stared in the mirror for a good ten minutes, trying to figure out what to do. I spent way too long trying to tame the tiny pieces of hair that each seemed to have a mind of their own. You see, I have this permanent bedhead look going on right now and I can never get all of my little hairs to flow in the same direction. I tried hard to make it look a little less like I had just rolled out of bed, even though I technically had, but to no avail. I was not ready for this. Sure, I post pictures and show you all updates of my hair growing back, but somehow this felt different. You all know what I’ve been through and there’s a level of comfort there that I don’t have when I’m in public. Plus, let’s be real, in photos I can control the lighting and the filters I use and believe me when I say that most of my pictures have filters on them. If Instagram didn’t want us to use them they wouldn’t be available, right? At least that’s what I’ll keep telling myself.

I also have to say that I even skip the wig at the gym most of the time, but honestly there are maybe 3 other people in the gym whenever I’m there. Maybe it’s not very logical to most, but to me it was dreadful. To be completely honest, I felt like someone would end up calling me “sir” before the day was over. Navy uniforms aren’t exactly feminine and combined with short hair, it would be an easy mistake for someone to make.

I fluffed up my hair as much as I could without having any hair products because, well, who needs hair products when you don’t have hair? I used water and lotion (I was desperate) to try to make it look like I have more hair than I do. I walked out the door, made my way to the base, and got to work.

Today ended up being awful. It was one of those days that nothing seemed to go right. I got very little work done because of problems that were beyond my control and it felt like a complete waste of a day. Feeling defeated and tired, I found a Dunkin Donuts on my GPS and made a quick detour before heading home for the day. I needed a pick-me-up and although the Starbucks right outside base looked appealing, I’m definitely more of a Dunkin girl. I pulled up and realized that there was no drive thru at that particular location. I didn’t even realize they made Dunkin Donuts without drive thrus! I wasn’t being lazy, instead I was dreading going inside and showing off my half inch hairs to even more people. I looked for other nearby coffee shops and didn’t find any that weren’t completely out of the way. The caffeine addict in me won and I eventually worked up the courage to walk inside.

I ordered my medium coffee with almond milk in a paper cup (I avoid styrofoam like the plague) and awkwardly waited in the corner, staring at my phone and avoiding any potential eye contact in hopes that nobody would notice me and my lack of hair. As I was walking outside, a woman in front of me held the door open and then continued walking to her car. All of a sudden she stopped, turned around and said, “you are so beautiful.” I don’t even remember what I said back because I was so caught off guard. All day I had been feeling uncomfortable and insecure and this total stranger has no clue how much those four little words meant to me. I got in my car and my eyes swelled up with tears. Maybe it was partially from the stress of my day or from all of the insecurities I had held in since this morning, but I know it was mostly from the sweet compliment by a total stranger and I just completely lost it.

I wanted to share this story for a couple reasons. The first is to show that I’m still struggling. Every. Single. Day. I’m constantly trying to find my “new normal” and it’s been so much harder than I have ever admitted to. Nobody tells you how hard life after cancer is so here I am, letting you know that it is not nearly the cake walk that I had been dreaming about since my diagnosis. Please go easy on the cancer survivors in your life because even when it’s over, it’s not really over. The second reason is to remind everyone that a simple kind gesture will go so far. You never know what the person next to you is truly going through and a small compliment, or any other act of kindness may mean the difference between a total failure of a day for someone or a happy ending.

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43 thoughts on “It’s not “just hair”

    1. You are strong and I’m sure there will be those days but you are beautiful and in time everything will be better but you’re here with us and we are blessed to see you again❤️

    2. Crystal, you are beautiful inside and out. i don’t know what you are going through, i can only imagine. Hang in there, it will only get better. you made it this far, God Bless. one kind word from anyone, can make a difference for anyone having a bad day. . luv ya

  1. What a great story. First of all you show you are human and then show how that one person made such an impact on you and probably has no idea just how great of an impact she made! One person with kind words in a few seconds can change a person so much that may need kind words like you. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I have seen you on tv and wondered how you were feeling when not at work. This story brought tears to my eyes. So nice a simple gesture touched you and made you feel so good. Be well.

  3. After reading your post and seeing you on the news without your wig…I thought to myself, why are you wearing that wig when you are so very beautiful without it? And a daily reminder for all those facing the same battle you did…be BRAVE and go without it all the time!!

    Your beauty comes from within and you are a courageous example to all that see you, meet you, and read your story!! You got this Crystal and we all love you for putting yourself out there for everyone to see!!!

    Today is the day God gives us and we try to make the very best of it with each day we are given. So look at your beautiful face in the mirror…hair or no hair and remember you are making an impact on each life you touch by who you are!!! Hugs, Anne

  4. Honey, you have the advantage of letting your feelings be known. It is a difficult path, but one that has a happy ending with all of us pulling for you . Taking the time to say something nice for no other reason than it makes others feel good is a wonderful gesture.
    . Obviously, that stranger turned your day around with her thoughtfulness!

  5. Crystal you are beautiful. remember all the uniforms they give us to wear in the services, no matter what the branch, were not designed to make us look good. Those who have served through adverse times, fought cancer, stood by friends/family who have suffered through cancer know it is more than hair and clothing that makes the beauty and strength of a person. Hang in there.

  6. I’m not sure what your hairs look like now, but when you first came back to 13 and you took your wig off, you looked so cute. You can totally rock that “almost bald” look. Hang in there sweet girl.

  7. Oh Crystal, you ARE beautiful! I’ve only seen you once with your short hair , on your first day back at work forecasting the weather, but you are gorgeous. God made you in His image, and He brought you through your cancer battle. Chin up girl. You’re more than you realize. We love you and thank you for your service.
    Linda Black

  8. Crystal, I understand exactly what you feel about your hair. I chose to never wear wigs two years ago. I wore scarves or hats instead. That is what made me feel good. I am still battling how I feel about myself 16 months after completing treatment. I didn’t get sick with chemo but did gain a lot of weight from the steroids. It has been a struggle to get that off. In addition, I am now dealing with lymphedema in my right arm as a result of surgery. Overall, things are better but at times I just want to give up. If it weren’t for friends it would be a tough road.

    You will get there. The lady who complimented you may have been a survivor herself, so she knew how you felt. Be strong and lean on others when you need to!

  9. Crystal, you are such a beautiful person inside and out. You are strong despite your challenges. God has given you the strength to push through your struggles. You are a shining light in this troubled world of ours. You brighten up my day when I see you on TV. Don’t worry about your hair. We don’t look at your hair. We look at the sweet person who emits hope to all who have an illness and are struggling also.

  10. Just shared this story with my wife and we both are weepy. So glad that woman was there to say just what you needed to hear. We miss you here in Cheyenne.

  11. Thank you for sharing Crystal. You are beautiful with or without hair. Just keep taking it one day at a time. You will wake up one morning and feel like the person you were before cancer. 22 year later I can promise you this one truth. The difference is you will be so much stronger, so much more aware of how precious life is and know that you can, indeed, survive whatever comes your way! Praying you through this next phase of your journey. With admiration! Trudy

    Please overlook typo errors: Sent from the iPhone of Trudy Rains 757.692.2498.


  12. Thanks for yet another honest opening up of yourself. Crystal, I’ve said it before and many others have as well — in addition to being beautiful, you are inspirational !!!!

  13. It is always amazing that one person can alter one’s attitude. But it happens, I just wish that more people were kind enough to share a pleasant thought. You never know when someone is hurting. It never hurts to tell someone that they look nice or are kind. Thanks again for a delightful story to remind us all of our responsibility to others.

  14. I know where you are coming from! I had mt last chemo & radiation in March. Just when I thought I was getting better, something would happen & would set me back to felling so tired again. Now my calcium is high! Have got through a series of tests & so far hasn’t showed where I’m losing calcium! Next they are doing a Pet Scan on me. I’m still claiming my healing! But sure could use some prayers to get me through this! I still think of you & pray for you! Hang in there & lean on the Lord to get you through this! You are beautif

  15. Crystal, do you want to come to Norfolk Academy and speak to the fourth grade girls about your experiences and your career? You’d be a BIG hit!


    On Mon, Feb 12, 2018 at 6:42 PM, Crystal Harper wrote:

    > crystalharper posted: “I had just dug my Navy uniform out of a storage box > last night in anticipation of my first day back today. This baby hadn’t > seen daylight in about 10 months and I was ready to dust off my boots > (isn’t that a country song?) and get back to my part-time mil” >

  16. Crystal: Cancer changes you. You will never be the same, but you choose to be better because what’s the worst that can happen now? You’ve already been there and back and you are stronger, braver, more than you were but yet vulnerable and sometimes just need a warm fuzzy place to fall. You are even more beautiful than you were. You let us know you through all this and we like you.

  17. God bless you! You are a real inspiration. We have been following your story for months. We love you!

    I was active duty, and then in the Navy Reserve for many years. You deserve great credit for continuing with your military career.

    Wishing you all the best!

  18. You have come so far and you continue to grow to be a very strong young lady that will be able to help so many other people that are dealing with cancer! Take it one day at a time.

  19. Yeah- you’d think that cancer (and the horrific toll it takes on our bodies) would wash away any last trace of vanity- but nope! Who cares, right? I’m disappointed that I’m still as vain as ever. Oh wellz!

  20. So true a kind word or gesture can change someone’s bad day. It’s a very simple thing we should all try to do each day. And you are beautiful. Your beautiful spirit shines through even with your baby hair. Stay strong and keep smiling. It brightens all of our days.

  21. Been telling you from the beginning that you are beautiful, forget the hair thing right now, enjoying not having to worry about how’s my hair going to look tomorrow, how can I fix it different, just enjoy the freedom. That lady was right, take my word for it.

  22. Crystal, life is not easy specially after going through experiencing cancer. You will always be beautiful, then, now and tomorrow, because you’re not only a pretty face but you’re a beautiful soul, a caring and thoughtful soul. I am still praying for you. Have courage! You are a brave girl and it’s OK to have blue days! You will be fine! 💝🙅

  23. I may be the only one that wasn’t aware you are ex Airforce and currently Navy Reserves. Thanks for your service. As a retired OSCS and Air Intercept Controller Supervisor I have utilized the services of Oceana’s meteorologist more times than I can count. Winds aloft, cloud tops and ceiling, dew points and barometer readings are just part of the information we requested several times a day.
    PS If you’re up for a new adventure I’d like to invite you to check out Tidewater Grotto. We are the local chapter of the National Speleological Society. If you’ve never been in a “wild” cave it’s a whole new world of adventure and exploration.

  24. Crystal,I am so pleased to see you give the weather reports again on Channel 13. Also thanks for continuing to serve our country.You have a beautiful face and look lovely with or without a wig.

  25. Crystal, I’ve saved this blog post for a while until I had time to read it. What a beautiful post. I’m going to remember this for a long time and try to make someone’s day just a bit easier . Who knew just a few words could turn your day around! Like a lot of us here, I also think you’re beautiful, so please know that. We’ve got your back!

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