Cancer Didn't Take Me, but It Did Take My Red Hair
Mary Elizabeth Williams explains why it's not a petty concern
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 3, 2011 6:12 PM CST
A redhead, but not Mary Elizabeth Williams.   (Shutter Stock)

(Newser) – When Mary Elizabeth Williams found out that the cancer on her scalp had been successfully removed, her first feeling was relief … followed quickly by, “What do you mean I can't color my hair?” Williams, who has been chronicling her cancer experience on Salon, had a circle of skin removed from a scalp full of hair that's been “a flirty auburn by choice” for years. “A large portion of my head and my hair are gone forever. … I feel that loss keenly, every day,” she writes.

"Cancer doesn't just ravage our insides," she writes. "It takes breasts and limbs and flesh as payment for survival." And though survival might be the point, Williams laments being looked at by the world with a “mixture of pity and concern and discomfort,” as all “shorn and tufted” cancer patients are. “It's not that I don't love my scar. It marks me as someone who's been to hell and back and I'm proud of that. But I don't want that spot on my head—and the amateurish circle of streaks around it—to define me." Read her full essay—or an earlier ode she wrote to hair dye.