A Villanelle

How would you feel if you knew you would lose all your hair?
She asked me to take her to shop for a wig, if I could.
What would you do if your head were completely bare?

A turban will keep the head warm, protect from cold air.
She told me they told her, her chances were very good.
See, chemo kills cancer but makes you lose all of your hair.

We went to a shop where they showed that they really cared.
I hurried to tell her the fun she could have if she would.
(In a matter of weeks her head will be totally bare.)

“Choose blonde or brunette or even take red, if you dare.
Go ahead—buy a few. Not the gray! ‘Cause you should
live it up when you lose all your hair.”

Every now and again I thought that I saw a tear
brim up in her eyes, mine too—we’re not made of wood.
What would I do if my head were entirely bare?

She decided to wait until she’d be bald to wear
the frosted short one and for nighttime she bought a hood.
By then she’ll know how it feels to lose all her hair
and accept that her head (for a while) will be completely bare.

This is a really old poem I wrote (2008) back when I was helping a friend through Chemo. Sorry to dip into the archives but Tuesday is a busy day for me and the prompt over at dVerse Poets’ Pub is really hair-y.



27 thoughts on “Chemo

  1. anniejanae says:

    Great you could be there for a friend in this way Victoria. I just read this in my inbox while finally doing some spring cleaning that actually amounts to some much needed catch-up on WordPress reading. I’m reminded of a loved one went through a somewhat similar time of it with the hair, and must say this found me tearing up a little too in appreciation for kind hearted keenness through meaningful words conveyed in villanelle style keeping just the right amount of light givin the situation already a hairy one truely indeed… glad also for the hopefulness captured within.


  2. JodetteP says:

    Love the structure of this powerfully moving piece of poetry 🙂 Thank you for getting into those archives haha 😀 I hope your friend is well ❤


  3. Poet Laundry says:

    Definitely not the gray. Oh, this does hit the heart. I love how you told it.


  4. Sara v says:

    Excellent form and substance- so difficult to watch a friend go through this. Hope that all is well now. 🙂


  5. A tender write Victoria. Losing one’s hair to chemo can be devastating to some. When my aunt lost hers, she welcomed the volunteers who came in and offered her wigs and beauty tips to lift her spirits. She was 42 when she passed.
    Thanks for sharing,
    Mark Butkus


  6. Wow! I can’t find the words I need to describe how much I like your poem, how much it touch me in so many different levels –it made me want to smile, it made me feel like crying, it made empathetic, it made me feel pain and hope. Thank you!


  7. Dip away, my friend. This was wonderful. It captured a reality most don’t speak of, but it wasn’t maudlin, just real.


  8. My wife’s sister recently succumbed to part of this story.. so it certainly touches a heArt for now where i live.. as one..:)


  9. Kathy Reed says:

    I’m sure your friend appreciated the poem as it shows love, caring, understanding, empathy…so many women have gone through this and are an inspiration to all. Very nice, Victoria.


  10. margaret says:

    I can imagine the laughter and the tears – friends like you are what make it possible to get through such tough times. I hope your friend is a survivor…


  11. Prajakta says:

    A lovely, touching piece! I was inspired to write about chemo as well seeing a close relative finally giving in. I must say the spirit of the survivors is truly something to learn from.


  12. Truedessa says:

    Victoria, this was an excellent poem. It made me think of a few friends I know who have lost their hair to the big C. It is a very difficult thing to have to go through in life.


  13. Bryan Ens says:

    wonderful piece! Although the wigs might provide for some entertainment value, the repetition of the bare-head motif really emphasized the serious, and not humorous side of chemo.


  14. lynn__ says:

    A touching villanelle, Victoria…it brought up memories of my mom which inspired my poem today…thank you!


  15. Grace says:

    Really worth reading Victoria ~ I have seen chemo’s effects on hair and unless one wears a wig, cancer changes the confidence and spirit of the person ~ Enjoyed the poetic form too ~


  16. ayala says:

    My niece lost all her hair with chemo when she was 25. Her hair grew back curly and then with time it went back to it’s straight original state. It takes courage and you are a kind and good friend.


  17. kanzensakura says:

    Glad you dipped into those archives. A few years ago I had a bout with cancer and such and my friends (and even strangers) and their support brought me through. And now all is well. I hope your friend is as well. Glad you were there with her.


  18. MarinaSofia says:

    Lovely to get to meet your archives. Such a sad topic – hard to countenance until we are in the situation ourselves. Sounds a bit like a form breaker of a villanelle too…


  19. Glenn Buttkus says:

    Cancer respects no one, attacks infants & elders & everything else breathing; one day we will close in on a cure, or something akin to it. It took my mother at 39. Cancer is not our friend. Your villanelle is lovely, sad, touching & really rocks the hairy prompt.


  20. Gabriella says:

    This is a very touching poem, Victoria. I am not sure what I would opt for if I lost mine. I had a student who wrapped a scarf and then wore a cap when the hair was growing back.


  21. Mary says:

    This is excellent, Victoria. It really makes the reader thing about what she would do in this circumstance. I think it would be hard to lose one’s hair…but if I did I would hope for a compassionate friend such as you. I hope your friend is doing okay now.


  22. claudia says:

    that rings familiar after going with my friend through this… she looked good with her bare head though – better than with the wig…


  23. I say thanks for dipping into the archives – this is fantastic! As a guy, I’m always cutting my hair, so, while I appreciate it, I’m not gonna feel the way a woman (with hair) would feel when it’s gone… I understand hair is a part of of a woman’s femininity; so it means something more to them. And especially having to lose it to such a tragic illness…


  24. brian miller says:

    she should live a bit…and that way face the adversity….its so hard….and def emotional to live through as it attacks our identity, but i like the strength of living through it…and i am glad she has you too…


  25. It was well worth reposting as it was so sensitively written. It may help others in the same situation.


  26. This is an exquisite Villanelle, a narrative of keeping a face and be hopeful despite loosing the hair..The slight changes in the repeated lines makes it so much better. I really hope all went well..


  27. A very thoughtful villanelle. I’ve helped a good friend go through this horror story, and she was very courageous: mostly went bare-headed except when it was cold.


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