Chemotherapy Made Me Realize My Hair Doesn’t Define My Beauty

TiffanyLBBC guest blogger Tiffany Mannino has been sharing with us personal journal entries written in letter format penned to her unborn daughter while traveling through her breast cancer journey. In her collection of letters Beautifully Broken: Letters From a Girl/Woman/Human in Progress she reflects on her five year journey with letting go of the past, facing fears, learning to love, finding happiness in the moment, and realizing that she is exactly where she is supposed to be in life. Here she writes to her daughter about her feelings of being 4 days away from completing her chemo treatments.…

June 5, 2010


Dear Lola,


I have very exciting news… in four days from now, I will have my very last chemo treatment and then I will be finished with this little phase of my life!  Who knew a few months ago that I would be excited about receiving a chemo treatment? It is amazing how much one’s perspective changes over time.


Speaking of changing over time, I cannot believe how much things have changed for me in the last month!  It is such a miracle how different I feel on my second chemo regimen.  I remember writing to you at the end of April and was literally a depressed mess. I felt weak, mentally drained, and spiritually barren.


Lately, I just feel excited most of the time. It is so true about the mind-body connection.  When you don’t feel well, it’s very hard to stay upbeat and positive.  Under the new chemo, I don’t feel nauseous anymore, I can taste and enjoy food again, and I have way more energy. With more energy, I actually have been able to do a little traveling.  I’ve taken short trips to the beach and also to Niagara Falls.  Being able to get out of town on my off-chemo weeks does wonders for my spirit.  Looking at the ocean or falling water can simply breathe life into your soul!


I feel like I have come such a long way in so many ways. I’m sure you remember me writing to you expressing my complete disdain for how chemo was going to change my appearance.  I know I was absolutely dreading losing my hair which I had been overly attached to my entire life.  Well, I can honestly tell you that I accept my new look. I am ok with looking in the mirror and seeing a bald woman.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to having hair again, but I realize it doesn’t define my beauty.  And do you know what…God works in mysterious ways.  One of the reasons I was so attached to my hair is that I felt like I could hide my face with my hair.  I’ve had blemished skin since I was about 13 and having long thick, crazy red hair distracted everyone from my face.  Maybe God wanted me to really look at my face. Would you believe since chemo started I have had the clearest skin of my entire life!  I’m not kidding. It’s soft, clear, and oil-free! God performed another little miracle.  For some reason, he allowed me to keep my eyelashes and eyebrows. It may seem like such a minute thing to think about, but I’m so thankful to have them.


Another perk, (I can’t believe I’m saying that) of having no hair, is that it has allowed me to express my artistic side in a new and creative way.  Most people going through chemo take up painting or jewelry making or writing poetry.  I have become a scarf collector, no a scarf fashionista! You would be so proud of my baby.  Although I do have three wigs, I have yet to really wear them.  Wearing a wig made me feel like I was trying to hide who I was right now which is in fact a bald woman.  I didn’t want to hide who I am right at this moment in time, so I decided that I could accessorize!  To date, I believe I have 44 scarves to match every outfit imaginable.  The wild thing about the scarves is that where they have come from is as diverse as the scarves themselves.  Some were gifts, some were handmade by friends, some came from thrift stores, others from swanky boutiques in Ontario, others from street vendors in NYC, and of course many came from my favorite store of all, Marshalls. I love finding new ways of tying and wearing them and of course I love finding wildly unusual ones.  I actually think, when my hair grows back, I probably will continue to wear my scarves.  Not everyday of course, but as a fashion accessory. I guess in some small way this has been my way of making lemonade when life hands you lemons.


So anyway, I guess you could just say that I’m really proud of how far I have come. Six months ago, I would have never guessed in a million years I’d be on cloud nine awaiting a chemo treatment with a brightly wrapped head and huge smile on my face!


Love always,

Your Momma


Tiffany Mannino is an elementary school teacher, world traveler, Zumba freak, and young breast cancer survivor who lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. She has found that expressing her emotions through writing and painting has helped her deal with facing cancer at a young age and has brought her profound healing.  Several of her writing pieces have been featured in books including the Chicken Soup for the Soul Series. 

Stay tuned for more excerpts from Beautifully Broken: Letters From a Girl/Woman/Human in Progress!

5 thoughts on “Chemotherapy Made Me Realize My Hair Doesn’t Define My Beauty

  1. I am the proud mother of Tiffany and can say that God does work in mysterious ways. We were always very close and when the big “C” arrived he gave me strength that I never knew I had and made a bond between us that most people will never experience. In our
    darkest moments he held us and pulled her thru all the rough times
    and me as well. All that is left to say she is the strongest warrior
    I have ever met and God is good!!!!

  2. Tiffany you continue to inspire and amaze me, not only with your thoughts put into words but with your strength, positivity and inner and outer beauty. You one hot momma!

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