The Hairdresser Who Answered Her Prayer

After battling cancer, she found hope from the kindness of a special stylist—and that famous Farrah Fawcett hairdo.

Posted in , Apr 27, 2020

An artist's rendering of Farrah Faucett hair with angel wings scattered in.

Once upon a time there were three little girls who went to the police academy….”

And one of them had a fabulous haircut! From the moment I saw Farrah Fawcett on TV in Charlie’s Angels I knew I wanted to look just like her. At least in the hair department. With a long, feathered cut that bounced when I walked and seemed to be forever ruffled by a light breeze.

It took me two days to secure an appointment with my stylist for a Farrah-do. It took several hours to frost my natural light brown locks with blonde highlights, cut multiple layers, blow-dry it and finish it up with a light misting of hair spray.

Now I was going to lose it all. The brain tumor I’d battled a few years back had returned, and I needed yet another surgery to remove it.

“I know what that means,” I told my friend Carole, a fellow nurse I was working with at Cabell Huntington Hospital. “My hair will end up in a paper sack on my bedside table in post-op. Just like before.”

But back then I didn’t have hair this gorgeous! It just seemed so unfair this would happen to me now. God, can’t you find some way for me to keep my hair? I thought, knowing it was impossible.

“Oh, honey,” Carole said. “Maybe it won’t be so bad. Listen, I know the most wonderful hairdresser. I want you to make an appointment with him.”

“Carole, the last thing I need now is a good haircut,” I said.

But Carole insisted. “Maybe Gary can’t do anything for your condition, but he can make you feel good about yourself now. That’s exactly what you need.”

Later that week Carole escorted me into Gary’s bustling salon. Three hairdressers were busy with trims and cuts. I stared at the floor, watching in dismay as gray, black, blonde and red hair accumulated on the floor. That’ll be my hair soon enough, I thought. Swept out with the trash.

“Gary, this is Roberta,” Carole said when her friend was ready for me. Carole had told him about my surgery, but if he pitied my situation, he didn’t show it.

“Pleased to meet you,” he said. “Can I call you Berta?”

In spite of myself, I grinned. I liked Gary already. “Sure!”

He led me to a chair and fastened on the plastic gown. He leaned in, circling my shoulders as if in a hug. “I have a suggestion,” he said. “I’ve been at this a long time, and there’s one thing that I know will make losing your hair a lot easier. To smooth the transition, we’re going to go short.”

I held my breath. I didn’t want to lose my long Farrah locks a second before I had to. But Gary knew more about this sort of thing than I did. And I could see the logic. My Farrah-do deserved to be cut off with respect, not shaved in preop. “You’re the expert,” I said, squeezing my eyes shut. “Let’s do it.”

With Carole cheering me on, Gary started snipping. My frosted tips fluttered to the beige linoleum floor at my feet. If someone had to cut off my hair, I was glad it was Gary. Whenever our eyes met in the mirror, his were full of compassion. Instead of just letting my hair lie on the floor like trash, he swept it gently into a tidy pile in the corner of the salon. It made it easier, somehow, knowing he understood and respected how I felt.

When Gary was finished I no longer resembled a Charlie’s Angel. But as haircuts went, it was actually quite chic. “I’m going to pray for your speedy recovery,” Gary told me as we said goodbye. He even refused to accept any payment for his work. “You’ve given up enough today,” he said.

Gary’s kindness continued to encourage me until it was time for my surgery. He had made my transition easier, just as he said. Easier, but not easy. Every time I caught sight of myself in the mirror, a dull green post-op headwrap from the hospital barely hiding my baldness, I winced.

While I was recovering at home, Carole stopped by for a visit. “I’ve been talking with Gary,” she said as she filled my freezer with comfort food. “He said to tell you he just got in a shipment of the prettiest turbans. He wants you to go to the shop and pick one out.”

A fashionable turban sure sounded good to me. Even better was the thought of seeing Gary again. Carole drove me over to the salon, where I chose a bright flowered one. “Sit right down here,” Gary said. “I’ll put it on for you. You’ll be amazed at the transformation.”

He didn’t have to tell me not to look. I instinctively squeezed my eyes shut when he removed my head wrap. Gary spun me around away from the mirror and fitted the turban onto my head.

“It’s heavier than I thought!” I said. But the weight was comforting. Almost like having hair.

“Okay, Berta,” Gary said. “Open your eyes.”

I found myself looking at a small crowd of faces. All the hairdressers had gathered around me.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Gary said, gently lifting my chin up. “Charlie’s newest angel! Ta-da!”

Gary spun me back around to the mirror, and I gasped. My hair! My hair! It was back! “It looks almost like my Farrah!”

“It is your Farrah,” Carole said. “Gary saved all the hair he cut and made it into a wig.”

Gary hadn’t just saved my hair, he’d answered my prayer. The whole team on Charlie’s Angels couldn’t have orchestrated it any better.

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