Beauty from pain: A cancer survivor's non-wig ways to rock being a bald bride

April 26 | Guest post by Jordan Lambert
One cancer survivor's 3 non-wig ways to rock being a bald bride
Photos by friends of the bride

“Will you postpone the wedding until after your cancer is gone?” asked my friend the week I was re-diagnosed with lymphoma.

My response was so feral it surprised even me. “Honey, come hell or high water, I am motherloving having this wedding, and you better motherloving be there because I don’t know how long I’ve got left.”

I had the sickening realization that my hair would be gone by the time the wedding rolled around.

I felt a deep conviction about this until the next day, when I stepped out of the dressing room at the tailor’s, swathed in the gorgeous rose-gold of my wedding gown. I had never felt so beautiful in all my born days. And then I had the sickening realization that my hair would be gone by the time the wedding rolled around, a fact I understood, but had not internalized. Memories of the first time I had cancer flooded in — memories of feeling ugly Every. Single. Day.

One cancer survivor's 3 non-wig ways to rock being a bald bride

As I sobbed openly on the little dais in front of the three floor-length mirrors, Binh, the head tailor at All Fit Tailoring in Boston, comforted me while her father ran to get me a tissue. Binh told me that in China, the wedding pictures are always taken months before the wedding. Why not just take the pictures now while I still had hair? Between sobs, I explained that I had already started chemo and my hair would likely come out in just a few days.

Binh and her mother worked furiously for the next 36 hours, racing against the death of my hair follicles. As she labored, I called The Black Tux and explained my predicament. For no charge, they overnighted the very same suit my husband would wear at the actual wedding.

One cancer survivor's 3 non-wig ways to rock being a bald bride

The day Binh finished my dress, my husband’s friends were in town for his bachelor party. One sprinted to a flower shop and got me a gorgeous bouquet, another picked up the dress, and a third took pictures of us in our most natural habitat: a local Boston library.

One cancer survivor's 3 non-wig ways to rock being a bald bride

That evening, my hair was coming out by the fistful. As I sat under shady trees in my backyard, my husband and his friends lovingly shaved it all off.

One cancer survivor's 3 non-wig ways to rock being a bald bride

As the wedding approached, I found a beautiful wig. But it didn’t feel like me. I yearned to find a way to use my baldness to artfully recognize the presence of my cancer on my wedding day.

The epic flower crown

One cancer survivor's 3 non-wig ways to rock being a bald bride

I told my mom this, and after a tough day of chemo, she helped me prototype a floral headdress using false flowers, string, and a silk scarf. It wouldn’t stay put, and we despaired of having a headdress that could make it through the ceremony.

One cancer survivor's 3 non-wig ways to rock being a bald bride

One cancer survivor's 3 non-wig ways to rock being a bald bride

For the entire ceremony, I felt like a queen.

But I shared photos of our impractical prototype with my florist, Rachel Mann of A Florae. She Macgyvered one heck of a solution. The day before the wedding, she gutted a hard-hat to get at the harness on the inside, wrapped that in chicken wire, filled that with wet florist’s foam, and stuck a bajillion flowers in it that matched my bouquet. Underneath it, I wore a delicate peach scarf so the wires wouldn’t poke me. For the entire ceremony, I felt like a queen.

One cancer survivor's 3 non-wig ways to rock being a bald bride

One cancer survivor's 3 non-wig ways to rock being a bald bride

One cancer survivor's 3 non-wig ways to rock being a bald bride

The luxurious headscarf

One cancer survivor's 3 non-wig ways to rock being a bald bride

The headdress weighed ten pounds, so as soon as we transitioned to the reception, I went to my gorgeous little dressing room at the venue, the Lionsgate Event Center in Lafayette, Colorado, and took it off. I put on a soft marsala head scarf, and pinned it in place with a Swarovski crystal ponytail clip my mom had given me. That way, I could jive on the dance floor as much as I liked without the scarf falling off.

And finally: gorgeous henna!

One cancer survivor's 3 non-wig ways to rock being a bald bride

After a few hours, my headscarf was soaked with sweat, so I took it off, revealing the henna birds and flowers my husband had painted from the top of my head to the small of my back. Sweat rolled down my bald, decorated head until we shut down the dance floor.

One cancer survivor's 3 non-wig ways to rock being a bald bride

Cancer has taken a lot of things from me: my health, my safety, my time, my hair. Cancer has also given me an occasion to make beauty from pain. On my wedding day, I was a piece of living art created by talented craftspeople and dear friends. Now, eight months later, my cancer seems to be gone and my hair is coming back. My new hair is beautiful, but my wedding wasn’t less beautiful in its absence.

One cancer survivor's 3 non-wig ways to rock being a bald bride

I'm not crying happy tears, you're crying happy tears! Thank you for sharing this amazing story with us, Jordan!

Vendors

  • Florist: Rachel Mann, A Florae
  • Tailor: All Fit Tailoring
  • Gown: BHLDN
  • Tuxedo: The Black Tux
  • Event Center: Lions Gate Center
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    1. I teared up a bit reading this, and gasped when I saw the henna! This is all so beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

      5 agree
    2. oh, my HEART.

      you look BEAUTIFUL. in every single one of these photos. congratulations on kicking cancer's ass again <3 thank you for sharing this wonderful story with us

      3 agree
    3. That is amazing. I love how everyone rose to the occasion. Also, daaaaamn for that floral crown. That was amazing.

      2 agree
    4. You are stunning! You look like a harvest goddess with those beautiful flowers on your head. And the henna is amazing. I'm so impressed by your strength, and so glad to hear you're doing well. Keep shinning your beautiful light!

      3 agree
    5. Absolutely incredible, and completely gorgeous. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story — and keep kicking cancer's butt!!!

    6. This is so beautiful in every sense of the word. Art as love, love as art. Congratulations on your wedding and your health.

      2 agree
    7. Offbeat, thank you SO DARRN MUCH for profiling this stunning bride. Her strength, her sincerity, & her many types of beauty shine like a perfect dawn. The love that her new spouse, her family, her friends & her amazing vendors have poured out to help her rock her beauty is so palpable. As a chronic illness sufferer/Spoonie, seeing this outpouring of creative genius is so uplifting.

      Tl:dr; HOLY SPITBALLS ALL OF THE PURRDY LOVE RIGHT HERE *totally not crying*

      1 agrees
    8. Gorgeous! I love love love how your creativity was layered. One beautiful thing after another!

      1 agrees
    9. NO YOU'RE AMAZING.

      (also – thank you for giving me some practical ideas; a family member is in the midst of treatment for lymphoma right now and she's not sure what her hair will be doing when we get married. All of these ideas are gorgeous!

      1 agrees
      • Ohmygoodness! It means to much to know that my post might help someone else! Thank you.

    10. Utterly crying. Your story and strength are incredible. The transformation, from the breathtaking floral headdress, to the soft scarf, to the gorgeous and unexpected henna, filled my eyes and heart with wonder. Thank you so much for sharing your words and pictures. Enduring and finding beauty in pain is one of the most important parts of marriage. The way your husband and community worked together with you to make this moment beautiful feels gorgeous to me.

      1 agrees

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