The Bald Princess (a 4-year-old's drawing of Xeni, for women with cancer in chemo)

I've been blogging and tweeting about my experience in treatment for breast cancer, including what it's like to go through chemotherapy. The chemo drugs I received made all my hair fall out (not all kinds do, but mine did). I've been going around "commando," as people with cancer say—bald, no wigs. Scarves or hats only when it's too cold or sunny to go bare.

You do whatever works for you to get through this. Going around bare-headed is what works for me.

Julie Zwillich just tweeted me this fantastic drawing made for me by her four-year-old daughter. It's me. She calls it "The Bald Princess."

If you know a woman or girl receiving chemotherapy, maybe you'd like to share this with them, too. Good days always follow the bad.


  1. Zeni, I just learned about this. The last time I was checking in on twitter you were in Japan taking radiation readings, so that was awhile ago.

    I know I’m just another of thousands of people putting in my 2¢, and maybe you’ve seen it, but I recently watched a 15 minute video on youtube called “Leaf”, about JUICING cannabis leaves. The point is to flood the system with the helpful cannabinoids in a quantity that would normally put you in a coma for a week if you heated them. If you do a youtube search for Leaf it should be the top result, it is for me, but perhaps because I’ve watched it before. Also, here’s a link:

    Thank you for sharing your experience.

    1. Hey, thanks!

      So, I actually blogged about that…


      tl;dr: I’m afraid that video is woo.

      Cannabis holds many promising possibilities, but it is not currently something one would do *instead of* chemo/surgery/radiation. In addition to, sure. But not instead of. And no, not at concentrations that would put you in a coma. Geez.

      There just isn’t enough science on cannabinoids as a treatment against cancer at this time, thanks in part to the fact that conducting trials in the US is illegal. Plenty of evidence that it helps manage pain, nausea, and symptoms, though. And lots of promise beyond that. But we don’t have the data to justify abandoning conventional therapy. I’d consider it suicidal to do so.

      1.  Yeah… I think that (WRT the earlier juicing thread) that one response to “What does it hurt to try it for a month [or some other arbitrary period of time] to see if it works?” is “Steve Jobs.”

        1. Yeah. Medical treatment does not always give us the results we want. But you can be certain that avoiding medical treatment that is based in evidence and science will lead to a result you truly do not want.

  2. That’s certainly quite a different definition of “going commando” than what I’m used to.

  3. Keep your head warm, kiddo — I remember one time cutting a sleeve off of an old t-shirt to make a sleeping cap while I was chemo-bald…And when the hair started growing back (white), my goddaughter said one day “You look like a ghost.” I was off immediately to dye my hair for the first time in my life! (And later, while it was still very short, I saw a lesbian friend at a conference who thought I’d switched sides and was wearing a butch haircut – I had to tell her it was not so benign a change…)

    1.  … I saw a lesbian friend at a conference who thought I’d switched sides and was wearing a butch haircut – I had to tell her it was not so benign a change…

      I think this is a textbook example of Awwwwwwkward. And I thought it was awkward to ask a fat woman when the baby’s due.

      1.  Luckily, it was a pretty good friend, though one I hadn’t seen in a while, so it was ok…

          1.  Thank you – it wasn’t a sure thing but it’s been almost 8 years now, so I’m feeling pretty good!

  4. Aw man. What a cute drawing and nice gesture. Also, I love the title of this post, “The Bald Princess”.  Here’s hoping today is one of your good ones. And tomorrow too :)

  5. Bad news is your nose looks very “snake-ish”….Good news is your 3rd eye appears to be open and clear!!

    Man, do I love seeing the world through the eyes of a child.

  6. What a great picture!

    My brother amassed a truly dizzying array of baseball caps when he was doing chemo (he was 12-13 at the time). Mom thought he should have gone bareheaded more, because he had “such a nicely shaped” head. Which, y’know, you never know what’s under there until the hair’s gone.

    My grandma wore a wig identical to her usual style, but abandoned it as soon as her hair started growing back. I remember that she gelled it spiky when it was still short, and how all my younger cousins thought it looked cool that way.

    Hope you’re hanging in there.

  7. This is lovely, very warm.  I’m 28, and kind gestures such as these move me from the “kids? NEVAR” camp to the “of course kids!” camp.  What a nice little girl.

  8. I know that swelling is a normal side effect of chemo but you should probably mention that right arm to a doctor.

  9. A wonderfully well-observed (and perhaps well-invented) drawing. I am especially fond of your knees there, Xeni.

  10. Xeni, thank you for responding to my link regarding the juicing of cannabis. Since you referred me to your previous posts on the subject, I’ve had a little more time to review your first post from December upon being diagnosed, and some of your stories along the way. 

    On a completely superficial note, you look very adorable bald. Not everyone can pull off the look. 

    I appreciate your particular approach – trying to stay objective in researching all available options. The subject of medical cannabis is quite annoying, as it’s hard to know how beneficial it MIGHT be because of the legal obstacles to legitimate research. 

    Rick Simpsons’ video, “Run from the Cure” seems so cut and dry – he gave hemp oil to his rural, salt of the earth, non-stoner, farmer friends, and their various forms of cancer all went away in a short period of time, presto magico, all better. It’s definitely alluring, and perhaps it’s true and real and possible, but the weird stance that our government has had towards this plant for the last 80 years makes it difficult to know which strains of cannabis, what forms of delivery, and what quantities might affect which strains of cancer and other illnesses.

     In the 90’s I worked for a writer, who later became a medical marijuana activist, named Peter McWilliams. He died in his bathroom, having choked on his own vomit because he couldn’t relieve the nausea caused by the drug cocktail he took for his cancer and AIDS. You can read the several paragraphs about it here:

    I’m glad that things have gotten a little better since then, and that more people are able to acquire at least some anecdotal evidence regarding the medical efficacy of the herb.

  11. When my mother was going through chemo my father told her she looked like an Egyptian princess and suggested large earnings. 

  12. Heh. Reminds me of when my (somewhat Aspie) dad met my fiancee when she was bald from chemo and, very sincerely and (to his ears, surely) sympathetically said, “I just want to know how much I admire you for having the courage to be seen in public looking like you do.” Just what a belly dancer loves to hear from a guy, thanks dad, you silver-tongued devil, you…

    Time after time I’d go see Kaihea perform (when she was well enough to), and audiences in traditional Arabic venues would gasp when they saw the dancer come out bald (but for a mohawk of bindis and henna) and with visible surgical scars…then she’d start to move with the music, and night after night I’d hear them whisper to each other in astonishment: “She’s…BEAUTIFUL!” They learned something, something I hope they never forget, about what beauty is.

    Burner friends of ours marked her passing by forming a nonprofit outfit called “Hair Flair For Hope” that makes kinda zany but warm wigs/dreadlock falls for bald kids in chemo wards and adults as well.

  13. That little girl was wearing X-ray specs when she drew it. I like how the eyes seem to have many glints from different directions (like when anime hamsters get really happy, or try to look really cute).

  14. Xeni I found the glass slippers you lost, now we can dance past midnight.
    May I have this dance?

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