Many moms have played beauty shop with their little ones, letting their nails be painted haphazardly and lipstick streaked across their cheeks. Or when their wee ones attempt to run a brush through Mom’s hair and even braid it – the outcome can be a bit frightful.
Emilie Orton, 32, encouraged her four-year-old daughter Norah to take a pair of her scissors and chop away at her hair. She didn’t care about the end result, only the process.
The Arizona mom of three young children wanted her kids, her absolute world, to be part of the biggest fight of her life. She didn’t want them to see her weaknesses, to see their mom violently ill, too exhausted to play or even fix them a snack.
She only wanted them to see her brave smile and remember how hard she fought.
Emilie had been diagnosed with stage two ovarian cancer. So far she had endured ultrasounds, MRIs and was facing months of chemotherapy. For many people, losing their hair is a very traumatic part of fighting cancer.
“Knowing that a beautiful baldness was coming my way terrified me and made me cry on multiple occasions, but I tried to think of the best way to make it bearable for this family of mine. After all, it was not just me going through this cancer journey, but all of us together. And also my hair. Hair is a huge part of our identity. Once you find a good hairstylist you stick with them because they get you — no matter the cost, they’re worth it.”
So Emilie decided to heck with it. She wasn’t about to watch her hair fall out in clumps for days on ends. She was going to shave it all off right upfront and gave the honors to her daughter.
“…it is every kid’s dream to cut hair. Wherein I found the perfect hairstylist to ease me into my new cancer look: my four-year-old daughter. That little girl loves all things beauty. After preschool, she’ll come home telling me about the good and bad outfits, and hairstyles she noticed, and what she loved. Every night she plans out how she wants to do her hair the next day before school. She has names for each of the different styles she comes up with: ‘the waterfall, the half-braider, the pigs, French toast braids, you name it. So when cancer came a-knocking, so did her calling in life.”
When the time arrived for Emilie to bravely face the mirror and watch her darling daughter snip snip snip away at her hair, she braced herself. She sat on a stepstool, slipped on her daughter’s play haircut cape and snapped pics and video as her daughter cut away.
The moment was shared on Instagram for everyone to see.
“My daughter was focused and determined, and as the cut kept evolving, so did her love for how it was looking. My favorite thing about it was realizing anew that all a child sees when looking at their parent is someone they love no matter what. Barbie bangs or bald. Green skin or purple eyes. I am someone that is loved by this child, no matter what the outside looks like. She was the best hairstylist I’ve ever met, and gave me the greatest haircut I’ve ever had.”
In an essay Emilie shared with Romper, she explained in detail how anyone can achieve her same look. She explained the process from a lighthearted viewpoint and with a touch of humor.
“If you can see your eyebrows, good. If you can see your hairline, even better.”
“If your head resembles a step ladder, they’re doing it exactly right.”
And her most amazing advice?
Steal the seconds spent together sharing a laugh through the good times and the bad, and never let them go.
“Your toddler has not cut hair before, nor have you previously dealt with the crap sandwich that is cancer as a mom of three littles. We’re all making it up, but if you can find a moment to take in how beautiful the two of you are, amid the unholy mess, you will know you’ve done it right.”
Emilie told Mom.com that her daughter “was in heaven.”
“My most favorite and scariest hairstylist I’ve ever had.”
In a second Instagram video, Emilie shows her husband shaving off the rest of her hair that Norah missed while sculpting her masterpiece on her mom’s head.
“Hopefully we get used to it soon because it’s a pretty big shock factor. We keep talking about how it means that chemo is working and cancer is leaving. Bald is good. The good bald. Is there a good bald? Let’s call this the good bald haircut.”
Documenting her journey against cancer has been therapeutic and meaningful. Many others have reached out to her with compassion, kind words and prayers.
“You are so beautiful no matter what, whether that involves having hair or not! I know you’ll be able to conquer this challenge in your life.”
Thankfully, humor is a part of Emilie’s life. She fully embraced her baldness at Halloween and dressed up as Mr. Clean.
But she’s also been sharing the dark side of this path she’s on. She explained how it’s been frustrating and hurtful.
“It’s not all goofy Mr. Clean Halloween because sometimes it really is just the worst. Not only do I feel horrible inside but when I look in the mirror, it’s so hard to recognize who I am on the outside too. This isn’t a poor me post but a reality post and a here-is-what-cancer-can-feel-like post. I don’t want to forget how it was.”
We hope Emilie continues to hold on to her humor through this difficult time and emerges victorious in this heartbreaking battle against cancer.
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