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Deciduous: A Poem for Processing Chemo Hair Loss

by Erin MillerBreast Cancer Survivor, Invasive Ductal CarcinomaFebruary 15, 2024View more posts from Erin Miller

Deciduous: A Poem for Processing Chemo Hair Loss

This year, I get to be deciduous.

Drop my cells to the floor, prep the soil for this post-traumatic growth that I’m sowing.

As ligaments loosen and vibrancy fades, life slowly relinquishes my faltering follicles.

A change in the wind, a shift in the environmental milieu, signals impending dormancy.

One by one they unburden themselves of the cumbersome mass of linear past.

Tinging as tides turn from growth to decay, proliferation to pause. Now quiescence and calm.

The quintessence of nature: Cycles that carry the ever-reliable cadence of life and death.

This vacillation is the very core of creation.


Now, a time to shed the trappings of the past, inviting rest and renewal.

To gather resources to feed the innermost forces of fortitude,

and turn within and tend to the tender reweaving of our heaving roots.

Internal tendrils entwine a foundation against future tribulations.

What relief found in this brief lull. An opportunity to retune our resilience.

What beauty borne on the bare branches that reach to the sky.

Those seasonal statues of ephemeral impermanence.

Fleeting fullness and form and color and cover; it all falls in this Autumnal eloquence.


So, what a privilege to participate in such a season!

To drop my locks and dance with the branches. These strands were growing weighty as it were.

What a gift to give my body a demonstration of its innate ability for regeneration.

To sweep aside my cellular history, these wispy constructs of social standards,

and leave my leaves on the forest floor – to follow the wisdom and ancient tradition of the trees.

So I might tickle my skin with each brush of the wind, really feel the whispers of Winter breeze.

I revel in this chance to sit skin to skin with the sun, and scalp to scalp with the rain;

Each element now millimeters closer to osmosing my brain.


I honor the knowledge there is luster to be mustered from this loss.

That this intermission is not a cataclysm but a chrysalis.

The loam to be sown from this compost fertilizes my futures not yet dreamed.

There are new horizons to be reached with these regenerated pieces of being.

That Spring will soon surface, bearing a newness not yet known.

New shoots will rise again and grow long with the length of the days.

And ever more as we dance in the dappled Summer sun when I visit my wilderness kin

We shall smile at our shared experience of briefly getting to be, deciduous.

Painting by Erin Miller, inspired by her poem and the work of artist Viktor Yushkevich as seen here.

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