"First I am a photographer. Periodically, I am a cancer patient." These are the opening lines of "About My Hair : A Journey to Recovery" by Marcia Reid Marsted. "Following surgery for my second primary cancer, chemotherapy was going to be necessary to reduce the possibility of a recurrence. As a working artist, I decided to record the changes that would occur as a series of photographic self-portraits."
Every year 2,500 new cancer patients arrive at The Helen and Harry Gray Cancer Center at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, CT. This center is only one of many in the small state of Connecticut. Too many people with cancer will be forced into baldness as a side-effect of their chemotherapy. This book is not just another "Cancer Story." It is a record of an extremely difficult time, commonly experienced by cancer patients around the world. Patients, as well as their family and friends, and anyone touched by cancer, would find this an important and helpful book.
I wrote "About My Hair : A Journey to Recovery" after my second cancer in 1998. In 1988 I had rectal cancer with surgery, radiation and chemo, but didn't lose my hair. By 1994, instead of working full time as the scientist I had earned advanced degrees at two universities to become, I got my tax id # and as MRM Photography started working as a "Professional Fine Art Photographer". The business didn't make much money, but helped to pay my expenses and let me show my work periodically. When I learned I was going to lose my hair from the chemotherapy I would need to start in 1999, I decided to photograph myself as I went through the process, using my favorite film: black and white infrared, a film that softens the lines and gives an ethereal quality to an image - perfect for someone who wasn't sure what she was going to look like! A year later I brought my images to a women's photography workshop in Santa Fe. The other participants told me I should write a book to go with them to help other women facing chemo. I still have the book I wrote during my rectal cancer, but never published. I decided this time to get it out - I put my images to words and they became a book. With a little help from a lot of people, I finally went to Canada to see the "About My Hair" come off the presses. The main focus of the book is as more about a way of thinking and seeing the world than it is about a type of cancer. I found recently, after being in a near-fatal car accident that I could use my art in any situation. Making art in my room at the Rehabilitation Facility helped me forget my problems, just as it had during my cancer treatment.