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Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)

I’ll never forget the day I met her, in the dorm hallway. Trish is a bit (a really super duper) of a closer talker (and I love her for it). I was just meeting her through my longtime bestie, Lacie, and she started violently flipping her hair at me like she was flirting with me, and laughing so hysterically I had no idea what the hell she was saying, until I realized that she was mocking me. And she was so close to me! (I’m not kidding, this was the first time I met her)

Once she started to make some sense, I realized a few things: 1) We were in the same intro Geography class; 2) By the way I messed with my hair in class, she thought I was hitting on my new friend whom I sat by, Matt; 3) She was a weirdo.

I will admit, I play with my hair a lot. Really, quite a bit. The joke took off in high school when others made the same mimicking hair gestures at me that Trish did years later. They’d flip their hair around like a Victoria’s Secret model and fluff it and then say something to me in a sexy voice. (Remember how funny you thought you were in high school … me too)

When I performed my first argument in front of the North Dakota Supreme Court (Fun fact, I did that argument under my “practice papers,” because I was not yet licensed, but found out the day prior that I had passed the bar! And I said the words “meat grinder” in that argument, but that’s another story), I purposefully pulled my hair back in a long, classy pony, so as not to play with it while arguing. I knew I couldn’t be trusted.

Growing up, I was a tomboy and had a spike for years. Then throughout middle school and into 8th grade, I had really bad hair (thanks Mom and Aunt Lea for the perms!). But once I finally learned how to fix it, and it grew out, I really loved my hair. I liked that it was very dark brown, even throughout the 90s fixation on blondes. I always took a lot of time to style it, and never dyed it, even though by 2017 the grays were becoming quite prominent.

On September 28, 2018, my stylist, Cody, ran her hands through my already short hair, cut off and donated after the seizure-induced shoulder dislocation and break, and said, “Jackie, your hair isn’t gray anymore.” (Fun fact, apparently life after AE trauma is less stressful than lawyer-life) She then proceeded to trim my hair back into my short style for the last time in a long time.

It was later in June, 2019, that my friend and stylist, Shelby, asked me when all my hair fell out, and I realized that it wasn’t just in my head. I had lost a lot of hair. What was left was thin, and it wasn’t growing back. Steroids. So I decided to take the financial plunge of extensions.

During the height of my recovery in 2018-2019, when I was 30 pounds over my norm, swollen, and hobbling, the worst of it all was that my hair was short and I hated it. I could have stood my distorted face if it was hidden under my usual long hair. I cursed my family for rushing to cut it off while I was so impaired, even though they knew I couldn’t take care of it.

I longed to play with it the way I used to. I prayed for it to grow so I could put it in my classic hair on top of my head, wild, messy, somewhat of a bun. Truly, all I’ve wanted since 2018, was my hair back. I cried as hair grew on my face and neck, but stopped growing everywhere else.

And I remember the day in 2020 when one of my doctors told me it may never grow back. But then my friend Carla came to my rescue and told me she believed it would come back, but with time.

As of today, September 28, 2021, I have had only one haircut since Cody’s cut that same day in 2018. On June 16, 2020, Shelby took out my extensions for the last time, and cut my hair. And it has finally started to grow again.

If you’ve seen me lately, chances are I’m in shorts and have that wild hair on top of my head look. You know why I do that (because I refuse to give up on summer this year)? Because I can. I can pull up my hair and make it ratty, just like I dreamed of for a few years.

It’s grown in a bit different. It’s wavier, poofier, and the bottom has a dead-grass flare. And when I take it out of a hairband at night, it all looks and feels like a giant thistle weed. But that’s OK. It’s back. Maybe different, but mine again.

If you look in the mirror today and are really happy with what you see, say a silent prayer for someone who is in the midst of an illness that’s robbing them of their body, mind, spirit, and maybe even … their hair.

All my chemo warriors – I see you. All my steroid-infused autoimmune people – I see you. And hair or no, I love you!

In sickness and in health, stay strong! Stay #StebbinsStrong!


"I can’t give you back what’s been hurt Heartaches come and go, and all that’s left are the words I can't let go

"If we take some time to think it over, baby Take some time, let me know If you really want to go

"Don’t know what you got till it’s gone Don't know what it is I did so wrong Now I know what I got Just this song And it ain’t easy to get back Takes so long" ~ Don’t Know What You Got (Till it’s Gone) ~ by Cinderella

*Another fun fact. On the first day of classes during our first year of college in 2002, Lacie and I went to the Cinderella/Poison concert – it was epic! As we were standing there all wide-eyed from our first day of the biggest change of our lives, I looked at her and loudly said, “I don’t know any of Cinderella’s songs!” When a rocked-out 80s dude with a long black mullet, vintage Poison tee, and his girlfriend in lace leggings and a crop top overheard me, they freaked out! “WHAT?! How dare you?” Since that night, I know a lot of Cinderella songs! And Lacie and I had another epic night at the Motely Crue concert for her 21st birthday a few years later (but we won’t share any stories of that night). In a throwback to college, here are a few cherished pictures of us living it up at 80s rock band concerts and after!


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