Natalie Hodges Knew She'd Lose Her Hair Before Her Wedding. Here's How She Saved It.

Ad failed to load

Natalie Hodges always had the longest, thickest, most gorgeous head of hair I'd ever seen. We grew up in the same small Indiana town populated by Amish folks, and we even went to high school at the same time in the early '00s. Though we have never been close friends, we’ve remained acquaintances and connect intermittently through social media. Facebook is how I learned that she'd become a hairdresser as an adult — and a kickass one, at that. That's also how I learned that, less than a year before her December 2017 wedding, she was diagnosed with stage II Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a form of cancer that originates in the lymphatic system that can start — and spread — almost anywhere.

It's the kind of news that would turn anyone's world upside, the kind of helpless shock that comes along when you feel like your body has betrayed you. It can also make everything else in your life that's not your illness feel like it's been put on hold. Many cancer patients are forced to become hyperaware of their own mortality, all while living in an uncomfortable, uncertain holding pattern. That, in addition to the physical side effects of both the illness and the treatment, is overwhelming to imagine. When it came time for Natalie to treat cancer, the subject of her hair inevitably came up, the fate of which was surrounded with more uncertainty.

“At the beginning, I couldn’t image what it would be like to be bald since my hair was down to my waist and my life is consumed in hair all the time,” she tells me.

Ad failed to load

Instead of waiting for her hair to fall out from chemotherapy, Natalie decided to take control of the situation and came up with a plan: She would cut her hair and have it made into a wig that she could wear on her wedding day.

Before her first chemo treatment, she invited her family and friends to help her with this process. Her fiancé, Jordan, a filmmaker, documented the moment and Natalie used the video to tell friends and family that she had cancer, and that she was determined to be a beacon of positivity throughout her battle. Afterward, she sent her wavy blond hair — along with some of her sister's curly, brown hair — to Compassionate Creations Wig Design in California.

Ad failed to load

The wig took some time to make, and in the meantime, she documented each step of her cancer treatment via YouTube. The videos discussed everything from saving her fertility to loopy, foggy "chemo brain" to gradually losing more and more hair (and how surprisingly painful it can be physically). The day that her wig came, she posted another video, saying, "Today was like Christmas morning for me ... They made a wig that is so beautiful and I'm so excited about it."

Natalie Inspires on YouTube

“The cool thing about [the wig], like I said, is that it’s my hair and my sister’s hair and I’m so glad that I got it, and they did such an awesome job," Natalie said in one of her videos. "But, I think, I mean, since I still have hair now, I don’t know how much I’m going to wear it on a day-to-day."

Ad failed to load

However, there was one day on the horizon for Natalie that wasn't like the rest: Her wedding day. Even before the wedding, though, she wavered a little, not sure if wearing the wig was the right call after all.

"Through six months of chemo I almost lost all my hair, and I got use to my sparse pixie; it had become the new me on so many more levels than just vanity," Natalie told me. "I didn’t want it to come across that I didn’t feel comfortable, confident, or pretty enough without it, because at that point — after kicking cancer's ass — I felt quite the opposite."

She even recalls her fiance saying to "just come down the aisle bald." But still, something stopped her: she wanted her wedding to be about him and her. She wanted people to look at them as a whole, and not see her lack of hair and only think of her cancer. So, when the day arrived, she wore the wig down the aisle.

Ad failed to load

"Walking down the aisle wearing my wig was exactly how I imagined it to be — a full circle moment," she said. "Of course, every single person there was thinking about the journey I had just conquered, but the wig helped everyone remember the person I was before that, too."

Brooklyn Spirito
Brooklyn Spirito
Ad failed to load
Brooklyn Spirito

The wedding day wasn't the only reason she felt that way, either: Two months earlier, Natalie learned that she was cancer free.

"I did feel beautiful at my wedding — probably more beautiful than I would have not having had cancer. It also helped to be walking down the aisle to the most supportive and encouraging partner who, through all my low points, made me feel beautiful everyday. Our wedding day was a celebration on steroids," said told me. "A lot of people feel different in their relationship after they get married — they feel richer, stronger, more as one. Jordon and I had gained that with each other going through my journey with cancer, and much more. So when the day came, it truly was a celebration of love, partnership and life itself."

Ad failed to load

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

What No One Tells You About Breaking Up With Your Mother

The thing about the last time you talk to your mother is that you don’t know it when it’s happening. Or, at least, I didn’t. Nothing about the last phone call I had with my mother, in December 2014, stands out as a point of no return. Sure, we fought…
By Gabrielle Moss

I Tried Venus' New Facial Hair Removal Device & Will Never Get My Upper Lip Area Waxed Again

I remember the first time I realized I was growing hair above my upper lip. It was when a very rude seventh grader decided to point it out in front of my friends and me during our lunch break. He wasn't wrong — just mean — and ever since then, I've b…
By Sara Tan

7 Ways To Celebrate Your 30th Birthday That Are Feminist AF

Turning 30 is a pretty major milestone; it's one of those birthdays where large parties, floods of presents and many bouquets from besotted admirers seem to be in order. And as a woman and a feminist, I'm here to offer some additional 30th birthday i…
By JR Thorpe

Here’s Everything Leaving & Coming To Netflix In April

As the virtual shelf life for non-original Netflix programs grows shorter and shorter, fans of the streaming service are bidding woeful goodbyes to their favorite titles left and right. So, for those who need some time to prepare, here's everything l…
By Angelica Florio

Here Are The Exact Steps To Take If You Want To Travel All The Time & Work Remotely

When I first decided I wanted to become a digital nomad — someone who travels non-stop while working remotely — I was terrified and unsure if I would actually go through with it. I worried my work would suffer from all the travel and time zone change…
By Suzannah Weiss

11 Ways To Stay Positive When Dating Feels Like The Worst, According To Matchmakers

With every first date that leads to nowhere or every non-relationship that ends up being a waste of your time, finding love can seem far from possible. It can also be pretty rough on your self-esteem if you continually put a lot of effort into dating…
By Kristine Fellizar

Is Amazon's Alexa Making Our Relationships Weird?

Earlier this year, I started dating a guy who was in a very codependent relationship with Alexa. Alexa helped this guy (I'll call him "Paul") decide where to eat dinner and reminded him to work out. Alexa handled his to-do lists, restocked his toile…
By Sophie Saint Thomas

You Can Get Too Faced Mascara & Tarte Lipstick For HALF OFF At Ulta This Month

It's finally here! Ulta's 21 Days of Beauty Sale runs from now through Saturday, April 7 and is the retailer's epic "event" of the year. The promotion features "Beauty Steals," which means 50 percent off specific products for a single day. It also in…
By Amy Sciarretto

7 Things My 20s Taught Me About Toxic Relationships

I'll be turning 30 in less than a week, and while I'm trying to get all the habits of my twenties out of the way ASAP, I'm also reflecting on the what I learned over the past decade. And top of the list is the lessons I learned about toxic relationsh…
By JR Thorpe

7 Surprising Things That Happened When I Went A Month Without Drinking

If someone asked you if you could take a break from drinking alcohol, would you be able to do it? You may think it’s no big deal to take a month off from drinking, or you may think it’s a *huge* deal, as alcohol seems to be the center of many social …
By Natalia Lusinski

I Wore 'Dad Shoes' For A Week & They Were SO Much Cooler Than I Thought They’d Be

It’s no secret that fashion loves a good polarizing trend. Not too long ago, Birkenstocks made their high fashion runway appearance at Céline and Crocs followed suit on the runways of Christopher Kane and Balenciaga. Now, it’s time for the "ugly" sne…
By Dale Arden Chong

8 Ways Younger Millennials Communicate That Older Millennials Don’t Get

When comparing the ways our parents grew up communicating and the way we all grew up communicating, it seems like their generation and ours grew up in a different world. The technology our parents grew up with was so basic, it's ancient in comparison…
By Kaitlyn Wylde

This Is The ONE Sign That Won’t Be Affected By Mercury Retrograde This Month

It really doesn't seem fair that one astrological sign can ever enjoy the benefit of escaping the wrath of Mercury retrograde — that is, of course, unless that sign is your own — but it happens. Occasionally, the stars just align in the right way for…
By Kaitlyn Wylde

Why My Boyfriend & I Started Couples Counseling 6 Months Into Our Relationship

Right away, Kurt and I agreed on almost everything. We had met through a mutual friend in 2015, but we didn't start dating until we came across each other on Bumble a few years later. That's when we discovered that we were on the same page when it ca…
By Rachel Simon

This Primer & Mascara Combo Literally Doubles The Length Of My Eyelashes

Even as someone who loves beauty, I was never been particularly passionate about finding the perfect mascara. And then I got lash extensions for the first time. While I enjoy the long, full lashes that lash extensions provide, I always found myself j…
By Olivia Muenter

I Accidentally Fell In Love With My Friend With Benefits & It's Painful

Against my better judgment, I have fallen in love with my friend with benefits. I think I may have fallen in love with him month ago, but being stubborn AF, I fought against those feelings, tooth and nail, and, when it was suggested by a couple close…
By Amanda Chatel

This Viral Post About A Woman Breastfeeding In Public Actually Has A Happy Ending For Once

And today in things that will warm even the coldest of hearts, we have this: A story recently posted to the r/TwoXChromosome subreddit about a dad’s response to his daughter shaming a breastfeeding parent is everything. Posted by Redditor u/starsonwi…
By Lucia Peters

These March Beauty Launches Require Your Immediate Attention

I write one of these beauty editorials every month (feel free to check out January and February 2018 if you're in need of even more products to shower yourself with). Sometimes, I get worried that there won't be enough newness to share — especially b…
By Amanda Richards

Here's How You’re Most Likely To Get Your Heart Broken, Based On Your Zodiac Sign

Getting your heart broken can be one of the most painful experiences you can have in your life. But if you're into astrology, being familiar with your zodiac sign can be pretty helpful. For instance, when you know the ways you're likely to get your h…
By Kristine Fellizar

How I Learned Losing Your Job Isn't The End Of The World

Two and a half years ago, I was taking a day off from my marketing job at a San Francisco tech startup to host a friend when I got a call from the CEO. Apparently, I'd missed a pretty big day: 80 percent of the company, including the whole sales and …
By Suzannah Weiss

Why Arizona's Exit From 'Grey's Anatomy' Is A Huge Blow To The LGBTQ Community

Whenever I re-watch Grey's Anatomy, I don't start with Derek Shepherd waking up in Meredith's apartment after their first hookup. I start with Season 5, when Callie first meets Arizona in a bar. I start here, because I want to watch someone like me f…
By Martha Sorren

I Couldn't Find A Beauty Campaign With Plus Size Models, So I Made One Myself

In the fall of 2015, I visited relatives in my hometown, a small suburb of New Jersey. There isn't much to do there, apart from dining at Applebee's or hitting the mall. As a plus size woman, cruising through a shopping mall is a mixed bag. Certain d…
By Marie Southard Ospina

If You’re Addicted To Rewatching ‘The Office,' There’s An Actual Reason For That

A few weeks ago, I tweeted that I was looking for fans of The Office who can't stop, won't stop rewatching the series, and that they should email me if they'd like to contribute to an article about their obsession. By the next morning, I had 32 messa…
By Lia Beck