Good Looking Corpse

March 25, 2019
  • March 25, 2019
  • Living with Cancer Blog

By Ian Robinson


When it comes to certain things — sushi, bourbon, marriage — I was initially resistant.

Sushi? Awesome.

Bourbon? Awesome.

Marriage? Jury’s still out. (My wife doesn’t read this, right?)

Same for salons.

I was an old-school barber shop guy. Liked lying back with a hot towel on my face before a straight-razor shave. Leafing through piles of Argosy and Playboys. Listening to the old guys spinning yarns that might have even been true.


I didn’t change, but barbershops did.

The good magazines disappeared, replaced by GQ. The old guys died; prices went up. Last barber shop I went to had a vacuum cleaner with that round fuzzy attachment, and when they were done cutting, they’d vacuum your head.

I don’t need a lot of pampering, but that was a trifle industrial even for me.

Now I do the salon thing. Recently, Tonya finished up with me when another stylist, Lauren, came over. “I thought I recognized your voice,” she said. “I haven’t seen you since …”

We started laughing.

Because last time I’d seen her was during the insanity in the immediate aftermath of my diagnosis.

Without intervention, the cancer that spread to my bones would have killed me within months. While I’d been told I was going to be graced with a couple years, my body and spirit weren’t buying it. I felt doomed. Cancer seemed more powerful than any treatment.

Did I fall to my knees in prayer?

Confess my sins?

Apologize to people I’d wronged over the course of a life often lived carelessly?


A recitation of my sins — even if I just stuck to Ian’s Greatest Hits — would have taken longer than I thought I had left.

Pray? Given the number of people expiring from cancer, most more worthy than I of deliverance, I’m pretty sure that’s not the way prayer works.

Apology tour?

Aw screw it. If I pissed you off you probably had it coming.

So Priority 1 became … A haircut.

My hair gets too long, I look like a guy stuck his finger in a light socket. If I dyed my hair red and bought some extra big shoes, I could get a job frightening children at birthday parties.

Even with the heaping helping of awful on my plate, all I could focus on was a haircut. I didn’t want to die disheveled. If I was going out, I wanted to go out looking sharp. Like the man said in the movie Knock On Any Door: “Live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse.”

My wife drove me to the salon. I looked like a guy who’d stared into the abyss and seen Death staring back and waving. I was on a cane with a plastic bucket under his arm. Even before chemo, I was dry heaving quantities of undetermined goo plus blood.

Sat in Lauren’s chair. Poor girl was horrified. Little terrified. Trying to keep it off her face. I was one of her regulars. Good tipper. We had great conversations. Laughed a lot. I wasn’t that guy anymore.

“Got cancer,” I said, sitting with the bucket in my lap. “They tell me I got a couple years. Go quick. I don’t want to puke blood in front of you.”

Fastest. Haircut. Ever.

And a great one.

Thanked her. Staggered out to enter a world of chemo and radiation and uncertainty and fear. But not gonna lie. Looking pretty good.

To this day, I’m not sure why that haircut loomed so large.

Not like I’m even that vain normally. Maybe it was my life was so out of control, I needed something I could control. Even it was only hair.

So, what kind of crazy entered your life when you got diagnosed?

You can respond here on the Wellspring blog or at or by following and messaging me on Twitter at @IanRobinsonyyc

One Response

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You might also like

May 7, 2024

Public Speakers & Events – May 2024

March 26, 2024

Medicine Hat Health Foundation provides funding to Wellspring Alberta

March 25, 2024

Pam Ehlert: strength in the face of cancer

March 11, 2024

Dave Nitsche: Riding for Wellspring


Subscribe for E-News Updates