Monthly Archives: August 2012

High Fives for Everyone

Dr. Mutch and I have a pretty rad relationship.  He calls and emails me on a somewhat regular basis (including my birthday!).  I have his office number, his cell number, and his home number.  He calls himself by his first name almost every time he calls me and then corrects it to “Dr. Mutch”.  He’s come to expect my high fives when things are going well, and he seems to genuinely like me.  I like that.

Last week I went in for my scans and my regular physical exam with Dr. Mutch.  The preliminary results from the scan showed that things were “stable”… which means that everything is either the same size or has shrunk somewhat.  “Stable” suggests that the chemo is working.  “Stable” is good.  “Shrinking” would be better, of course, but we’ll celebrate the small victories just the same.

Part of this next blurb may be an over-share (as if I don’t have a history of that), but it’s all in the name of a good story.  Here goes.  I’m in the exam room, undressed from the waist down, laying on the table, feet in stirrups.  Dr. Mutch goes in to have a feel around and says, with his finger still inside my body, and sounding as though he’d just found a 100 bill in the laundry, “Oh! This is smaller! You’re responding!” I said, “Seriously?!” as an enormous smile devoured my face.  He said, “Yes! Really!” I closed my eyes and thrust my clenched fists into the air as if I’d just won the Boston Marathon. I then looked over his head as he continued to manually survey my goods.  The resident and two nurses standing in the back of the room were cheering wildly, clapping and smiling right along with me.  As they left the exam room, I got a high five from Dr. Mutch and the resident. This is the greatest medical team on the planet, I think.  Well, at least when it comes to celebrating awesomeness.  And, let me tell you, there’s an awful lot of awesome to celebrate right here.

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Going Bald in Baby Steps

The thought of being hairless was both appealing and frightening. Ultimately, if it meant that I got to be alive to be pissed about being bald, then let the hair fall out! But the truth was that I wasn’t choosing any of this, and so far I had very few superficial indicators that I had cancer. If I could just lose every hair from the mustache down, I would be one happy girl! I’d worked hard to grow my hair out… 3 years! I wanted it to be healthy and long enough to cover my boobs (not sure why this particular landmark was chosen, but chosen it was). By the time the docs told me that I would lose my hair with the new treatment, my hair was about 3 inches from my goal. Of course, right?

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I grappled with this for weeks. I don’t view myself as being overly feminine. I don’t generally wear a lot of make-up or jewelry, and my t-shirts and jeans are only occasionally relieved by a dress, so my hair was what I’d come to rely on as my one girly anchor. After talking with several female survivors who had braved the bald, I decided that I was taking back the control.

The first time my hair started to fall out more than usual, I was in the shower. Up to that day, it was normal for a few hairs to be on my hands when I was shampooing. But that day, the more I pulled on it, the more it came out. I giggled like a kid on Christmas. The chemo was working! If my hair was falling out, that meant that the chemo was in there killing something, so it must also be killing the cancer!

I had an appointment with a stylist a week after that to get a pixie cut, but I wanted to donate my hair and was afraid that too much would fall out before the appointment. I wanted to donate as much as possible, so that night I had my friend Corry cut my hair into a swing bob. This was a variation on a look I’d donned for years and also the shortest I’d ever dared to go.

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This style lasted exactly 2.5 days. Then I waltzed into a salon I’d never seen but that came highly recommended, and sat down in front of a woman I’d never met but who knew my story. I showed her the picture of the style I wanted and explained, “This is the style I want, but don’t stress over it too much, I’ll just be shaving it in a week!” She washed it, snipped it, styled it and was done. She was so fast, and it was so good! I absolutely loved it! I thought for sure I was going to look like a dude, but I was wrong. I looked chic and trendy and HOT! It will definitely be worked into the rotation once all my hair grows back.

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At some point, for some reason, it became clear to me that I needed to have a Mohawk. I’m definitely a Mohawk kind of girl but honestly lack the gumption to ever commit to anything like that… until, of course, it was just going to fall out anyway! Once my hair started to seriously go (which was only a few days after the pixie cut), I called another stylist friend of mine and had her create my next favorite style.

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This awesomeness lasted one whole day, and then it was time to shave it. The sides were already done with a one guard, and the top was falling out en mass anyway, so it shouldn’t have been such a big deal. But it was. Joe started to shave my head, and I took over at some point, then he finished it off. I stood there in shock as I watched my hair fall to the ground around me. No longer was this a fun hair cutting extravaganza. I was being robbed of choice. I couldn’t put a happy spin on it anymore. This was really happening. When it was all said and done, I looked in the mirror. I looked back at Joe and burst into tears. I was bald. And it was horrible.

ImageOk, it wasn’t so horrible. But I was cold all the time! Never again will I criticize the follicularly challenged for their lack of heat retention capabilities. Also, I was BALD! Two weeks prior, I had long hair! Ugh… anyway, we shaved it with a no guard, so whatever hair was still there could be seen, and I looked a little mangy. So about a week later, we shaved it again. This time with a man’s face shaver.

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I like this a lot better. It looks more even. Now my eyelashes have started to go. BUT! My eyebrows are still holding on strong. Was there ever any doubt? I’ve spent every day since my 12th birthday agonizing over the grooming of these Mediterranean beasts… trimming and waxing and plucking and threading. My how the tables have turned! Please stay in. You look so nice up there on my forehead. Good eyebrows. Yes, I talk to my eyebrows.

There was one other gigantic breakdown about my hair, or hairlessness as it were. It happened after a day at the mall. It was the first time I’d noticed people noticing me. Let me be clear- this was not the frat boy rubber necking I’d grown used to. No, no. This was awkward staring quickly followed by looking away unnaturally. Children didn’t even bother with the latter part. My self esteem was faltering, and that was foreign to me.

Thankfully, I recovered quickly, getting cozy with the fact that I don’t have hair today and probably won’t any time soon. I don’t like it, and I still forget that it’s gone. I reach back to take out my ponytail regularly, and, from time to time, I’m startled by my naked scalp when I look in the mirror. It’s temporary, though. And some day, this will all be a distant memory.

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