I feel like reminiscing about hair today. I hated losing my hair. I hated losing my breasts too. It felt like every thread of womanhood was being stripped from me. In all honesty, it felt a little like I was being punished for being a woman….if that makes any sense to anyone at all. I know it isn’t true, but it’s how I felt. Every once in a while I have a crazy conversation with Jeremy that goes like this:
Me: “I wonder what they did with my breasts after they cut them off.”
Jeremy: (with patience, because I ask this a lot) “Jen, they have an incinerator for that.”
Me: “Oh yeah, I forget.”
And then I go in to some sad thought process that resembles a dog licking its wounds. Like I just can’t get over losing my breasts and their horrific demise. Jeremy needs to kick me in the butt sometimes to get me to come out of this self pity I can slumber into quite often….like right now, because I was talking about hair, not breasts….sigh.
So like the breasts, the hair things was a big deal to me too. However, unlike the breasts, I had some hope my hair would return, not like my breasts. And it did. My hair came back. I remember the first time I climbed out of the shower and actually had need to wrap a towel around my head. It was a sad day when I couldn’t do this anymore and even sadder for me when I would go to wrap a towel around my head out of habit. It always reminded me I was bald and I had cancer.
When I was preparing for chemo the nurses sat down with me and told me about all the side effects of the drugs. I think it was Taxotere that was the one that really made me lose my hair, but I remember them saying it may only thin. This makes me laugh a sarcastic little laugh now, because I think they give you false hope with this little comment. I remember thinking, “Oh, my hair is so thick, I’ve pulled hair out by the handfuls after pregnancy, surely I will be one of the few who only thins.” How wrong I was. If you did Taxotere and did not have huge bald patches, please let me know. I suppose it also depends on how much they pump in to your system.
I remember it took about two weeks for the chemo to take effect with my hair as well. I remember thinking “yes! It’s not falling out!” I so wanted to believe this. So in preperation of the possibility I cut my hair shoulder length. So then one day I was in the shower and I realized I had a big clump in my hands. At first I thought I could handle it. For a few days I tried to shower with the never-ending clumps. But you know something….it’s really difficult to get hair out of your fingers when you’re losing mass amounts. So I called my cousin and she cut my hair super short. I thought this might mean I wouldn’t have hair everywhere. But a few days later I had big bald patches and I still had little pieces of hair everywhere in my bathroom. So Jeremy and I made the decision to shave my head.
Here’s something I will never forget about doing this. We laughed and had fun with it. But the next day, my dear Jeremy hit bottom. He will tell you this was probably the hardest day of my diagnosis for him. Some men are breast men, some are hair men. Jeremy is a hair man. He has always liked my hair and he likes it long. It was a sad day for us.
I had some denial issues when I was diagnosed. Dealing with my hair was one of those areas of denial as well. I think it probably would of helped for me to pick out a wig, but I couldn’t do it. I remember going in to a place that had wigs and trying on a few. I almost cried. They looked SO bad on me I can’t even tell you how horrible they looked. I arranged to come back and have the woman cut the hair on this wig to fit my preferences, but there was a snowstorm that day and I canceled and never went back.
Instead I went a few days later to a few stores to look for scarves. That’s when I realized the style was long thin scarves and there were virtually none that would cover my head completely. So then I went to Goodwill, where I found a surprisingly large selection of colorful scarves. So I was a scarve woman. But the cool gypsy look with big earings got really old. And since the day I had enough hair to go without one, I have not worn a scarf on my head. I’m still living in the happiness of hair. Even my eyelashes came back. Not that I had much to begin with, but they are there, and I can wear my mascara on more than three measly eyelashes. Another time I’ll tell you my experience with false eyelashes…..
I’ve met a few women along the way who have worn different styles and handled hair loss differently. I have a blogging friend who wore Halloween style wigs in bright blue and pink. Very fun. I met one woman at the beach last summer who had lymphoma and refused to wash her hair for months in hopes of not losing it. She had super long hair. And when I met her it was short and wispy, but she did have hair! I think she just didn’t wash it and she managed to keep some all the way through.
How did you handle your hair loss? Did you wear a wig? I kind of wish I had gone with a funky white-blonde wig, just to be totally different.
The recommendation I guess I will make…..is do what makes it feel right for you. I think hair gives us confidence. If you need that, get a wig. If this is your chance to do something crazy, go for the brightest, pinkest wig ever. Be your own Lady Gaga.
But it will be a while. I hate to tell you this, but it will be. I lived in denial. I should have just adjusted and made the best of it. Someday I’ll tell you about the day I called around for hair extensions. Jeremy thought I was crazy. It takes close to six months after chemo for your hair to really start coming in. But it does, I think it’s pretty rare that it won’t.
Here I am with the super short cut. Hoping not to lose it all!
Here’s Meleah helping Daddy shave my head.
I look happy, but I am not. Just trying to make the best of it!
Here I am with my crazy kids at almost exactly 6 months post chemo at Christmas time.