100,000. The number of hair follicles on the average human head. It is day 27 of my chemo treatment. I was told all of my hair would fall out on Day 16. I was told this would be the worst year of my life. Cancer has already taken 3 body parts from me (two breasts, one colon). Parts I was really fond of, they all served me well. I wasn’t planning to give any of them up anytime soon. So yes, holding onto 100,000 little hair follicles feels like a huge, fecking victory right now!
This is me, enjoying our annual tradition of choosing a Christmas tree with my family on Day 25, and relishing in a chemo break/spa day at my favorite place in the world (The Ocean House in Watch Hill, RI) on Day 27. With those 100,000 hairs on my head still attached.
Does keeping my hair, thriving, and enjoying every day of my life through chemo, despite periodic bone pain, fatigue, and mind-numbing, crippling fear, feel like a big FU to cancer? You bet it does. More than vanity, or not upsetting my kids any further with my physical changes, it feels symbolic, and like a personal victory. Some control in an uncontrollable situation.
But more importantly, I am putting this out there because if I had read this, or seen these pictures, of a woman with advanced breast cancer, going through chemo, looking healthy and enjoying her life, I would have believed I could get through this too, that it would be okay. It would have made it all a lot less scary. Hair or no hair. So please read and pass this on to any brave women or men in your life facing this challenge and give them a virtual high five from me. Stick a collective finger up to cancer and take a vow to LIVE while you’re alive. No matter what.
…and tell them about Cold caps and The Rapunzel Project.
November 19, 2015
So, I made it through round 2 of chemo with the “hair nazi” (aka: my sister Paula). We were joined this time by my dear friend Kristina, and long time friend and fellow-shrink, Lisa. In Tom’s absence, he sent a driver, Luis (this poor unfortunate soul), who did not quite know what to make of the gaggle of giggling gals trooping out of the cancer hospital with tailgate gear in tow and one apparently mute martian chick (see below). By that point in the day I am basically frozen into silent submission by the tundra on my head and am barely functioning as part of the human race, never mind forming sentences. Also, I realized the helmet contraption (to try to save my hair through chemo) shapes my cranium into a very close resemblance of our iconic images of alien life form (think Coneheads from old time SNL – and yes, I do realize I’m really dating myself here).
But the real hijinkks with Luis ensued on the journey from NYC back to CT. Paula gets violently carsick, made worse by her having to do the elaborate helmet changes every 23 minutes on the dot (to keep the caps at an icy -40 degrees!) and open the huge cooler of dry ice – during which she instructs us to go into drill mode by shouting “DRY ICE EXPOSURE, HEADS OUT THE WINDOWS, NOW!!!” Kristina and I dutifully complied by rolling down the windows, and sticking our necks out, my alien head hanging out of the black SUV for all of 95 north to witness. Meanwhile, Paula was donning sea sick bands on both wrists, sweating profusely, and when not actively applying frozen gear to my scalp, had her face ensconced in a barf bag or out the window, gagging and burping loudly the entire ride. I was like a silent martian-zombie, and Kristina chimed in occasionally with tales of her own IV plans the next day for her medical issues. Poor Luis honestly did not know what to make of this sick threesome, but I could read the thoughts racing through his head as I caught glimpses of his darting, terrified eyes in the rearview mirror: WTF?! – Do they all have cancer? Are they freaking contagious? Can I get a mask? I’m never taking this pick up again! Do I have to put MY head out the window too? And … what in the world ARE they doing to that poor little alien girl with too much liptstick on?
Well…has all the torture, hassle and craziness of these cold caps been worth it? Drum roll please…. we are very, VERY cautiously optimistic at the moment and saying yes… so far! Yesterday was the day I was supposed to lose my locks. To the tune of 12 days of Christmas, this refrain keeps running through my head as I’ve heard it from 3 cancer docs: “On the 16th day of chemo, my oncologist said to me…all your hair will fall out, thats just what happens, be ready for it, and enjoy the side effects of not sleep-ing!” I’ve taken to turning every odd cancer-based situation into either a Seinfeld-like sitcom scene or broadway show-tune in my head. It makes me laugh. And something has to.
So yes, so far my hair is still intact, and perhaps this little-sister inflicted torture is really working. If so, she’ll get 6 more chemo days of headlocks, hilarity, smirks and revenge, and I may escape one more loss from this horrible illness and save myself 3-4 years of growing back my mane. I’ll keep you posted! Thanks for the continued support and following my story! And by the way, I’m fully prepared to proudly rock the baldilocks/Conehead look if this doesn’t work… so look out :)!