10:34pm. May 2nd 2014. Leia by my side. Finally deciding to hit publish on this post and set this one free. *Deep breaths*
How I’m feeling: Happy after some family time this evening and thinking about some of the great conversations and moments I’ve had with some people over this past week. As crazy and fast as things are, it’s also been kind of calming and freeing.
My first chemo session was on Friday, March 21st. That’s 3 days after I was diagnosed. I can’t believe how much of a whirlwind this has all been. Before I can even get to acknowledging and processing one thing – I’m thrown something else to take in. It’s why I’m taking my time to write some of this out. I want to make sure I’m processing all of it. And this is my way. It’s better later than never, right?
Exactly 15 days after chemo #1, my first clump of hair fell out. I will never forget that day (Read about it here) and leading up to when I decided to finally have my hair shaved off – April 13th. The traumatic clumps of hair all over my bed sheets and on the floor, not wanting to touch, flip or wash my hair, the quiet moments I had admiring photos of me with my hair and having a tough time throwing out my fallen hair.
Sunday April 13th was a big day. I had messaged a few of my friends earlier on in the week to share with them some tough hair moments I was having and to let them know that I felt it was time:
I knew that if I was going to shave my head that I wanted it to be in the company of some good friends. It’s a personal and intimate moment. My friend Lannie had offered back when I was in the hospital to shave it for me when/if I was ready. It had gotten to the point where it was starting to become really depressing seeing the clumps of hair fall out. It was also becoming physically painful. The hair that was falling out would catch on to hair that was still attached – and the weight of that was enough to give me crazy headaches and cause some serious pain on my scalp. It pretty much felt like someone was pulling my hair – all.the.time.
Losing my hair had been one of the most difficult side effects I had been enduring through my treatment program. And YES, I know hair grows back. I am aware that it does. But it doesn’t make losing it any less difficult. Many women freak out when their hair dresser chops off a little “too much”. Many go for hair cuts and come out of it with barely any length cut off and are surprised when their friends, family members, boyfriends, husbands don’t notice. Hair for a woman can be a security blanket and is what makes many feel sexy, feminine, young and womanly. It is many women’s nightmare to lose their hair.
Well, let me tell you this – no shocking incident of a hair dresser cutting your hair “too short” compares to this. No amount of hair shedding in your home compares to the thick clumps of hair that would fall out of my head with a gentle movement of my head and the amount of hair that would cover my bed sheets every morning.
On that Sunday early afternoon of April 13th, a few of us met up to shop for head scarves. After that, we headed to Lannie’s studio to get the deed done. Lannie had always mentioned that she’d shave her head with me – but I did not expect her to actually do so. While someone shaving their head is completely different than someone not having hair because they have lost it – I would never wish for anyone to go through even a fraction of an ounce of what I was going through. And I would not expect anyone to understand what I was going through. I made a point to let Lannie know that she certainly did not have to do it and that I did not expect for her to go through with it. Lannie insisted that it was something she wanted to do – for me and for her. What a good friend. Oh man, I have so many good friends and family members and I’m so touched by all of them over the past couple of months.
After some time sorting things out at the studio, Lannie asked if I prefer if she went first. And I said yes. I wasn’t ready just yet. And as Sami and I tied Lannie’s hair in to many ponytails (We’re planning on donating her hair. I’m sorting this out right now) I realized that I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Lannie’s hair either. In fact, it took me a few tries and I screamed as I snipped the first chunk of her hair off.
After I cut off all of Lannie’s ponytails, Lannie took the electric clippers to her head. I left that part to the pro. She has had a lot of practice shaving her husband’s and son’s hair. As she shaved the last bit of her hair off, I started getting a little shaky. I knew that I was up next – and I still was not ready for it.
The room became quiet, tears started flowing, I slowly took off my headband and moved towards the couch.
I was a little nervous about standing up because I was starting to tremble – and so I chose to have it done while I sat on the couch.
I started playing with my hair – and hung on to it for dear life. At this point, most of my hair was gone – but I had been wearing my wig for practice. I hung on to my wig hair as if it were my own and was not ready to let it go. I knew that as soon as I would lift my wig off of my head – that the small amount of hair that was left had to go. I was done with the trauma from the hair loss and I was done with the headaches.
It took a while for me to take my wig completely off. Lannie had the electric clippers ready and was standing behind me. I had other friends sit beside me and in front of me trying to comfort me. Nobody really knew what to say. It’s a difficult and personal experience and while it was extremely difficult for me, I know that it was also difficult for them as well – especially to witness me go through so much emotion.
I can’t say that I felt empowered and strong. I feel like everyone wants and expects to hear that I did.
Many (including myself) felt that shaving my head would be some big, magical, strong and empowering moment – but it wasn’t. This ain’t a Sex and The City episode, I’m not Samantha Jones – OH, and this is real life. You know, non-fiction with non-fictional characters?
In the moment I felt so much anger and sadness. I hated cancer for putting me in this situation. I hated what the treatment was doing to me emotionally, mentally and physically. I hated that I felt hatred. I was sad that I had to say goodbye to my hair – and goodbye to many other things.
After a few minutes of confiding in my friends in silence that things were going to be ok, I took off my wig and Lannie went to work. It didn’t take long at all for her to shave the rest of my hair off – but I cried through all of it and definitely dropped a few F bombs between the tears. Even as she shaved my head, I was still not ready for it. I had expected to feel better throughout or immediately after shaving my head – but I didn’t. I was just really sad.
It wasn’t until about 15 minutes after my hair was shaved off where I started feeling OK. I may have cracked a smile – and we may have gone out to eat afterwards and giggled a lot 🙂 I have really awesome friends and loved ones and for that alone, I can’t be more grateful.
While I have been sad to say goodbye to many things that I’ve lost and will lose, I try to keep reminding myself that it is all temporary.
I’m excited to have achieved and learned what I already have over the past couple of months and I’m looking forward to saying hello to even more of the many remarkable things that will come my way as a result of this experience. I know that in the end, there will only be gain from all of this. That’s at least what I keep telling myself.
I’m going to be even more of a superwoman after I’m through with this. I just know it. Watch out, world.
How am I coping with my hair (or lack thereof) now? I’m pretty much turning in to a boho hippie. I sport head scarves and head jewelry all the time with my wig. You may have seen some photos of me in ’em via my Instagram page. When I’m at home or just stepping out quickly, I’ll wear a nice head scarf. For those of you who are going through this, know of any women who are or just want to look fly with some head gear, here are some good resources. Have fun:
One day soon, I’ll share some photos with you of my bald head, my head scarvery, hats – and maybe even a video.