((Anyone remember that from the dolphin show at Sea World?))
I took this photo the day Violet was born--almost exactly 6 months before I shaved my head.
I remember sitting next to my surgical oncologist the day I was diagnosed and telling her I wanted to shave my head and do this surgery right now, I was so ready! I hated hated hated the awful helpless feeling cancer gave me (gives me). I promised myself I would remember the "there is nothing worse" feeling I felt as I first sat with my doctor. So when I would feel sorry for myself in regards to losing my hair, I'd do my best to remember that feeling. This worked for me. I think anyone losing their hair because of (stupid@#$!%!@#$$@!!) cancer has a right to grieve the loss of their hair how it works for them. For me...I didn't want to make it a big deal. I didn't want to talk about it, drag it on, "do my hair one last time" sort of thing. I knew if I made it a big deal then I would be sad, I would feel all dramatic, and I would make what I was going through harder than it needed to be. I've seen videos of girls with cancer shaving their head and also in tv shows and it was so sad and left my crying! I felt so sorry for them and thought that must be so hard! I didn't want that. I didn't want others to pity me more or cry for me and feel sorry for me. I didn't want that memory, for me.
It is sad. It was hard to shave my head. It felt like how you would think it would feel. It was personal and real and I hope I'll never have to do it again.
I have learned that those with cancer need to do whatever feels right to them, this journey is unique and cancer patients should have the freedom to do whatever, however they please.
I did my hair like this its last week, sorry hair.
My medical team told me the hair on my head falls out after the second chemo. I had longish hair, well past my shoulders. My nurse suggested a hair cut before, so when it starts to fall out it won't feel like so much hair. Yick. Others suggested I do something funky, like a cool haircut, dye it, give my boys scissors and let them do something crazy. I didn't want a pixie cut or mohawk, I figured I'd get that once my hair starts to grow back. I chose to go about this with a little strategy...I would slowly go shorter and shorter until it got to the point where it became a nuisance and then I wouldn't be sad to lose it. I didn't want to go straight from long hair to shiny bald in 5 minutes, I gave myself a few days.
I chose a short haircut. I didn't want to like my short hair. If I were to do a short cut and keep it I'd do a cute bob, but I wanted it as short as possible so the back was chopped off and the front length was to my chin. I even got bangs! I've never had bangs before. I'm not sure if I like them, but it was fun to have for a week.
This is how it all went down. Three days after my second chemo I saw lots of hairs on my pillow when I woke up. It's happening! I remember taking a shower the next morning and just...like....how do I describe this? As I ran my hand through my hair to get it wet I got handfuls of my hair. So much. I ever so gently shampooed and rinsed it. So much hair fell out, I think I called Matt in to help me clean it up. I dabbed my hair with a towel and then shoved all of my wet hair under my hat. I was so scared to brush it or touch it at all!
I kept my hair under my hat the rest of the day. Every so often stray hairs would fall onto my shoulders. I was scared to take my hat off, so I would run my fingers through the already lose hairs hanging out under my hat and the hairs just snapped off. It had no strength. It didn't feel like I was pulling my hair out, it just fell off my head.
The next day it got worse. Really bad. I announced "today is the day! I'm doing it!" There, I decided. My social worker was right, the anticipation is the worst part. I had all this adrenaline. I told Matt to get the clippers and we'd just "casually" do it in my bathroom. My parents were at my house so they watched the kids, I didn't want the kids to know what was going on. I didn't want to scare them. Matt put some music on and I looked in the mirror one last time.
Oh no, don't cry don't cry don't cry! I felt this surge of grief, like a "how can I do this?! I have to be so brave right now. I can't breathe" kind of a feeling. I looked at myself, really looked at myself. I told myself I could do this. I reminded myself of that feeling, that helpless feeling. I could do this. I can shave my head. I have to do this, let's get it done and over with. I can do this.
It was a moment.
So I sat at the edge of my bathtub and Matt went to work. Again, I wasn't ready to be shiny bald, so I told him to use a size 2 clipper. I didn't watch in a mirror and I told him to do it quickly. I did some side glances at him putting handfuls of my hair into the trash bag. So much hair, you guys. I couldn't imagine losing it slowly. It had only been a few days of losing hair and therefore hair was all over my house and in my hats on my shirts even all over my baby. No more.
Matt finished. He looked at me, both of his hands cupped around the sides of my face and smiled, laughed, and teared up and said that I looked so cute and I was beautiful and he loved me.
I put my hat back on and marched out of that bathroom and put my kids to bed. It took until the next day for me to really look at myself without a hat. I would "peak" at it by lifting up sides of my beanie.
It was so weird! I was all giddy and was getting used to how my scalped felt. Losing your hair as a chemo side-effect hurts. It feels like someone is pulling your hair out. With the weight of my hair gone, it felt better. But I still had hair, so these tiny pieces were falling out still. I'd shower and just rub my head and all the tiny hairs would fall out. I'd rub it off until I started to get my bald spots. When I looked at my hand after running it once across my head, it would be black, full of tiny black hairs.
This was just a few days after the initial shave. Now that my hair was really balding I was ready for a shave. We watched a tv show and Matt buzzed off what was left of my hair. Done.
So I've been pretty honest in my blog. So I'll be honest how I feel about losing my hair...
I don't mind it.
I like being bald.
I'm used to it.
It makes me feel cold.
It doesn't make me sad.
I wore hats the first few months because it was winter so I needed warmth on my bald head. It was also easier to throw on. Once spring came, I realized I preferred scarves on my head when I went out, the soft and breathable fabric felt nice on my head. Sporting a ball cap is my equivalent to throwing my hair up in a messy bun, like when I"m running errands and not wearing a real "outfit". When I'm home I rock it bald.
I chose not to buy a wig. I think if it was convenient I would probably go look at them and get one for fun. I've told Matt I wanted to go look at them, but we just never made it a priority. I know I wouldn't wear it. It would be just for me, for fun. Maybe going on a date or church or somewhere nice. So I'd wear it like 5 times, haha. But no, I haven't bought a wig yet. I think wigs look great on some women, but for me...I think I would feel silly, it's just not me. Before I cut my hair, we joked (but were kind of serious) why don't we shave my head now and then make a wig out of my real hair?! Or a makeshift wig that's just a pony coming out of a hat!
Breast cancer is so rude to women. It takes away and damages the most feminine physical things-hair, nails, skin, breasts, and ridding the body of all estrogen. Hair and nails will grow back, skin will repair, and breasts can even be reconstructed one day, but you guys...I don't care! I care about my quality of life, my health, how this effects my family, and that I get to live. Femininity will come again one day, but for right now it's the right outfit, makeup, a manicure, one of kids in my arms, and a husband's hand to hold. And that's fine with me. My heart aches for those women that have a hard time with this. Losing your hair can be very traumatizing and a big deal. It is! No one should ever say "it's just hair!" to someone with cancer. Because I have an attitude I would say "then you shave your head" if they told me "it's just hair". I'm grateful I didn't have a hard time with this. I've always felt confident in the way I look, so I'm sure that same confidence helped me through losing my hair.
Being bald from chemo just screams "I HAVE CANCER!" doesn't it? It surprised me no strangers have approached or asked me about my cancer only because I was told by those wiser than me that that would happen. I get the pity looks, the double takes. If I'm out and about (I'm probably with my kids, therefore I'm not paying too much attention to other people) I notice a look I get. Strangers stop in their tracks (like a deer in a headlight) and for a moment it hits them and they stare at me until we make awkward eye contact, where they'll still stare. Maybe they're thinking of someone they know that has died of cancer, or they're wondering what kind of cancer I have, or they're trying to come up with reasons why I got cancer...trying to convince themselves that I did something wrong therefore they can live in a mindset that they are free from getting cancer. I know it's sad. Poor me...yadda yadda, I'm sick. I get little comments during small talk conversations, mostly cashiers, if I say something like "yeah it's been a long weekend" and they'll say "oh I bet!". Matt and I took our kids to the grocery store the other day and as we were filling our cart a cute elderly women started giving me suggestions on easy frozen dinner meal ideas. I was totally thrown off, and then realized "oooh, thanks!" she was trying to help me, knowing I was tired and weak. People are so nice to me, and helpful. I understand it takes courage to talk to someone like me, especially a stranger.
Truth is, I'm still me. I'm the same person. I have the same sense of humor, I am still a mom to my kids, I'm a supportive and loving wife. I am stubborn and do a lot more than I should or can. I love being a person and not being sick in bed- I have to figure out dinner, get my kids ready for the day, get the mail, register the car, clean out the garage, schedule play dates, potty train, keep up with baby books, take kids to birthday parties, go to church, etc. I've tried my best to maintain friendships and relationships to those who have stuck by me through my treatments. I understand, trust me, that this is scary for my loved ones. Some family and friends have "ducked out" and I don't hear from them anymore. And that's fine. Like really, we all have our own lives. Cancer isn't for the weak. It's a lot. It's unpredictable and scary, most people's worst fear. This is why I am SO grateful for those that are supporting us still. We had 2 friends bring dinner over this weekend without asking for it, I got 3 cards in the mail that made me tear up, 2 packages this week from family out of state, my aunt and uncle generously gave us their piano which has been a wonderful stress relief to play, I've had several visits from different friends this week, and we even got to go out on a date. Matt and I have made this part of our life. We're doing it. We're making it work. We cry, but we also laugh a lot. Every night when I wash my face I tell him I look like a cancer patient, all bald, sunken eyes, and hardly any eyebrows or lashes left. We laugh, cause it's funny to us. We're not giving it more power than we need to. I'm so grateful for a loving and supportive husband. He looks at me often with tears in his eyes (even when I'm being cranky) and tells me he thinks I'm beautiful and amazing and he loves me more now than ever. I am so lucky to have that real kind of love!
I don't want being bald or having cancer to define me. It's not who I am. It's something that is happening in my life right now, but I plan on putting this behind me...behind us! Being bald is temporary. Aren't y'all curious to see how the hair grows back? I think it would be hilarious if it came back gray. I told Matt I wouldn't be surprised, it would actually fit the rest of my body pretty well since I've already reached "old lady status".
Thank you to everyone that has sent me a scarf, hat, or a beanie. Thank you for the continual love and prayers on our behalf. We're staying positive and expect good news from here on out :)