I had just gotten out of the shower, and had dried my hair, when I realized something. My hair has gotten long again. And I have missed it.
I know, this seems like a weird way to begin a post. So please, just humor me. Back 15 years ago, I let someone influence me into cutting my then shoulder-length hair. I resisted, and for good reason. But it was too important to my significant other that I not have hair like a “three musketeer” or “Joe Dirt.”
But I had my reason for keeping my hair long. As you can see, I have quite a bit of a wave in the back, and to be honest, my head of hair is quite thick for my ripe age of 49 (AND HARDLY ANY GRAY!!!). But with that wave came my dilemma. The wave would pull my hair up, into a bit of a tighter wave, exposing my skull underneath.
I know what you are thinking… WTH???
I kept my hair long following my cancer treatments to keep this exposed area covered so as not to raise any uncomfortable questions. Now I do want to preface this before I make the next comments. This occurred from treatments back in 1989/1990 when side effects were much more severe. I lost all of my hair from chemotherapy treatments.
Prior to that, I only lost hair in the areas treated by radiation therapy. These areas would include my chest, armpits, jawline, sadly, not my nose hairs. Because of the amount of radiation used back in those days, the hair loss was permanent. The hair grew back on the majority of my scalp once the chemo was done. But as you can see, I have what I refer to as my “skunk tail”, a little strip of hair down the lower portion of the back of my skull, with bald patches on both sides. That strip is courtesy of protection to take care of damaging my spinal chord. I also have a little tuft of hair in the middle of my chest, where they tried to protect my heart.
I joked with a friend the other day about the cold weather up north. This is my first Winter season down in Florida and not dealing with the cold. He lacks quite a bit of hair, okay, all of it, part by choice, the other by heredity. And like many of my follicly-challenged friends, they seem to be younger than me. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.
He had been complaining about cool rain hitting his scalp. I recall that as well. Not having hair to stop the rain, at least giving the drops a chance to warm up a little before hitting the scalp. But one thing was clearly worse, a snow flake hitting the old chrome dome for the first time. I have had frozen slushies and ice cream and have eaten them fast enough which did not cause the pain of brain freeze like that first snow flake. I did not wear any wig, but for certain I wore hats following that trauma.
Hair loss is probably the number one concern of most cancer patients. It sounds odd, that with the other major side effect of treatments is often nausea, more patients are more concerned with losing their hair. Especially with women. And with advancements in nausea management, hair loss seems to be the only remaining side effect medicine is unable to prevent during cancer treatments for drugs that currently affect the hair.
There are only photos of me before my treatments, and after my treatments, none during them. Of all the things I was dealing with during my treatments, it was my appearance that bothered me most. I do not know if it was for my own benefit or for everyone else. But there is not one picture of me during my treatments.
A dear friend of mine is now currently dealing with one of the cruelest of fates.
I have known Jennifer for most of my cancer survivorship. We met through an internet support group for Hodgkin’s patients. Her ex-husband had been undergoing treatments and was having difficulties following his treatments. But Jennifer was his caregiver during and following his treatments. From a caregiver standpoint, Jennifer was one of the best, doing everything she could from comforting to monitoring, and at times, making the decisions. She did what she had to as together they had a young daughter to also raise.
If I had my way, no one would get cancer. But even more so, anyone having had the experience of being a caregiver to someone with cancer, should give that person a pass from ever having to deal with cancer again. Caregivers have their own issues to deal with, which can actually be as traumatic as those dealing with the cancer itself.
But the reality is that I cannot wish someone not to get cancer.
Late last year, Jennifer was diagnosed with cancer. She is currently in the middle of her treatments and as far as I am concerned, she is doing great both physically and emotionally. I know Jennifer is tough. She did great as a single mother raising her daughter. And having been a caregiver to someone with cancer, she did have an edge on how to get through this awful journey. That does not necessarily make it any easier.
I will never forget when I saw the first picture that Jennifer posted with her new hairdo. Honestly I would never have even paid attention to it, had she not actually stated that she had her hair cut short to prepare for the hairloss. I saw Jennifer wearing a hat and that was it. Even though I knew the battle that she was facing, she still looked the same to me, and her courage and optimism still showed in her picture.
Jennifer had a plan to deal with her hairloss and it was working for her. A recent picture that she posted however, is what prompted me to include her in this post.
Yes, Jennifer’s hair is now gone. But guess what is not gone? You can see it simply by looking at the other two pictures of her, and combine them with the way that I described her character. It is what you have inside you, not what you have on top. I know that is of little consolation from someone who has lost their hair to treatments, but as someone who has experienced it, I do get to make that statement.
Jennifer, I cannot wait to see your post stating that you are in remission. I believe in my heart that if anyone can do it, you can and will do it. You have unbelievable strength and courage and remarkable support from both your husband and your daughter. I will look forward to seeing the new hair you will have.
The hair may be gone today, but today turns into yesterday.