Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: Surviving Round One of Chemo
I survived round one. I stepped into nothingness, lingered there for days and emerged out the other side. The darkness within chemo is something to talk about, but while in it I had no words. Since escaping it, it has taken me almost a week to want to sit down and write about it. I thought I’d be writing more, but it seems that chemo, while doing its important job, also robbed me of my desire to communicate, think, and process. During the worst of it I kept thinking that I should add this or that to my blog. Now that I feel human again, I can’t even remember what it was.
Chemo numbers your days. Every 21 days I go in for my cocktail infusion. So every day in between has a number. The professionals give you clues to how you’ll feel on certain days but always preface it with, “but everyone is different.” So, some of their predictors were accurate and some—not so much . . . because “I am different.” Days 1 and 2 were as told, felt pretty fine. Day 3, wham! Felt so tired and blah, just wanted to be in my bed. Days 4-5, needed to poop and couldn’t. I can honestly say that in my 54 years I have never experienced constipation. I know, I know, I am just a regular gal. Well, that is until chemo. Whoa, I must say that I am sorry to all of you who deal with that on a regular basis. Once that got flowing, I had the complete oposite problem, of course.
During days 3-7 all I could think about was that I willing went into that building and let them put this stuff in me. AND now that I know how bad this feels, I am not sure I can walk in there five more times to let them do it again. Right!? The first times you have NO idea how it will make you feel. Now that I know . . . umm, not so sure.
This is where my husband, Dennis, gets the new name HOTY. Husband of the Year. I am stealing that from a book I tried to read while in the midst of this. I don’t say this to make other husbands look bad, I really don’t. But this guy has such a passion for my well-being and a tenderness for caring for me that it makes me want to get well. He’s in it for life and is so selfless. When I told him his new name he asked what I would call him next year. Next year, without a doubt, he will be called HOTSY — Husband of the Second Year. Doesn’t quite have the same ring, but he is the best!
Days 8-10 were lost. Let’s just say that “natural” remedies for cancer relief don’t work for some people and I am one of them. I took a crazy train to Never, Never Land. Got lost there for over 24 hrs. and thought I would never come back. HOTY and I will stick with prescription meds that have absolute predictability and a reliable outcome. At least that is the plan for round two. I’ll let you know how it goes.
So, that brings us to the third week. Feeling “normal” is a real thing. It is hard not to over do it when you get 10 days out of 21 to feel human. Now that my insides feel normal, external effects of chemo have started. Day 14, my scalp started tingling and the point of connection for every hair on my head hurt. It’s like they are jumping ship. The soldiers are falling and there is nothing I can do about it. I am trying not to touch my hair, but is a bad hair day better than no hair? The inevitable is happening. The one thing that shows everyone you have cancer is quickly approaching. My dear friend, Samantha, who has been cancer free for 15 years now, tells me that every hair that falls out is a sign of chemo working. I am trying to get on board with that, but I am afraid to see my bald head in the mirror. My dad had a shinny bald head, so worst case scenario is that I look like my dad, I guess. How bad could that be?!
As the hair comes out in handfuls, I have ventured back into my office to work while I feel “normal.” Nothing about this is normal though. Everything is different and will ebb and flow this way through the summer and fall as I count the days till the next treatment and then surgery and then radiation. Time becomes a precious commodity and spending it wisely is all that matters right now. HOTY has spent my bad days making sure I am well taken care of and the in-betweens plotting and planning our next adventure once the hairs start to return. Not that he cares about the hairs returning, but a year from now he plans to whisk me away for an exotic road trip of our National Parks. HOTY knows that we need something to look forward to when the nights turn into days and I haven’t opened my eyes to realize the change.
I don’t know what I will look like next week and I am apprehensive of round two. Most of the doctors said that round one is the easiest because chemo is accumulative. Geez! Perhaps I am a chemo lightweight. Like those who can’t handle their liquor, that is me with the chemo cocktail. Or perhaps, since “everyone is different” round two will be a breeze and I’ll show them. All I can do is show up and let them do it again. Of course there are all kinds of “cures” out there, and believe me I hear about them. However, I know that my God is taking me through cancer. He won’t leave me in it. I don’t get to skip out on it. “Through” is my promised hope. There is purpose in being taken “through” something. Today our mindset is to get out of the hard stuff. We can buy our way out. We can give it to someone else. We can procrastinate for long periods of time. Or we can mask it with all kinds of numbing agents. But going through builds and shapes us like nothing else can. I trust God to take me through. During the darkest points, I have to remind myself of that fact. It doesn’t come naturally. Next Tuesday when I wake up knowing I am willing going to let them poison me again, I will have to remind myself again and again and again.
The building and shaping is for me as well as those around me who graciously bless me with treasures of their time, their food, their kind words, and reminders of the soothing words of God. I am not used to being on the receiving end of such selflessness. It is humbling and powerfully healing. My words pale in comparison to the treasures I have received during these first three weeks. As God takes me “through,” I hold on to these treasures and try on the saying, “Bald is Beautiful” knowing that for me, that may NOT be true.