The days leading up to baldness - The Funny Thing About Cancer
 
My brief obsession with hairloss started back in January.  My doctor and I had finally decided on a treatment plan and once I was comfortable with that, my mind quickly moved away from "if I don't choose the right drugs I might die" to "holy crap, I'm going to be bald."

And I got all obsessed with it.  Not quite stalker obsessed, but close.

I mean I KNEW before this that chemo patients lose their hair.  That's not exactly front page news.  But the things I had never considered before were these things:

1. When - does it fall out like as the first round of drugs are being pumped in?  A week later?  Or should I just expect it to fall out from all the stress? :)  Do people usually shave their heads in preparation?  What does it feel like?  Does it hurt?  Answers: my hair fell out about 16 days after my first dose of chemo.  I shaved my head when it began to fall out.  It does hurt.  Kind of like a bad sunburn on your scalp.

2. Where - is it just your head?  eyebrows?  eyelashes?  what about those armpits?  and leg hair?  and... ummm... OTHER body hair?  Answers: it differs for everyone.  I've lost everything except my eyebrows and eyelashes (and those are getting sparse).  Although I have still had to pluck my eyebrows and shave my legs throughout chemo, which I kind of think is BS.  I think God should've made one of the symptoms of cancer that you never have to do any personal grooming and will still smell like roses every day.  Because sometimes showering is hard.

3. Is there anyone that has ever met one of these mythical cancer patients that did NOT lose their hair?  The side effects say "most" cancer patients do... which would mean that some don't?  Do these white unicorns of the chemo world ACTUALLY exist? Answer: no reported sightings of anyone that has ever kept their hair during chemo.

4. How long does it take to grow back?  What does it look like when it grows back?  Is it the same?  Same color?  Same texture?  Answer: my hair has started to regrow during Taxol.  It's too thin to really know what it looks like (you have to really LOOK to see it).  But according to other chemo girls, it'll start to grow back in force about 4-8 weeks after finishing chemo.

My questions were seemingly endless.  And THEN there was a whole new world of wigs and scarves and hats and TONS of other stuff.  I became suddenly, freakishly curious about the entire event of losing your hair. 

And the wierd part is that I am really not all that wrapped up in my hairloss.  It's not like I was interested in this because I was so nervous about losing my hair.  Nope.  I was just intrigued by the idea of it all. 

To be painfully honest, I'd always been curious to see what it would be like.  You have people like Demi Moore and Sinead O'Connor and Britney Spears that just shaved it off for fun.  And on the days when I was sick of doing my hair or just having a bad hair day, I'd think to myself "Maybe it would just be easier to be bald."

Quick prayer: Dear God, next time I think something like that, please do not give me cancer.  I wasn't serious.

Anywho.  This became a period in my life where I was visiting the Young Survivor's boards daily and asking my multitude of questions.  And I kept apologizing because I felt like I was just asking too many questions.  But then I read posts from other women that had the same questions and realized I was totally normal.  At the point in my process that I was at (after diagnosis but before starting treatment), this was a totally normal thing to do.

The only abnormal thing was that I wasn't sitting at home in tears about it.  Actually, I was kind of the exact opposite.  I was sitting at home wondering how I was going to get people to treat me like I wasn't about to die. 

I'm completely serious.

I knew that my hair would fall out.  I knew I probably wouldn't want to wear a wig/hat/scarf every day.  I knew I'd be running around bald.  And baldness = pity from most people.  Because they know you have cancer.  And they feel bad for you. 

And that's not a bad thing.  I mean I've gotten nothing but AMAZING customer service when I go out to restaurants bald (I consider this the only perk).  But otherwise, I just really don't do well with pity.  I think I have a great life (cancer aside).  I am blessed beyond comprehension.  And the last thing I wanted/expected was pity.

So how do you stop pity?  How do you get people to not treat you like you're gonna die?  If you're wondering what I mean by this, I'm talking about those people that come into your office, close the door and say "How are you?" (in a tone implying your dog just died) and when you reply "Fine" they don't believe you and they tilt their head to the side and say "No really, how ARE you?" 

Because OBVIOUSLY you MUST be hiding the REAL pain that you're feeling.  And isn't that just sad?

I knew that if I had to go into work each day with people treating me like that above scenario, I'd go nuts.

Thus, I figured I'd go the route of humor.  Because it's really hard to pity someone if they're laughing about it.

So I started hatching ideas on how to make my coworkers laugh.  I got funny hats.  I came up with some funny ideas of things I could do (like paint my head around easter like a giant easter egg).  I just generally had a few one liners in the back of my head that would hopefully easily dismiss any unease that others might feel.

So far it's worked.  My first bald day in the office, I went out to lunch with a few coworkers and not one person said anything about my lack of hair and new fashion statement of wearing a head scarf.  So when a quiet moment came at the table, I said "You know, I'm really disappointed in all of you.  I'm wearing a scarf and hoop earrings and not ONE of you has made a pirate joke.  ARG!"

This quickly brought everyone to laughter.  And it was fun.  Because honestly, I needed a laugh at that point.  I wasn't feeling very well and I needed a good chuckle.

From that point onwards, these coworkers have always been quick to share jokes with me.  On some of my worst days, they've come into my office and instead of asking me "how are you?" they've made me laugh with something silly.

I'll leave you with my favorite joke so far:

Q: Why did Mickey Mouse break up with Minnie?
A: Because she was f*ckin' Goofy.



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