Short Hair, Don’t Care: Week 0
Well, folks, for those of you keeping track at home, I just finished my 24th and FINAL week of chemotherapy! I don’t normally like to toot my own horn, but today, I’m going to a little bit because I am a freaking champ! Those of you who have gone through chemo or have known someone close to you who has gone through chemo know that it is NO JOKE. These last five and a half months have been the longest and hardest of my entire life. It has been one hell of an emotional, mental, and physical roller coaster. And even though my journey of battling breast cancer does not end with chemo, I truly believe chemo will have been the hardest part, by a long shot.
It’s such a great feeling to know that any of the crappy side effects that I’m currently feeling from chemo are, from here on out, only going to get better. I think that was one of the hardest parts of chemo. Feeling like utter trash and knowing that in a few short days, you would be subjecting your body to even more of the very thing that is making you feel like trash. It’s as much a mental battle as it is a physical one.
Right now, my main focus is allowing my body lots of time to rest and recover from chemo. I’m so thankful that I handled it as well as I did throughout the entire process. You hear such horrible things about people being hospitalized from illnesses or infections, needing blood transfusions and so much worse. By no means did I feel wonderful during this time. Nevertheless, every week, my blood work came back and wowed the doctors. I didn’t catch so much as a common cold, which is saying something because about half my office did at one point or another. It’s truly by the grace of God that I managed to remain so healthy throughout it all. My doctors used phrases like, “extraordinarily resilient” and “spectacularly well” to describe how I handled treatment. I’m so grateful that God’s hand has been so evident in this journey.
So now I’m moving on to the next stage of treatment, which is surgery. While the word, “surgery” might not normally conjure up feelings of giddiness for most people, I can honestly say I am so excited for surgery. I’m sure once it gets a little bit closer, I will start to feel nervous. But this surgery is something I have been looking forward to from the moment I found out that I had breast cancer. It is such an important milestone. For me, it marks the moment when any cancer cells, dead or alive, that may be left in me, are taken out once and for all. I know that recovering from surgery will be a process in and of itself, but I don't think anything could ever quite compare to chemo. The peace of mind in knowing it’s all gone will help push me through whatever pain or discomfort I may feel from surgery.
With that all being said, I also have one other (slightly less important, but still very important to me) thing I’m looking forward to now that chemo is over. And that’s getting my hair back! Losing my hair was probably one of the biggest emotional hurdles I had to overcome. It’s one thing to know you have breast cancer. It’s a whole other thing entirely for the rest of the world to know you have breast cancer because of your physical appearance. It takes something that a lot of people would prefer to deal with more privately and puts in on display for all to see. We don’t realize how much our identities are wrapped up in our hair. As vain as it may seem, your hair says so much about who you are. It has the ability to answer questions of race, gender identity, personality and so much more. For many of us, our hair is a source of security and comfort.
Before all of this, I complained about my hair so much (having to style it, it not looking the way I wanted it to), I didn’t even realize how much it actually meant to me. Losing your hair due to illness, especially as a woman, but even as a man, makes you vulnerable in a way you never could have imagined. You try to prepare yourself as best you can, but nothing can truly prepare you for it. For me, I thought that wearing a wig would help me feel more secure and like I stood out less. What I ended up finding was wigs, for the most part, are uncomfortable and kind of the last thing you want to have on your head in the dead of summer. I ended up wearing mine twice and then opted for different types of hats and head covers throughout. Ultimately, comfort mattered more than appearance to me. I know not everyone feels that way, and that’s OK. Everyone copes with losing their hair differently.
I also found that cutting it all off to a pixie cut and then buzzing it a few weeks later gave me a sense of control over the whole process. If I was going to lose my hair, it was going to be on my terms. And because of that, I never really went through the experience of watching my hair fall out. Each time I started noticing more pieces here and there, I would cut it even shorter. Again, this method is not for everyone. Perhaps it’s just the control freak in me that wanted to feel some level of order in what felt like a very chaotic situation.
So because I’m super excited to watch my hair start slowly growing back in, I thought it would be fun for all of us (or maybe just me, who knows?), if I document the process. One thing I remember searching for frantically online was how fast your hair grows back after chemo and what the different stages looked like. While there are some blogs here and there that attempt to tackle the issue, I ultimately couldn’t really find what I was looking for. For most of you, this will be just a cool way to cheer me (or my hair?) on over these next few months. But somewhere down the road, there may be someone like me, looking for answers and I hope that this little feature will give them hope and also just a realistic idea of what to expect.
The way I imagine this to go is that I will take a picture of my hair each Thursday and then every Friday, I’ll post an update to the blog. I think at first, weekly updates will be really helpful. However, after a while, I think it will make more sense to switch to monthly updates. I’m not sure how long I plan to do this; possibly until my hair gets to a length that I think I might like to keep it at. We’ll see.
So here goes nothing! This is my week zero post. This picture was taken yesterday right after my final round of chemo. Technically, I could still be losing hair for the next couple of weeks, but since I haven’t really experienced hair loss over the last couple months, I’m going to assume that from here on out, it’s just growing. You’ll notice I have quite a bit of peach fuzz all over. They say this is what you can expect about 2-3 weeks after you finish chemo. Well, mine’s been growing in like this for over a month now. I have very stubborn hair, so with any luck, I’ll be slightly aHEAD of the curve...even if just by a HAIR. OK, sorry, I’m done with the bad puns.
And don’t worry, I still plan on doing regular lifestyle posts throughout the week. This will just be our fun little Friday tradition!
If you’ve made it this far, gold star for you! Thanks so much for taking the time to read and walking with me on this journey.