Going through cancer diagnosis and treatment this time is very similar to last time. Both featured PET scans, needle biopsies, and daily IMRT paired with weekly lower-dose chemo. There are a few differences, such as the exact chemo drugs, the methodology for the needle biopsy, but more elements are similar than different. I find myself frequently saying to my doctors, “Well, here’s what happened last time…”
There’s one thing that will be different this time. It’s a minor element in the broad scheme of things but the element that never feels minor to people. Some time between the second and third week of chemo, I’ll lose my hair.
Last time the chemo caused my hair to thin a bit, and I lost a band around the back of my neck where the radiation entered my body. It was covered by the length of the rest of my hair. A year later and all was normal again. Three years later and my hair is partway down my back.
This time, there’s no question that I’ll lose my hair. In fact, I’ll probably lose all of it: head, body hair, eyebrows, eyelashes. It was the one part of the whole treatment plan that stopped me in my tracks. “I don’t even know what to think about that,” I told Charlie.
I’m not especially vain about my appearance, although I do like my hair. It’s the one physical aspect I spend time on–coloring bits of it teal, green, or purple. I’d been making a conscious effort for two years to grow it out, and it was finally long enough for curling, ponytails and braids. And now it would all fall out? How did I feel about that?
I spent some time thinking about it. I was a little upset about losing my hair, but as we all know, it grows back. I was more upset about being visibly ill–about walking around with a big “cancer patient” sign hanging around my neck. And then there were the details: shave? hats? wig? How does this even work?
I ended up deciding to cut my hair this weekend (the weekend between weeks two and three) and donate it to Locks of Love. They don’t accept bleached hair, so I’ll have to weed those bits out first. After cutting the longest ponytail possible for Locks of Love, Charlie and I are going to shave my head.
I contemplated getting a wig and even got a prescription for one (they’re covered by insurance) but it just didn’t feel like… me. I ended up ordering some hats that are understated and look really comfortable. So in this case, instead of a sign around my neck, I’ll be walking around with a “cancer patient” hat.
I’ll post an update with photos from The Shaving, which will probably happen this weekend.