While My Hair Gently Sweeps…Away

There are always a few things no one thinks to tell you. So here’s one for future cancer survivors who may have to cope with hair loss: it hurts. I mean physically. Your scalp will be sore.

It’s not unbearable agony. It’s more along the lines of the discomfort you’d feel if you had been combing your hair in one direction for a very long time and then suddenly decided to comb it in a different direction. The follicles protest.

I guess the follicles protest when they have to let go altogether, too.

As of right now, I’m not completely bald but the loss is very visible. I was going to say dramatic but really, it’s the hair follicles that are the drama queens. With the small amount of hair I have left, I could wear a wig easily now but my scalp would rather not. My scalp says, go for the lovely soft hats Eileen had Kate make.

Below is a photo of me sporting one of Kate’s lovely hats after a visit to the oncologist, with my husband Chris backing me up. After taking the hat off to show the oncologist my hair loss, I accidentally put it back on backwards. But you can still see what a thing of beauty it is. I will be bringing it and the other two hats, which are much more whimsical, to my second round of chemo tomorrow, where I will also be showing off my “Secretly hoping chemo will give me SUPERPOWERS” t-shirt. I need one of those in every colour but some colours only come in smaller sizes. I need lots of material to cover the multitude of cancer’s sins.

Which, while I’m on the subject, is another thing you find out the hard way. Most people think of cancer patients as thin and frail. And there’s been a lot of ghoulish humour around our house about the cancer method of losing weight. In fact, I lost over half a stone in the week after my first round of chemo––not that it shows a lot. The form my recurrence of endometrial cancer takes caused me to gain a substantial amount of weight and ballooned my abdominal area, making it hard for me to walk again. If chemo doesn’t take care of the problem, I’ll have to have a drain.

TMI? Sorry, but this is a cancer blog.

Unlike in the movies, real cancer patients don’t acquire a tragic beauty as their treatment and/or disease progresses. Cancer can torque the body out of shape. We lose our hair, revealing lumpy, imperfectly-shaped heads. We lose our eyebrows and eyelashes. We lose the little hairs in the inner ear that help us balance and we become unsteady; if we get up too fast––i.e., stand up the way we always have––we risk falling over. Our fingernails darken and break. Our skin dries out and dulls. Steroids make us moon-faced and cause us to put on weight. Fatigue makes us droop. Chemo-brain makes us slow on the uptake. Some of us have to have PICC lines, which means walking around with a weird-looking plastic connector protruding from an arm.

But hey, if that’s what it takes to live even a little bit longer, I’m game. And I do have some beautiful hats to wear while I’m at it.

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