I had a really hard time picking out which photo I would use for this blog post. It was an emotional day for me. Its been an emotional journey for me. It is for all of us who are battling any sort of cancer. Not only do we have to cope with the idea that we have "CANCER" but its everything that happens along with it. It's not just your health that's taken from you, its everything else. I chose the most powerful photo I could find and that was my "fuck you" cancer moment. I was. literally, taking the power back in to my own hands in this moment. This whole day was so emotional for me, but I am so thankful I had my closest friends and family to hold my hand and keep me smiling through it.
It was about 2 weeks after my initial diagnosis that I would find out chemo was a part of my treatment plan. I don't know that I really understood what that meant but my doctors made it clear that I would lose my hair. Maybe I thought I would be immune to that side effect, I don't know. Maybe I was still in disbelief that any of this was really happening. By this time, my mother and father had arrived to get me through those first days of my diagnosis. I think I speak for all of us when I say that we were all just going through the motions in those first few days.
Everyone is different when it comes to how they choose to cope with the inevitable loss of their hair. Most women have a hard time cutting an inch off during a typical trim session but here I am trying to accept the fact that I am going to lose all of it. I have to somehow imagine myself bald. If you haven't read my "about me" section yet, you can see how beautiful my hair was. At the time, I felt like I was about to lose a limb. Looking back now, that was just silly. Its true, though. Even if you haven't had cancer and your a friend or family member of someone going through this...truthfully...this part of cancer might actually be harder than the diagnosis itself.
Cancer had already stripped me of so much in those first 2 weeks. I, personally, was not willing to sit back and watch as cancer took my hair too. I knew, almost immediately, that I was going to take matters in to my own hands. So I did it in the most powerful, controlling way that I could. I had a "shave party". I had a few friends, my mom, my husband, and my stepdaughter with me. All people I knew who would be a part of carrying me through the journey ahead.
This choice isn't for everyone. I support whatever decision you make to cope with your hair loss. Some women want to hold on to whatever hair they can through out their chemo. I've read and heard of women wearing cold caps which are said to help hold on to your hair. I want to share with you why I made this decision with the understanding that this is just one part of my journey. There is no right or wrong decision when it comes to how you will handle losing your hair.
Even though I was told I would most likely lose my hair 16 days after my first chemo, I chose to have my shave party as soon as possible. I had my head shaved about a week before my first chemo, approximately 3 weeks before I would even lose my first strand. In that moment, it was all I could do to take some sort of control back from cancer. I was not willing to let cancer rip my hair off my head. If anyone was going to do that, it was going to be me. I didn't want it to be a traumatic experience for me. I wanted it to be "fun". I wanted to smile at it. To me, it was like smiling at the devil and telling him..."you think you have me, you think your taking me down, but this is my story, not yours". I can say that the shave party made the initial loss of my hair a little easier. It was nice having my friends there to cry with me, to laugh with me, and to hold my hand.
It was Friday, 18 days after my first chemo. I was showering and I washed what little hair I had leftover on my head. This was the exact moment I was trying to avoid by shaving my head. I knew those little stubbles would fall out eventually, and it very well may have been easier than waking up with clumps of my hair on my pillow, but it still wasn't easy. I scrubbed my head and I felt the hair on my hands. I opened my eyes, looked down, and there it was. My hands were covered in little stubbles. I am not going to lie, I cried. I lost it. I don't know if it was because I still had this idea that it just wasn't going to happen to me. I think it was just the reality of, okay this is really happening, I am really going to lose my hair, I am really going to be...bald. I immediately got out of shower, screamed for my mom, and we pulled out the men's beard shaver and spent about an hour getting rid of as much as we could so that I wouldn't have to go through that again.
For those that have lost your hair...you'll totally get what I am about to say. For those that are preparing for it, you may or may not experience this. There is a feeling you get before you lose your hair. Its weird. The best way I can describe it is the way your head feels after you take a really tight ponytail down and your follicles are sore (or something). I was kind of prepared for a "feeling" but I didn't know what it would "feel" like to lose your hair like that. When I started to feel that, I knew it was coming.
So after I did that final shave, I was given another tip. Oh these tips, how we love these "tips". The joys of dealing with cancer and chemo and all of these crazy little tips we are given to cope with all of these crazy things that are happening to us. Take this, drink that, use this not that, don't eat this but make sure you eat something. So here's an interesting tip I was given. Buy a lint roller. Huh? Yep! When you start to feel that "feeling", run the lint roller over your head in the morning and at night. This process might take a couple of weeks before it all comes out, but it'll eliminate a lot of that semi painful feeling of losing your hair. I am not sure I would suggest this if you have chosen to hold on to your long locks. That might make it hurt more.
To wig or not to wig? I am not going to touch on this subject for too long. My mom purchased a very expensive wig for me. While I loved it, and in the moment it was everything I could do just know I would have hair there if I needed it, I only actually wore it a few times. Personally, I don't suggest you spend a ton of money on a wig but this is another one of those decisions you will make in that moment regardless of any advice you are given. Do what feels right for you in that moment. For my mom...I feel horrible I didn't wear my wig more but I know that she was willing do anything for me at any cost to take away my pain. That was priceless for her in that moment, and priceless for me in that moment. Your choice to purchase a wig, is just that, your choice. My personal advice might be to wait until your actually wishing you had one before you spend a ton of money, or to buy a less costly one until you determine how often you will wear it.
So this is where I am going to end this very emotional portion of my journey. Know that this is just another step of your journey. I promise you, your hair does not define you. This certainly was not something that happened overnight for me...so give yourself time to get here...just know its possible. You are about to discover a beauty inside of yourself that you never thought was possible. I know it doesn't seem like it when it happens, I know how hard it can be, I felt what you feel...what you felt. You will learn to love yourself without hair. You might fear walking out of the house without your wig, or without your head scarf but I am going to encourage to do it at least once. I did it once, and said goodbye to all of my scarves and hats at that point for good. I will talk about that more as I get further in to my journey. I just want you to all know how amazing you are, how beautiful you are, how strong you are, and to find it within you to truly embrace the fact that your hair does NOT define your beauty. You are of the few people who will ever get to see how beautiful their head is, how beautiful your face is without your hair hiding your eyes. Cry because its awful to have to go through the loss of your hair, but look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself how beautiful you are. Once you embrace that beauty, I promise you will start to discover a whole new you. Beauty really does come from within and I truly believe that cancer, if anything, will introduce you to a beauty in life, a beauty within yourself, and in others...that you never even thought possible.
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross