I thought I would be the one, you know that 1% who's hair doesn't fall out from chemotherapy. Yes, I know naive, but I thought I would be the one to beat it. I’ve heard stories of people who did, I mean these were not legitimate sources by any means, but when you are desperate to believe you will grasp at any straw . . . (Note to self STOP grasping at straws).
Last week I walked into chemo treatment #2 with a smile, one might even say, with positivity in my step (it happens). I had my hubby on my arm and some experience in my back pocket, (after all I had done this once before), so I was feeling more confident all around. But most importantly I STILL HAVE MY HAIR ON MY HEAD! Verona, our nurse from our last visit even called out with a smile, "Wow your hair looks great!" I took that to really mean, "Wow you still have your hair?" Damn straight, I thought to myself. I mean it's not like I wasn't losing some stray hairs in a few choice places, (no need to mention), but the hair on my head was in tack and looking fab! And why not? My whole life I had been told how thick and strong my hair was. I come from a long line of women with what some would call, “problem hair,” (of course that would depend who you were speaking to). Only my black ladies would understand, you know that thick hair that you hate to comb and takes hours to wash and dry. I have given more then my share of hairstylist a few headaches. But I didn't care because girls around the world would kill for it if it knew the resilience of it. No matter how many times I permed, dyed, cut, shaved, braided, damaged, twisted and permed some more, it always came back thick, full and strong. Can I get an AMEN!
I'm telling you I was feeling good!
Near the end of the treatment another nurse came in to ask how I was feeling and to give me my next appointment. She was nice, and had bouncy long luscious hair, so I asked her, “Of all the patients you see, how many keep their hair? I'm thinking Iike 20%. To which she replied, "Ummm I saw one woman once... " I just blinked . . . Hmmm, maybe she was new . . . not encouraging. I glanced at Corey and said, "Maybe I'll be the one?? Corey replied, “Yey babe.” Again not that encouraging. She smiled and looked at us and said, "What is cancer Monique?" We both paused for a minute. What kind of question was that? She answered for us, "Cancer is fast growing cells, rapidly growing cells we need to shut down." I guess I sort of saw where she was going with this. "And what is chemo meant to do?" She continued, "Chemo not only shuts down the fast-growing cancer cells, but it also shuts down ALL fast- growing cells, including your hair. So, if your hair is falling out its an indication that the chemo is working, so look at it that way." I paused and smiled. She smiled back and left. My first thought was, BITCH. LOL! Ok so my second thought was, she was right. Then I looked at Corey and said, "well does that mean if my hair isn't falling out that it's NOT working? F! Now I was worried... Well worry soon turned to trauma, because the next day my hair started falling out.
Fast forward 2 days later Corey comes home in the day to check on me. I hadn't been feeling too well, (to be expected following treatment). He said he would hang with me for a while before heading back out and we started watching, “The Get Down,” on Netflix. 20 minutes in Corey looks over at me and I am sobbing. He looked panicked, "What's wrong?" I pointed to the nightstand beside me. While we were watching, I ran my fingers through my hair and a small clump came out in my hand. "Corey, I thought I would be prepared for this, but I’m not, I thought I would be OK with this, but I'm NOT!" He just consoled me while I sobbed and kept saying, “I am not OK with this,” repeatedly. Finally, he said, "I know this is not the most important thing, but I’m OK with it.” I couldn't help but smile, he is so sweet. "It isn't the most important thing but it matters that you are OK with it." I stopped sobbing and took the clump of hair and flushed it down the toilet. I knew this was a possibility, not a small one, a BIG one. I KNOW people warned me, I KNOW what the books, pamphlets and all the now people I know who have had cancer, have told me. AND KNOWING MAKES NO DIFFERENCE. I was told, shave it as soon as you start losing it, because watching it fall out is fucking depressing. F! It’s more than depressing, it's fucking traumatizing, it's like, OK NOW I WILL LOOK LIKE I HAVE CANCER. Up until now I can hide it from the world. Hair indicates vitality and health. And I have great hair. Had great hair. Now I can't hide it.
I know my friends and family have said, oh it's OK, you will look great bald, you already shave the sides of your head. Shaving your head voluntarily is not the same as it is falling out of your head with no control. I invite all of you to look in the mirror touch your hair then imagine it coming out in clumps with each stroke of a brush. It's not a pretty sight and no you are NEVER prepared for that. What I also wasn't prepared for was the pain. It's not enough that my hair was falling out, with each passing moment, I feel like my scalp was on fire. It’s like a bad sunburn, it’s fucking excruciating! No one told me this. I think I read something about beware of tingling, whomever wrote that needs a kick in the balls (yes, I am assuming it was a man). Even laying my head on the pillow with each turn of the head I could feel the hair ripping from my scalp! WTF WAS THAT ABOUT??!
So now its time it’s gotta go! I was hoping to postpone this as long as possible but the hair coming out in clumps is more than I can mentally handle. It doesn't even feel like it's my hair anymore, it's like wearing a toupee, just laying on my head. It's killing me. SO as soon as I can muster the mental strength it will be gone. Until then I avoid touching my hair in fear of what might end up in my hand when I do.