The Hair Story

I have been meaning to write this for a while now. And I’m not sure why I even feel I need to write it. Maybe it’s because losing your hair is such an emblem of being a cancer patient. Or maybe it’s because my hair is a big part of me, literally, my hair is typically gigantic.

So, the prospect of losing it, was for me like for most cancer patients, something I was not looking forward to.

First, to prepare, the trying on of wigs:

I thought it might be fun to try to be a blonde, nope. Shorter wigs are easier to care for, but it just didn’t feel right and soon enough I would have very short hair! I went with the Raquel Welch “Showstopper”. Something about a Raquel Welch wig made me smile.

I learned an important and expensive lesson after I purchased my wig. Connecticut has a statute that requires insurance companies to cover up to $350 towards the purchase of a wig when your oncologist writes a prescription for a “cranial prosthesis”. My wig cost $478. When I submitted my claim it was denied. When I questioned the denial I was told that I had purchased my wig “out of network”. I had never even considered that there would be In network places to purchase a wig. Anyone going through this – read your insurance coverage carefully!

So, after my DCEP treatment, and before my stem cell transplant I was told my hair would likely start to fall out in about two weeks. So I waited. And then this happened.

And this is what it looked like:

The next day I eventually cut it short to my head and put on my wig to go to my stepdaughter Tess’ junior prom pictures. No one I saw even batted an eye.

I found sleeping on that short hair actually hurt. Somehow the short hairs are pushed against the grain of the way they normally lay and it HURTS, a lot. So on Mother’s Day my daughter Sarah came over and we shaved my head. Just like that. Wearing the wig took some getting used to, for instance in this Mother’s Day photo it is clearly falling too low on my forehead!

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I wore the wig to work every day. And everyone thought my hair looked so great! (Very few people at work, a handful really, knew I had cancer.) But wigs are uncomfortable, they itch, they tangle and they are hot, so at home it was often just my bare scalp.

And then there were the buffs and hats.

And everyone’s favorite the hat/hair!

Occasionally, I revealed my baldness in public.

But mostly I wore the wig, itchiness, tangles and all. At one point I even had to pay for a “haircut” for the wig! I needed to make it a touch shorter so it wouldn’t tangle so much on the bottom.

And then the growing out began.

Where it went from chic, to really not chic at all. My son Kyle was always the most brutally honest (not politically correct to share all the things he called me)!

At one point it was feeling oh-so-not-chic-at-all and in desperation I went for a haircut, where she thinned my hair in spots so it would lose some of it’s bushiness. It worked for a bit, although the growing out of the thinned layers was not so great – not sure I would recommend it.

And then there were the difficult times, which for the most part I found humorous (do excuse my mascara circled morning eyes in lots of these, morning hair was often the most “special”).

But one of my all-time favorites was when I sent a bad hair day photo to my nephew Hunter and he came back with the perfect response in seconds!

And I am still waiting for a great blowout…

In the meantime, some good hair days, some bad hair days…

But, really every day is a great day—and to be fair I’ll always have crazy hair!

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Balls!

I went to work yesterday, in my office, for the first time in 3 and a half months. It was good to be back. And only two people made me cry with their kindness and sympathies – not bad!

But the line of the day goes to someone I don’t know well. When I walked by her in the lounge she said, “Your hair looks great! That takes a lot of balls!” Well, yes, yes it does. 

Getting my second treatment this morning. I’m a little tired. A little cranky. A little queasy at times. A little achy at times. 

Not Since May 29th

I am going back to work tomorrow, in my office, where I haven’t been since May 29th. That’s a long time. I worked from home some days before I started the stem sell transplant. And I’ve been working from home full time since August 24th. But I’ve been home here, for a long time (save the time at Brigham and Women’s for the stem cell transplant). A long ass time.

So, up a little earlier tomorrow. Put on some “real” clothes. Coffee in a travel mug. The Q Bridge commute. Walking from the parking garage to my office (glad it isn’t calling for rain). And then seeing all my work “peeps”. It’s been a long time. Did I say that already? You know, there aren’t that many people in your life you see 5 days out of 7, week in and week out. Only those you live with and those you work with. So many of them have been incredibly supportive, I am truly blessed.

I didn’t share my illness with everyone I work with (there are over 400 people in my building and because of the work I do I see probably 75% of them in a week). My wig was pretty darn good and didn’t give me away. (Although I suppose in retrospect, when I disappeared after that Friday in May, people said “Aha!”). So going back to a chorus of “how are you feeling?” and “I didn’t know.” and “I’m so sorry” etc. is not something I am looking forward to. But, I’ve been through this before as I did not share Ken’s illness with many people at work and it wasn’t until after he died that people knew what was going on.

I am looking forward to seeing everyone, especially the people in my department. I’ve been told it is very quiet without me there – ha! I bring the noise!

So no wig tomorrow, just my new short do, which a nurse yesterday at Smilow told me looked liked Charlize Theron, to which I replied, not Brittney Spears? At any rate, I will take me less time to get ready in the morning!