Archive for July, 2012

This was more than just a vacation from work. I thought of it as much as a vacation from cancer as from anything else. I figured since it was my good week – the one just before my next (third) round – and when I wouldn’t have to be taking any meds, I could just forget I was sick for a little while (once a procrastinator, always a procrastinator). But you know that didn’t happen.

A bit of background: we are down the Cape for one week, with about 25 different family members from all sides, staying at three different houses all on the same street we’ve vacationed on every summer since I can remember. Family of all ages has come from Florida, West Virginia and all over Massachusetts. It’s great, like the Waltons or the Brady Bunch. I love it!

So I thought I could pretend all was normal and just feel good and enjoy not being at work AND not being sick. But as soon as I got here, the little reminders started sprouting up. Like others seeing me bald for the first time. And the kids wanting to see my wigs. And having to wear more sunscreen than I’m used to – and being somewhat cautious with the sun in general. (No, I didn’t want a burnt head!)

The biggest, and most difficult for me (and my mother, who was cognizant of it even before I was), was the fatigue setting in. At first I attributed it to the sea air and the sun. But no, it’s the cancer/chemo. Having to take naps and go to bed earlier than normal (although I suppose most don’t see 11 as early), and sleeping in later than most, and later than normal for me. And the hardest of all: getting winded after just a short time running. I can still do the three mile intervals, but am winded through most of it. It’s not a breeze like it used to be – and I hate that! I had wanted to work up to more again, but I think that’s going to have to  wait until after chemo is done.

So I’ve accepted the fatigue and being bald. It doesn’t mean I have to like it, but I will not fight it. And we’ve been having fun with my bald head – Nick even shaved the stubble for me the other day, with all our family sitting around us and chiming in with tips, like a barber shop. And I’m starting to try out the wigs on short shopping trips or out to dinner, just for fun.

Some people have gotten pretty used to me being bald. Nick’s even said he likes it now. I still have a hard time looking in the mirror, but otherwise am fine with it. Others, I know, will never get used to it or even be able to really look at me. Not just because I’m bald, but they can’t handle seeing me sick. It’s hard, I know. But I also know that if they can’t get past the outside and be there for me through this, maybe they never really loved me in the first place and we’re both better off. I guess it’s another side effect of the cancer, right? I tried to take a vacation from it, but it seems there’s no escaping it …

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Yup – that’s me, today. I went to work today bald. No hat, no wig, no scarf. And it actually wasn’t even that hard, even though I swore I would never do it. I’ll never forget – what seems like a lifetime ago but was probably just a month – sitting on my couch with Mike, who was helping me pick out a pre-bald short haircut from a magazine, and talking about going back to work during chemo. “You mean you’ll go to work bald?” he asked. I said, of course, when I’m feeling well enough, but never actually bald – I’ll wear hats and wigs – I would never go bare-headed. I guess some times you really don’t know what you’ll do until you do it!

To be honest, it’s not that I am taking a stand or anything, or suddenly felt comfortable with how I look. I just hate wearing things on my head. I am not a big one for hats and the wigs just feel weird. So I just stopped wearing them at home, and finally just said screw it, why wear one out, either? Of course, I will be smart and continue to wear a hat at least outside so I don’t burn my poor scalp, but otherwise have simply given up on vanity and worrying what other people think. I did consider whether to actually go to work without anything on my head, simply because I didn’t want to make anyone else feel uncomfortable, but I talked it through with Nick and he assured me it would be fine. And he was right. Everyone at work was fabulous, encouraging and supportive, as usual. I am very blessed to work there!

Being bald isn’t as bad as I thought. In fact, I never really thought about it at all before all this. A few people, after being very sweet and complementing me on the shape of my head (at least it’s not completely deformed), mentioned how they imagine their head. I really never imagined mine – and hoped I’d never find out! But here are some pros:

  • I never worry about if my hair is messed up.
  • It is much cooler (temperature-wise).
  • It takes one second to wash my head.
  • It takes one second to dry my head.
  • It takes no time to style!

I do practically jump every time I look in the mirror or see my shadow, because I constantly forget I’m bald – it’s just not how I see myself in my head. I still have long brown hair in my mind. And I know I will again someday… well, who knows if it will be brown, based on how many people have told me stories of hair growing back totally different! Yet another thing that we’ll have to wait and see.

But for now, I will embrace the bald, and hold my head up high, as advised by my wise son. And when people give me those strange looks on the street and I can tell they are wondering if I’m sick or a skin head, I will smile reassuringly if they seem nice or give them a glare if not. And when I’m feeling up to it, maybe I’ll try the blonde wig or the long brown one. But who needs hair? It takes so much time! 😉

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This round has been better than expected, with some different down sides, as a result of the fall. The wonderful nurse who gave me my infusions this time suggested some tips for changing up my meds again to help better combat the nausea and it really helped – especially the first night. I also felt a bit better than last round yesterday, and even got to go up on our new shared apartment roof deck to watch the Boston fireworks – it was a perfect view, only slightly dampened (ha ha) by the brief downpour.

So the additional downside (besides the general annoyance of being injured) was that I had to go back to Dana-Farber (thank goodness it’s only a mile away now!) to get a shot that will boost my counts to help me fight infection more. You see, I had to go in Monday because the cuts on both my elbow and knee were showing signs of infection so I got put on an antibiotic then, and my oncologist wanted to help fight it with this booster. Only thing is, it will make my bones ache until tomorrow afternoon. Oh well. Better than an infection!

I know I say it a lot, but I really am just so thankful for my friends and family – I am so lucky! Nick, Mom, Mark, Tina, Tara and Vanessa joined for our chemo party, with Tara catering Tuesday and bringing by a few dinners on Wednesday – all delicious! And with them, I am starting to embrace bald – it’s not so bad. Certainly easier. And Nick says it show confidence – and I think he’s right. Thank you all – both who join in person, in spirit, who comment here, on facebook, email, pray, send good vibes – especially for keeping me laughing and smiling through it all! xoxoxo

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