All Things Hair

Hair and I have had a complicated relationship over the past few years. Or perhaps all my life. How many times have we been guilty of looking in the mirror furiously straightening/curling/blowing out and announcing to no one “I HATE my hair”? Well that was before I started systematically poisoning myself and it all fell out. Now I kinda miss the little buggers. Imperfections and all.

Before I started writing this I went back in time to 2013 and 2015, the two other years that I was treated with Taxol (the chemo that makes your hair fall out) to remember how I felt about the hair loss events.

To recap:

2013– It was an emotionally challenging process. Working out your identity as a chronically ill person is not something that comes easily or happens quickly, and it’s never really “complete”. Losing my hair made the illness visible. At that time, I needed the wigs to reclaim my femininity (which I felt robbed off sans hair and all reproductive organs). I didn’t look or feel like myself so wearing wigs was necessary for my comfort.

wig shopping

 

2015- Let’s be honest. I was SUPER sad to lose this hair. It had grown back darker, curly, and it was adorable. That said, I didn’t have the same emotional response to losing the hair. I had my head casually shaved by my girl Emily at the salon and went on my way.

Aside from work where I would wear a hat or scarf, I generally went bald most of the time and was very comfortable with that. I got the occasional second look from time to time, mostly because you don’t often see women with cue ball heads. It didn’t bother me. I had already done a lot of “emotional work” so this wasn’t as emotionally taxing as the first time.

What is strange is that even though I was on taxol pretty much all of last year, my hair randomly started growing back in the middle of it. Bizarre.

PRESENT DAY- After a short taxol hiatus we started up again in late spring. To be expected, my hair started to thin. I didn’t bother shaving it in hopes the same “growing back miracle” would grace me again.

No such luck.

I’m not emotionally attached to having hair. I’d rock a buzz cut again no problem (do you see how round my head is! My saving grace). But hair is just fun! It’s like an accessory. So in seeking out said fun, back to wigs I go…because- why not?

The talented Ky Michaels of The Ky Michaels Salon in Providence agreed to take on the challenge of updating my wigs. Actually I asked him to do one and he’s doing all three because that’s just the kind of gem he is!

I went in to see the finished product for the two that are ready and per usual Ky did not disappoint. I know he spend a lot of time and energy, at home no less, to make sure I ended up with hair that made me feel polished and pretty.

Mission accomplished. The wig pictured directly below used to be the length of the first picture. I love it. It’s bouncy, full, and I feel great in it.

wp-1472005019219.jpg

Look #2: A little longer for variety.

wp-1472005062948.jpg

In short, I’ll be sporting some new looks and now Cory has 4 girlfriends.

 

Tired & Wired

It’s possible that I’m still recovering from the excitement of the Izzy Gala and NOCC walk and that was almost two weeks ago. I don’t think my body has quite caught up. I have had another round of chemo since and feel perpetually tired and amped up all at the same time.

Sleeping well has been challenging for a combination of reasons. I lay in bed thinking about what I need to do that next day at work, what chores sit undone, what I’m going to eat, treatment schedules, how the new season of Empire will unfold, my hopes, my dreams, my goals… Over and over and over I have these rapid fire thoughts until I finally fall asleep. My weird dreams take over from this point. It’s as if there is a dreamland director saying: “Okay folks, I’ll take it from here. Okay Sam and Diane from Cheers, are you here? GOOD. I need you to make an unexplained appearance in the chemo unit while Jess panics to review a degree audit for a student before the Hamburglar enters the room to stuff Pad Thai in her socks.”

Okay, that’s totally made up but if you’ve ever had a stress dream you get the gist of how you feel when you wake up- totally and utterly unrested.I t’s not that I am even “stressed” in a negative sense, just rapidly thinking. On top of the endless thoughts, eternal acid reflux wakes me up roughly 3-4 times per night.

The reflux should subside soon because Dr. Robison agreed to switch me back to Omeprazole. If anyone reading this suffers from chronic heart burn listen up. YOU NEED THIS IN YOUR LIFE. Omeprazole is a medication that has been sent down from the heavens on a silver platter by actual angels. Your life will change and soon mine will too. If I’m going to have insane stress dreams, without reflux I’ll at least be more likely to ride out the madness until morning.

It is clear that I have quite a bit going on and need to work on quieting my mind before bed. I know what works for me: Hot shower/bath + chamomile tea + no electronics at least 30 minutes before bed + a  Sleep Sonic CD to drift off to = Slam dunk. The key is doing this every night. I’ve had my tea so far tonight so it’s a start.

Aside from regulating sleep and managing fatigue, things are actually pretty good right now. Actually, being the medical anomaly that I am, some odd things are happening to my benefit…

Despite lingering soreness, I am pretty sure that my fingernails have stopped lifting. There was a point over the summer where I couldn’t even scratch my head for fear of losing a nail. Despite the discoloration (they’ve turned blue/black/green/gross) they feel stronger. Why? No effing clue. Not questioning it. Additionally, my hair is growing back! All of it! Even the chunks that totally fell out earlier in the summer. I’m looking forward to growing out my locks again. Hopefully in a few weeks I’ll feel comfortable enough go sans hat to work!

Over dinner last night I told Sheila about these strange occurrences and half-jokingly asked her if they are swapping out Taxol with a placebo. That was answered with an emphatic “NO”. So again, I’ll just be happy that my hair and nails are pulling through and not ask questions.

Final report of the evening is my personal favorite!

At work I have the great fortune of interacting with college students every single day. Every one of them unique, passionate, and engaged in their own way. It is my greatest joy to see students develop as each semester passes. It’s nearly impossible not to feel connected to many of these young adults as their undergraduate advisor.

As of this week, I get to experience that connectedness in a different capacity (don’t worry I’m not changing jobs!). Bryant’s Colleges Against Cancer has approached me to co-advise their club with the magnificent Amanda McGrath. I couldn’t be more excited to use this crummy experience and channel that energy into a campus community that has served me so well through this difficult time.

I’ll chalk that up to another cancer silver lining 🙂

I hope everyone is having a wonderful week. I’m off to fend off some more stress dreams. G’night and continued gratitude.

“Hair so long that it looked like weave then she cut it all off, now she look like Eve”

20130717-122300.jpg

The emotional attachment to my hair has ebbed and flowed over the past few months. Some days I feel liberated and empowered other days I feel like my femininity and physical appearance has been compromised. There is really little rhyme or reason as to how I feel on each particular day but I think that is normal for all of us hair or not. Regardless, I have been pretty committed to the wig and rotated through a few different versions of my typical brunette self. The wigs are fun honestly. They have way more shape, body and volume than my own hair has ever offered me but it comes to a point where you’d rather just be dealing with your own mop especially in 90+ degree heat. I more or less committed myself to the wig look because I’m a 25 year old single female. Though I haven’t tried it, walking up to dudes at the bar, winking and saying “hey, you into bald chicks?” probably isn’t my best method of attracting the opposite sex. So wig it was.

Little by little I have been slowly going into public sans-wig. My most recent wig-less act was at Penn Station in NYC on my way home from visiting my Torrington loves. Penn station as you may or may not know is SUPER crowded so normally I would not go without hair in front of strangers in a situation where I was by myself . Tuesday I finally mustered up the courage to go without the wig to work as shown in the picture above. This was a huge milestone for me. I honestly had a knot in my stomach driving to work but my head said “shut up stomach, let’s go baldy”, and so I did.

Exposing my head in a picture in the safety and comfort of my own blog is way different than exposing yourself to your colleagues and students in real life. I expected some people to be polite about it and others to avoid the elephant in the room. Much to my surprise, the response was overwhelmingly positive. I’ve gotten more compliments than I did when I had long hair. How about that? Not that I ever had remarkable hair. It was average at best but it was long and could be straightened and curled and pinned and dyed. It could blow in the wind (usually in the wrong direction covering my face, definitely not sexy and windswept like a runway model). Despite all of the times I’ve tried to make my hair look perfect, the Sinead O’Connor look ended up being the homerun. I got positive feedback from people who don’t even know I had cancer. WILD. Bottom line, the positive feedback made me feel a whole lot better about my circumstances and perhaps I will go without the wig in other settings. If I’m feeling adventurous I may not wear it out this weekend but that is TBD. Baby steps, people, baby steps.

I would like to take this opportunity to give a shout out to a woman at Bryant, a fellow survivor, that went without her wig at work for the first time on the same day that I did. She looks absolutely stunning with or without hair. We had to laugh that we accidentally did it on the same day since we joked a few weeks ago that we would plan a day for the “big reveal” at work.

I guess we can chalk this up to another success.