Tuesday, September 28, 2010

public "out"-ing of myself...

I still think back to the day that my friends came over and helped me clipper off my hair. It was liberating, invigorating, and one of the best nights I've ever had. What may not have been so obvious was that even though I faced losing hair with defiance, a smile, and a willingness to show cancer "who's boss" I ended up feeling a bit like a split personality. Maybe if you consider that bald Michelle is the crazy action hero then the normal Michelle disguised herself amongst the general population by wearing wigs. In some ways looking "normal" was also a way to show that I was taking this all in stride. I wasn't looking for sympathy or for someone to give me a break. I was just as committed and dedicated and hard working as ever before and didn't want to give anyone a chance to see me as weak. But alas I grew tired of wigs. They are hot, itchy, tight, and generally uncomfortable. For those who have worn pantyhose I would say it's the same experience - it kind of makes you look good for a while, but then you want to claw them off and shred them. So I switched to scarves. I remember the first time I went to the office with a scarf and wondered if I would get odd looks and if people would ask or say something. Then I would have to go through the whole story convincing them (and myself) that this is all just a piece of cake - hmmmmm cake - everybody loves cake! 

So, in a nutshell, loosing hair is one of the most obvious (and for most women very difficult) parts of going through cancer treatment. Throughout most of my chemo I had my eyebrows and lashes. But around the time of my last treatment even those started to dwindle. About five weeks ago I had one long eyelash on my left eye and three on my right. I felt pangs of loss about a month ago when I looked in the mirror and those long lashes had fallen out. It's not like they were luxurious and model-worthy but I was left with tiny little stubble. They weren't even a millimeter long! I researched online (using Bing AND Google) shopping for answers and hoping to find a website that would tell me they would grow back instantaneously. At this point my hair was still falling out in tiny little wispy tufts, but I was determined to stop shaving it and see what it did. The last time I shaved my head was Sunday August 1st. The day before my last chemo treatment.

June 26th, 2010 - towards the end of chemo

September 28, 2010 - 2 months hair growth

Finally about a week ago my eyelashes started to grow longer and my hair stopped falling out. So this past Friday was a big office-wide meeting. I went au-natural. No scarf, no wig, no false eyelashes. I felt very self conscious most of the time. I think it went well since I got lots of compliments - of course what else do you say to the woman who has cancer other than she looks great? It's not like someone could say: "Wow, you better get a refund on that haircut!" or "Did you do that at home with the lawnmower?" I don't really know the psychology of why I wanted to do it. But it felt liberating and like I was finally being much more honest with my co-workers and maybe even with myself. Now if I wear a scarf it's because I want to either to keep my head warm or because it's just the perfect color to go with an outfit. It's truly a fashion statement rather than an attempt to prevent other people from being uncomfortable. Just so people have a little comparison of what this fantastic new hair style looks like I have posted some pictures. The picture with Anna was taken towards the end of June. She was thrilled to swipe my scarf from my head. The other picture (of me in the green shirt) was taken tonight. Today is exactly 8 weeks after my last chemo treatment!

Even though I have 4 more radiation treatments the public signs of battling cancer are soon going to fade into a distant memory....

1 comment:

  1. It is a privilege to be part of your journey through this blog, Michelle. You're looking great! (p.s. Just moved into my new house in CA, which is now scattered with your hand-me-downs, so I am very often reminded of your generosity and kindness! Every time I use the breast pump I think of you...ok, not really...but thank you, it works great!)
    -Jennifer Harris