breast cancer, family, life, Uncategorized

Goodbye long hair

imageI packed up my wigs today as I packed up our master bathroom. We’re in the throes of decluttering around here as we prepare our house to go on the market. It took me all of last week to get the kitchen and living room decluttered and packed up except for the essentials. So far, it’s taken me all of this week to work in our master bedroom, bathroom, and closet. Today, I’m working in the master bathroom, where I’ve kept my wigs on wig stands since October 2015.

When my hair started falling out, I thought I’d never feel like myself again. I’ve always had long hair. My mom never cut it short when I was a kid. I couldn’t imagine what I’d look with short hair, much less no hair.

I remember sitting in my classroom one afternoon in October with over a dozen kids in my room for a test retake, and while I sat there, grading papers, I ran my hand through my hair, a handful came out, and I froze. I just stared at it. I tried not to cry. I had kids in my classroom. I couldn’t lose it in front of them. I’d been their teacher less than two months at that point. I didn’t want to seem weak.

Two kids saw it, saw me, and exchanged a look with each other. The boy shook his head at the girl, and they both went back to what they were working on, and within a few minutes, the boy said, quietly, “You know what, Mrs. V? Next week, you’ll be able to wear whatever color hair you want to school and no one will say anything to you about it.” That moment of kindness from a sixteen year old is something I will never forget.

I started wearing wigs after that and wore them almost everyday until this March when I woke up one Friday morning, decided I just didn’t care anymore, and went to work wigless. I’ve gone wigless since that day, yet packing up my wigs today was bittersweet. I put each of them on…my red and white striped one, my favorite black and blue one, the purple and black one my mom looked everywhere to find, my brown one that perfectly matched my precancer hair color, my other brown one with golden red highlights I wore most often.

I’ve become accustomed to my short hair. I’m glad to have hair again. I wonder if I’ll get to keep my hair, or will I lose it again to a cancer recurrence?

My scumbag brain reared its loveliness this week. I had an echocardiogram on Tuesday prior to Herceptin. I guess it went ok. I haven’t heard anything. I’m down to four Herceptin treatments. I have reconstruction in a month. Our new house has a foundation and plumbing. We went to design on Monday and picked out the interior features. My scumbag brain whispered, “You know you may never get to live there, or if you do, it may only be while you’re dying.”

Thanks scumbag brain. Thanks so much for that one. Jerk.

A friend of mine, who is an 11 year survivor of HER2/ER+ breast cancer, sees the same oncologist I do, and she was there on Tuesday for her yearly check up. She met me after her appointment and sat with me for awhile during Herceptin. I told her some of my fears. She listened. She just listened. I needed that. She has a soothing, calming presence. She came running up to the hospital the night of my surgery when we found out the cancer was in my lymph nodes because A called her and asked her to come. Then, she sat with me and told him to go away while we talked because she’d been in my shoes. She knew how I felt. I talked. She listened.

She’s one of my inspirations. I want to be like her, not just a cancer survivor, but to have the peace she has, the calm nature. She gives and gives and gives to others while still taking time for her own well-being and lives her life.

I’m grateful for friends like her as I near, what I hope, is the end of this cancer treatment portion of the cancer coaster ride. Friends like her help me find my peace when it’s run away.

I know my seat on the cancer coaster is a permanent one, but as I packed away my wigs today and said goodbye to my long hair, I hoped that maybe this closes out one segment of the coaster and maybe another one will begin where the dips and drops and hills and climbs will be less sudden, where the track will be more even, and where there will be more moments to just enjoy the scenery instead of watching it scream by as I hurtle down a heart stopping drop. Maybe there will be many more moments of even track and less moments of despair.


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