I survived another day, another week and another weekend. It’s been a tough one and I had a lot to deal with but I’m still here.
I lost most of hair on Thursday… on test day! When it rains, it pours. Although my hair has gradually been falling out and breaking off for a while now, I don’t think it was actually noticeable to anyone but me. On Thursday morning, after a very, very bad night and as per my usual routine, I got up, avoiding the mirrors until I sat down at my dressing table, switched on my GHD and got ready to straighten what usually resembles a lion’s mane on top of my head. I ran my fingers through my hair and all of a sudden my hands were full of bunches of relatively long blonde hair. On a closer examination, I noticed the big, painful bald patches everywhere. I’m not sure why but I decided to try to straighten the hair that was left anyway. Needless to say, that didn’t work. I gave up and decided to move on to putting my make up on. That didn’t work either. As I wiped my foundation onto my eyes with my little sponge, my eyebrows and a few eyelashes wiped away, it looked a bit like I had applied a hair removal cream to my eyebrows.
I think it was shock but in that moment, it felt like I had just been hit by a train. I curled up into a little ball on the floor and wept like a baby. I cried about everything… about losing my hair, being tired, losing weight, being moody, being scared and not feeling ‘pretty’ anymore. Most of all I cried because in that moment I could find the upside. I couldn’t see the silver lining to this huge cloud hanging over me and I didn’t understand anymore. I couldn’t remember the reasons that have kept me strong, none of them made sense in that moment and it broke my heart. To be completely honest, I had no intention of getting up, my mind told me that if I just stayed there, curled up in that little ball in the corner, nothing could hurt me anymore and no one would see me. The only thing that got me up was the realization that it was test day and I had to be at the hospital in 15 minutes. That little voice that lives somewhere deep inside me said, “It’s true, if you stay here, nothing will hurt you and no one will see you but nothing will heal you either. Get up, pull yourself together and go and have your tests.”
I got up, wiped my eyes (and more hair away), put a scarf on my head and headed to the hospital. I survived the tests and although I shed a few more tears with the nurses, I felt a little better by the time I left. The ‘better’ feeling disappeared when I walked into Dischem to fetch my medication and people were staring… I saw so much pity on all the faces that passed me and I hated it. I realised at that point, it’s obvious now… there’s no hiding it, I look like a cancer patient, I look sick, most of all… I look like I’m dying! That’s not a good feeling, it’s terrifying. How do I convince myself and everyone else that I’m okay, that everything’s going to be okay when I look like I’m dying? I don’t look tough and strong now, I look weak, I look like I’m losing this fight. Feeling sick, weak, tired and moody is one thing but looking the part, seeing it, well that’s a whole different ball game. I see a different person when I look in the mirror now and it’s tough.
I went straight home, got in to bed, pulled the covers over my head and cried some more. I grabbed my phone, called my husband and ‘let rip’. I hated that he had to hear that, I felt terrible for falling apart like that but I didn’t know what else to do.
On Friday morning I had what was left of my hair shaved off; it wasn’t nearly as emotional as I thought it would be. It seemed much harder for my family than it was for me. I didn’t actually mind it. It felt good not to have hair all over my clothes and my skin. I felt a bit naked for a while and it was strange to touch my bald head but that faded quickly and although I still see someone else in the mirror, she doesn’t look so strange anymore.
On Friday afternoon I found a box and packed away my hairdryer, GHD, hair brushes and all the products I used to use on my hair. I sat looking at my rather empty dressing table for a while and I managed to smile… I find my silver lining! I thought about how much time I’m going to save in the mornings, how much money I’ll save on hair products, how I don’t have to worry about my hair going frizzy in the rain or blowing out of control in the wind and how beautiful and ‘virgin’ my hair will be when it grows back. I had a good laugh.
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt on this journey it’s that there’s an upside to absolutely everything… even cancer! It may not always seem like it and sometimes it’s really, really hard to see but if you look hard enough; you’ll find at least one positive ‘thing’ in every situation. Unfortunately, the ever-present ‘silver lining’ doesn’t always make it easier, it doesn’t always help. I think the trick is to focus on those little perks, keep your mind occupied with what’s right and good instead of everything that’s wrong. Try to look past the bald head, nonexistent eyebrows and dark puffy rings around the eyes. It may just be that little positive that keeps you from stepping over the edge.
So now, I’m bald and proud of it. I don’t wear anything on my head unless it gets cold and I’m actually enjoying this… I don’t mind who stares and I’m okay with the fact that I look different. I’m rocking this bald thing. I have cancer and it shows… that’s okay.
Dealing with cancer is not easy and it’s most certainly not fun but it is possible. I can’t be positive 100% of the time, sometimes I have to fall apart, I have to curl up into a little ball and allow myself to cry, I have to accept, feel and deal with my broken heart and most of all, I need to be okay with the fact that I can’t save the world. It’s tough and it hurts… a lot, but as long as I feel these things, as long as I can deal with these thoughts, I am alive and I am a fighter.
I should be getting my test results back around Thursday this week, I am nervous about them but at the same time, I’m pretty confident, even if I don’t get good news, I know I still have some fight in me. My hair may have lost the battle against chemo-radiation but I have not lost the war against cancer.