One year ago today I found out that I would need chemotherapy.
My initial diagnosis, which I received on July 30th, 2018, called for a lumpectomy and radiation. The relief that I felt that day, knowing that I wouldn’t need chemo, almost overshadowed the terror I felt in finding out that I had cancer.
Before scheduling surgery though, my surgical oncologist sent me for a breast MRI to be sure the mammogram and ultrasound hadn’t missed anything (I’ve got super dense breasts) - and as it turns out, they had missed something. There were two more tumours in there.
Additionally, further testing had come back from my biopsy, and that showed that I was HER2 positive (enter diagnosis #2), which warned us that my cancer was aggressive, and in turn meant that I now needed chemotherapy and hormone blocking therapy. #FMFL
This new diagnosis meant more tests and scans, to make sure nothing had spread - which, of course, I found out a week later, it had - to my liver (diagnosis #3).
I didn’t actually start chemo until September 11th, so I had a few weeks to process and wrap my head around things - and conduct around the clock research on ways to combat all of the potential side effects.
And one thing I'm so grateful that I came across, and put into action, was cutting my hair before chemo took it.
It was done in an attempt to hold on to some semblance of control, which I was in desperate need of. My hair and my nutrition were about the only things I had any control over, and I was on top of both!
My Oncologist said my hair would likely start to fall out between days 10 and 15 - so I chopped it off a week before I even started treatment.
Fuck You cancer, and Fuck You chemo.
And sure enough, on evening 14 (September 25th, 2018), after four days of running my hands through my new pixie cut dozens of times throughout the day, and scanning my palms for loose hairs, it happened. I was getting ready for bed. Brushing my teeth. And I felt a little flutter on my cheek.
It didn't register at first ... and then it did!
I slowly brought my hands up to my head, and ran my fingers through my hair ... and there it was. My hair. It had started. #GutPunch
So, the next day, I implemented phase 2, which was a buzz cut.
My cousin came over with her hubby's clippers and she G.I. Jane'd me. Some spots were shorter than others, as you can see here, but that's what you get when you let someone who isn't a hair stylist free hand a buzz cut. Haha. (it's funny now)
Listen, I've had super short hair before, and did for like 15 years. So I figured I would be pretty ok with losing my hair. But in all honesty, it was one of my least favourite parts of this entire "journey" - even though I'd taken control of the situation, and cut (and then buzzed) it on my own terms.
Surprisingly I didn't actually lose it all. But I lost enough, and it thinned out enough, that it was very obvious that it wasn't simply a new hair style.
And as hard as I tried, I just couldn't embrace the (semi) bald.
Once I got passed the initial "holy shit my hair is actually falling out" feeling (which lasted about 24 hours), I came to terms with it ... but I did not embrace it.
The only time I didn't have a beanie or a wool hat on, was when I was sleeping.
The first person to see me without a hat on, was my brother when he came home for Christmas. And had I not been going through chemo-induced menopause (hot flashes), and had he not been staying with me for a full week, I probably wouldn't have taken the hat off so freely. But he was pretty nonchalant about it - except for the first night when he pulled my hat off and asked me if I was bald yet.
It doesn't matter how old you get, your little brother will always be your little brother! *rolls eyes* And he is quite literally, the only person in the world who could do something like that and live to talk about it. Oy.
After that, my cousin Matthew convinced me to take the hat off while he was over for a visit. But it went back on as quickly as it came off.
And from there, it wasn't until February, when all of my besties came to visit for my Birthday weekend, that anyone else saw me without a hat on. By then though, it had actually started to grow back a wee bit, so I was only mildly self-conscious about it.
As far as chemo goes - I actually disliked losing my hair more than I disliked having chemo. Isn't that the craziest (and most vane) thing you've ever heard?
But that's been me in a nutshell for the last 13 months. Completely Ass backwards!
p.s. I am very happy to relay that my hair has grown back as full and thick as it was BC (before chemo). In fact, I've already had two whole hair cuts, as I'm diggin' the pixie cut again!! There are definitely more silver grays than there were before (like WAY MORE), but I'm ok with that. I can embrace the gray (unlike the bald)!