Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hair Today, Gone on Saturday?

It's decision time again.

Another big one.

My hair.

I thought my hair was starting to fall out yesterday, but now I'm sure of it. I didn't wake up with hair on my pillow like everyone said I would - maybe that'll happen tomorrow. But when I brushed it this morning, I pulled the brush away to find a disturbing amount of long, black strands left between the bristles.

"Jimmi!!" I cried loudly. My fiance came running up to the bedroom, "What's the matter?" "Look!" I shouted as I shoved the brush into his face, "It's falling out!" I nuzzled my face into his chest and bawled like a little baby. "Don't worry!" he tried to reassure me, "Maybe it'll stop." I knew he was trying to help, but honestly, why would it stop? I've only had one chemo cycle and I have three more to go. It's not gonna stop.

Jimmi hugged me while I cried, then I pretended to be ok so he would go back downstairs. As soon as he left the room, the tears began to fall again. I looked at the hair in the brush and on the floor. I ran my fingers through the locks still on my head, and pulled out a few fingers full.

I felt sick.

But still, I pressed on. Off to radiation we went. Today is Tuesday, and I knew I would be meeting with Dr. Sidebotham again to talk about this week's side effects. I definitely had a few questions for her. Aside from the bowel issues I was having, I also found a weird rash on my arm in while I was in the shower. Of course, my first thought was that the chemo did something to my blood or bone marrow and I'd need shots or a transfusion, but I tried to think positive and forget those thoughts for the time being.

My treatment was pretty uneventful, except for the involuntary leg movements that seem to get worse each time I go. I needed to ask the doctor about that, too. I waited in the changing room until my name was called, then I asked the tech to get Jimmi from the waiting room. We met in the exam room right before nurse Eileen came in to take my vitals.

"How are you today?" Jimmi asked her politely. "Not good today," she responded grumpily. "I didn't sleep well last night." Great, I though. Nurse Ratched at our service. Eileen took my blood pressure, temperature and weight, then ran through a battery of questions. She smelled like tuna fish, and quite honestly, I just wanted her to get her grouchy self out of the room. Then I remembered my rash. "What does this look like to you?" I asked her. Nurse Fishbreath took a look and said, "Looks like you were scratching it." I said, "I didn't scratch it. I noticed it in the shower." She looked again, "And did you scratch it?" I was getting pissed. "No," I answered honestly. Then she took my right hand, held my pointer and middle finger to the red marks on my left arm and said, "See? Looks like these two fingers scratched it."Ok, don't freak out. Just chill! "Oh, ok." I managed, and held my tongue from saying the other words I had on my mind. "Dr. Sidebotham will be in soon," Eileen said, then she left the room. Good thing, too, because I might have used the nails on my pointer and middle fingers to scratch her eyes out!

There was a knock on the door a few minutes later. "Come in," I called. Dr. Sidebotham entered the room with a friendly face. "Hi! How are you feeling? You look much better than when I saw you last week!" I smiled, "Yes, I'm feeling much better today." Then came the bowel discussion. "I feel like my rectum is shrinking," I said with an embarrassed giggle. She didn't seem phased by my statement. "I promise you, it's not shrinking. There's a lot of inflammation in there from the radiation," she explained. "It's very normal after 11 treatments to feel like you have to go, then nothing happens. And it's a bit painful and uncomfortable." There was actually a name for my condition, though I don't remember what it was. "I'll prescribe a suppository you can use twice a day that will calm everything down in there, and hopefully make things a little easier for you." Awesome, I thought. Now I get to stick things up my ass! I turned to Jimmi, "Bet you really wanna marry me now!" I joked.

After a bit more butt talk, I remembered to show Dr. Sidebotham my rash. She didn't seem at all concerned. "Put some Cortizone cream on it today. If it doesn't get better, I want you to show it to Dr. Gorsky tomorrow. But I really don't think it's anything to worry about." At least she didn't think I scratched myself!

"Oh, one more thing," I said, though I was afraid to ask the question for fear of the answer. "Every time I go for a treatment, my legs start to twitch. Is that going to ruin my treatment and cause serious side effects? I really can't stop it." Dr. Sidebotham smiled again. "You're strapped into the mold, so you couldn't possibly move enough to make a difference. Don't worry. You'll be fine." I think all doctors should take lessons in bedside manner from Dr. Sidebotham. With each answer she gave, I felt more and more relaxed. What a great doctor.

I went back to the changing room to get my clothes on. As I took my tank top and sundress out of the locker, I noticed long, black hairs all over them. I picked each hair off and threw them in the garbage. There were so many of them! I turned the clothes right-side in, then put them over my head. My hair was tucked inside the top, so without thinking, I pulled it out from the back of my dress. When I looked at my hand, my heart sank. Another handful of hair.

I met Jimmi in the waiting room. "It's really falling out," I frowned. Again, he told me not to worry as we headed for Panera. We ate quietly as I thought about my hair. It was so hard to resist playing with it since it's something I constantly do without even thinking. But I was scared. Scared to touch it. Scared to run my fingers through it. But then I forgot, and I did just that. More handfulls. I showed Jimmi again. "Ok," he said, "You knew this might happen. Don't worry!"

We ran a few errands and eventually came back home. Jimmi went outside to work on his car and I called my mom. "Mommy, it's falling out," I sobbed. She tried so hard to be calm. "This will be the hardest part for you," she said. "No matter how much you plan for it, you can't really prepare yourself." I sniffed a few times, "Should I just shave it off? I can't watch this happen anymore. I can't even have my wigs fitted until I'm bald, so should I just have them shave it?" She thought for a minute, "If that's what you want to do. Maybe you should call the wig place and see when most people come in. Do they usually wait?"

I took her advice. "Thank you for calling Joseph Paris, this is Linda speaking," Said the friendly voice on the phone. "Hi Linda, this is Suzanne Paragano. My hair is starting to fall out and I want to know if I should come in now or wait a bit longer?" She was quiet as she thought. "It's really up to you, but most people find it harder to watch it fall out than to just have Joseph shave it and fit them for the wig." That's what I thought. I begged her to squeeze me in on Saturday, and she agreed. Then I confirmed that both of my custom hair pieces were in and ready to be fitted. She checked the computer and let me know that they were both there, then I told her I'd see her Saturday and hung up.

I know it sounds like I'm jumping the gun on this. I know I should probably wait a little bit longer and see what happens, but here's my problem...

Time. I don't have time.

I'm getting married in 32 days. That's just a little over four weeks. I need to have my head shaved to properly fit the wigs. If I don't do it before Saturday, I'll be out of commission for at least the next two weeks because of chemo. If my hair really falls out during that time, I won't be able to do anything about it. Then, once I'm feeling better, I'll need to have my final wedding dress fitting and run around doing last minute errands for the wedding. Do I want the added stress of having to find time to go to the city to have my head shaved and learn how to put on the wigs a week before my wedding? My hair is gonna fall out anyway, right? Isn't it better if I take control of it and decide when it will be gone? Am I just trying to make myself feel better? Am I being stupid? I don't know the right answer.

I just want this all to be over.

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