First of all – thank you everyone who left such encouraging comments on my last post. You guys make me smile!
As I’m sure anyone who has access to the internet, and therefore anyone who reads this blog, knows Robin Roberts on Good Morning America is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer. I’ve always liked her – she’s funny, beautiful, gracious and seems to be a genuinely nice person. My esteem for her has grown tenfold, however, as I’ve watched her become an invaluable resource for people. Her celebrity status allows her to reach millions of viewers, educating them on the different aspects of breast cancer from screenings to diagnosis to treatment and everything in between.
This morning she talked about losing her hair. As she told her tale I just sat there nodding my head, agreeing with everything she said. The emotions she described are a common theme with women who lose their hair due to chemotherapy. Then she showed, on national television, a video of when she shaved her head. That’s what I call brave. When Diane Sawyer asked her why she chose to show the video she quoted her mother –
Make your mess your message. I love that quote and think I may use it for the rest of my very long life.
So I decided if Robin Roberts was going to share her head shaving I could be brave and share mine.
My first chemo treatment was on Thursday, June 2, 2005. My oncologist said I’d probably lose my hair within fourteen days. Two weeks later, however, I still had a pretty good head of hair. I’d started shedding a bit, but I had so much hair to begin with I thought maybe I’d be one of those rare women who kept their hair. The following day, however, I accepted the fact my hair was dead. It was like dry straw and I couldn’t style it or do anything with it.
That was one of my sad days. I knew I was going to lose my hair and I spent that Thursday in mourning. Later that evening I called my friends Beth and Rhonda and asked if they would come over Saturday morning for a buzzing party. In that moment I took control of my situation and my perspective on the whole thing changed.
Saturday morning – 18 days after my first treatment – we had a Free the Follicle Festival at my place. Beth brought her girls, I made coffee and Beth & Rhonda brought donuts and juice for the kids. After getting hopped up on sugar and caffeine we went into the kitchen while the kids watched a movie or played in the living room. Beth had the sheers and Rhonda took pictures.
First Beth gave me a skater cut, but I don’t have a good picture of that. Then she gave me a bit of a Mohawk.
I think it looked more like one of those hedgehog boot scrapers, but whatever.
Beth’s youngest daughter, Baylie, hung out between the kitchen and the living room, acting as herald for the other kids with each new style. They’d all come running in and laugh, especially when I was trying to do the Billy Idol snarl. I DO have a photo of that, but you’re outta luck. Sorry.
We tried gelling the Mohawk to spike it, but sadly it didn’t work. Finally the job was done and this is what I was left with:
I had to go put on some make up and a pink shirt so I’d look like a woman and not an unwoman.
Surprisingly I didn’t mind the buzz. I was given the name of G.I. Jen and fancied myself as a Demi Moore look alike. Until you looked anywhere but the hair. Sunday night my scalp hurt so bad I had to take some of the pain medication left from the surgery. The following Tuesday as I stood in the shower my hair came out by the handfuls.
I think if it had happened a week earlier it would have broken me. But because I had already done my grieving and taken control of the situation I had more of an “oh well” attitude.
The way my friends and I made it a fun event was so good for the kids, too. I can only imagine the uncertainty, among many other things, they had to feel. I’m thankful both kids were open and honest about what they were feeling, but I also know they both tried to protect me in their way. I may be way off, but I truly believe the way I handled losing my hair by including them and making it kind of fun was one less stress they had to deal with. At least I hope so.
And then there’s Beth and Rhonda. I know for a fact there’s not one person on the face of this planet with better friends. Maybe as good, but not better. I could probably write reams about how awesome they are, though I won’t. I will say I think the three of us can have fun doing just about anything. What could have been a somber affair was instead a great time. We laughed so hard at one point we were doing that crying, not breathing thing.
And finally – don’t forget!!