August 9, 2018

hair no more

Let's talk about my hair.

When I first received the cancer diagnosis a nurse gave me hope when she told me she only had to do four rounds of chemo and she did not lose her hair. I clung tightly to that hope!

Early on when people were offering their support about my diagnosis, a few people mentioned buying me cute hats and stuff. It was a sweet intention, but, if truth be told, I wanted to take those "cute hats" and shove it in their faces. I was NOT going to be losing my hair through this.

As we went along, I allowed myself to recognize that there was a possibility that I would be losing my hair. So I came up with my solution. If my hair fell out, I would curl up in my bed and pull the covers over my head and never leave my room again. That was clearly the only option.

More time passed. I allowed myself to joke about it a little one night when we were out with friends. But there was still a fine line between laughing and crying. And I again determined that there was hope and I would not be one who lost my hair.

Hope and denial. All of my hair thoughts resided there.

But time has a funny way of allowing thoughts and possibilities to settle in and start to feel comfortable. I talked to a few of my cancer mentors who had been through hair loss. I processed what the oncologist told me about my chemo. No, I definitely did not want it to happen, but I allowed myself to think that, if it did, then maybe, just maybe, I would be still ok. I started to cope with the idea.

And eventually I just couldn't deny it anymore. It was going to happen. No one keeps their hair who gets my chemo. Sometime around the second chemo infusion, I was going to be bald. 

I am not a hat person or a scarf person or even a short hair person. I am a long, thick hair person. But could I be something else for awhile?

We started talking to our kids about the possibility of me losing my hair and being bald. Perry told me "No!" He did not want me to be a boy. Layla told me that if I was bald I shouldn't leave the house because that would be embarrassing. The older boys were kind and understanding and didn't think it was as big of a deal as I was making it. Layla and Perry weren't entirely comfortable with the idea of a bald mom though.

Eric led the way on this one. In his wisdom, he reminded me that if we have a good attitude and embrace the bald then our kids would follow suit. If we acted like it wasn't a big deal and it would be just fine, then it would be just fine. (An important life principle--act the way you want to feel!) But if I was upset and disgusted by it, then our kids would be upset about it. Ultimately, I couldn't choose if I was going to keep my hair or not, but I could choose how I reacted and how I thought about being bald. If I shifted my thinking and kept a positive attitude then I could do this and my kids could do it.

I was finally at peace with the idea of losing my hair, but not really ready to deal with how I was going to address my baldness. A couple times I looked online for a very few minutes at hats, headcoverings, and wigs. But I didn't give it much thought or attention. I didn't like any of the options so I avoided figuring it out. I did think that I should have a wig available as an option, so in a moment of bravery I took my sister and my friend wig shopping. I just wanted to be done so we picked one out. My post with pictures here. I also knew I needed a couple of hat options. But I procrastinated that search until after my second chemo. (A decision I am paying for today. Denial and avoidance can lead to regret...). I ordered a couple of cheap light weight beanies off of amazon for sleeping and around the house. That was the extent of my hair loss preparation.

I had heard that chemo two was when your hair starts falling out. A week after chemo number one I had a friend come over and she cut my hair above my shoulders in preparation for what was to come.

After chemo two, I waited for the inevitable. I had a little hair shed out during the week, but nothing really out of the ordinary until Saturday (six days after chemo 2) when I brushed my hair.

I knew it had begun. My hair started to feel all matted and by the end of the day I had a visibly wider part line. I brushed my hair again that night and got this.

I took a shower and scooped up a huge amount of hair before it went down the drain.

On Sunday, the hair was just falling off as I sat there. I literally left a trail of hair wherever I went. Every time I walked by a garbage can I reached back and grabbed the clump of hair that was dangling there and threw it away. My poor baby B was covered in my hairs, too. I went to church with my thinning hair and left my hair trail there, too.

I was trying to hold on as long as I could. My hair was so matted on Monday! When I brushed my hair Monday night, I knew the time had come. There was a bald spot right at the top of my head. I had already changed my part multiple times. I knew I couldn't put it off much longer. And our house by then was one massive hairball.

By then my hair brush was gathering this. 

So Eric and I began plans for our party. We looked at the calendar and at my poor head and decided that my hair shaving party had to be on Tuesday.

Tuesday morning I hung balloons in the kitchen. In the afternoon, I took B to her well child exam and Eric went around picking up all of the children from school early. I was resigned, but I was nervous. I was calm, but I was oh so scared. I was worried I wouldn't be able to hold it together and I would start sobbing. I wasn't sure if I would even look in the mirror. In short, I was feeling a lot of emotions. I knew it was what it was and it had to be done, but I was feeling a little sad for myself.

Then at B's appointment I got the most shocking, sobering news. My favorite MA--the kindest, friendliest, really good at what she does woman--had passed away suddenly two weeks earlier. Honestly, I had been looking forward to seeing her to share with her our good news about baby B. I knew she would celebrate with me. My heart sank when I heard she was gone. I said a little prayer in my head for her family. And then with grief in my heart at her passing, I was overcome with the realization again that yes, losing my hair may not be ideal, but it is such a small price to pay. Because miracle of miracles! We have found my cancer and we are getting rid of my cancer from all angles and, for goodness sakes, I am alive!!! I did not want Nikki to pass away, but it was good for me to ponder for a moment and to put things into perspective.

I was ready. We were going to do this and it was going to be fun. I got home and set up for ice cream sundaes. I went into my room and said a fervent prayer to Heavenly Father. Eric got home with the children and my sister arrived. It was time for a head shaving party!

We ate our ice cream sundaes and I made everyone say one thing about my hair. We bid adieu to my thick hair and my natural highlights. Then I sat on the stool and everyone took a turn cutting and shaving my hair in stages. And it was hilarious!

The deed was done.

When it was over, I felt remarkably the same. Sure my head was lighter and cooler and I looked a little weird, but I was still just me. I was still Laura—the mom, wife, friend who loves books, yoga, hiking who values honesty, goodness, learning who is impatient, yells, wears her emotions on her sleeves, who hates cleaning bathrooms, people looking at her, and most chocolate who dreams of traveling the world, teaching again, having her entire house clean at once who can't wink, carry a tune, make a small decision who loves God and her family the absolute most. I am still me!!

One of my biggest fears was how my children would react. B just smiled her huge grin at me. She reached for my head and gave it a tap. She pulls at any hat or wig I wear. But she knows who I am and she is not phased by it.

Perry was a little weirded out by the whole head shaving process. 

But mostly he just wanted to play his video game and didn't care too much. He was confused when he saw me in a wig later--"how did your hair come back, mom?!". But when I was bald that night and went through our bedtime routine he didn't even notice until the end when I gave him my last kiss goodnight.

Layla got really into the whole hair cutting experience. When it was done, I asked if she was comfortable seeing me like that and she said she was totally comfortable. At bedtime, she told me it was ok if I lay my bald head on her pillow. Then she lay there and rubbed my head while I rubbed her back.

Kyler told me again and again that it just wasn't that big of a deal. Though he also shared that I either remind him of the baby from Toy Story (the creepy baby?!) or the lady from the black panther movie. Ha!

Kacin admitted it will take a little getting used to, but he totally plays it cool, too.

It was a beautiful, spiritual experience to become bald. It was liberating in some ways. I know that, ultimately, my hair does not define me. I am surrounded by people who love me and I live an amazing life. I can breathe in and out. I can see beautiful things. I can touch, taste, smell and enjoy all the wonders of the world. I have a body that functions properly. I can serve my family and contribute to the world. I do not need hair for any of that.

Yes, this sound crazy for me to even say, but I truly am grateful for this experience! Now that does not make everything about it easy. I am still getting used to how I look and I'm trying to figure out what I feel comfortable wearing or not wearing on my head. I sometimes feel embarrassed when someone sees me. Though I've shown some good friends my bald head in all its patchy glory already. I cried this morning because I just didn't feel pretty. I know it will take a little time to get comfortable with it all. I am confident I will get there. On the flipside, man, Arizona is hot and no hair is an aamaaaazing feeling to counteract that! Showering is a breeze. I'm excited to be able to jump into a pool and not worry about if I want to mess with getting my hair wet or not because it's no big deal. And driving bald is kind of exciting.

Hair, no more.