Category Archives: hair

Shock…and Curls Gone Wild

The plastic surgery appointment gave me yet another surprise. In short, he would like to do the surgery in June, not March. I could have it earlier, but he feels that 3 more months for the transplanted blood vessels to grow stronger is a good idea. Hey, I’m all for good ideas when it comes to surgery. So I’m happy to wait.

However that also means that, suddenly, Del and I technically have nothing holding us here except…well…being ready to go. I literally spent the next hour in shock. I was feeling kind of funny after that news and Del could tell but I wasn’t ablet to articulate it. We stopped off to get some lunch and I ordered a beautiful sandwich on a baguette (Wannhh, I’m going to miss all those little things!) and we sat upstairs by the window in the rare February sun. I took huge bites and fat tears began to slip from my eyes. Not for long. Maybe 30 seconds, and then I was done (for the moment). I don’t want Del to feel like he’s making me do anything I don’t want to. I’m choosing to go. But it doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy for me. I wanted to move to Europe for so long and even though there are good opportunities waiting for us in the US (and my family, and buying a home, etc) it’s really hard to give up something you worked really hard for. Even if it’s time. I’m going to miss being a foreigner. I’m going to miss…oh heck. Just lots of things. But it’ll be fine.

Anyhow, so how the schedule’s going to work now I’m not sure. I am not ready to go before April. I’m just not. Del will go before me and get started organizing things, though we haven’t decided when. Again, I’ll let you know.
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On another (more fun) note, you guys haven’t seen the hair in a while. Mostly it’s an awkward mop right now, and I’m going to take the opportunity to prove it once and for all. No one believes me how wild it is. The curls have gone mad and there’s no length to weight them down yet. Everyone just says to me, “but curly hair is beautiful”. Ok, it is beautiful, but it’s a huge headache on my length hair! Perhaps now you’ll believe me. Below: a montage to show you my hair in all its crazy glory!

Just demonstrating how long it is at this point (One year past when I first had a passable head of new growth.)hair 1

And….the same idea in an upwards view….

hair 2

And now…[drumroll]…what it looks like naturally, when I wake up in the morning!

hair 4

Have you ever seen a more rebellious head of hair? Aack! Now. Yes, I’m grateful to have hair at all. But seriously. You try and tell me – with a straight face – that my “hair life” is not Curls Gone Wild!

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Filed under hair, life, this time THIS year

[drumroll…] Ta- da!

First, let me lower your expectations a bit. I am thrilled with the cut – it’s headed right where I want it to. I am also very happy with the color, but (particularly considering it was lighter before chemo anyway) it’s not the all-out shock change I had intended.

I know, I know. I admit that I too am a little disappointed. But it was completely my choice. It would’ve been fun, but here’s the thing: when I went for my color consult, the concensus was that it probably wouldn’t come out like I wanted it to. Helena was very comfortable that I had waited long enough in terms of exposure to chemicals. But how the hair would react was another issue, not only because it is “new” hair. I talked it over with her and one of her colleagues who offered a few things to think about.

1 – All over platinum blond takes an incredible amount of upkeep. Her colleague said my “profile” has a “very, very low” expectation of maintaining it over the long run. Insead of being insulted at their quick judgement, I thought it was freaky how dead on they were about me. I can’t even use OTC teeth whiteners because I can’t be bothered to smear the stuff on my teeth for more than 2 nights in a row. Heck – I can’t even be bothered to remove the nail polish from my toes after the first painting of the summer season (cause there is inevitably only one initial painting before I tire of the idea, until the next summer when there’s one tiny red fleck that hasn’t grown off yet)! But I had thought of that. “Oh, that’s why I’m only going to do it for about 4 months or so. Then I’ll go dark again and be done with it.”

Except, what I didn’t understand is that it doesn’t work like that. I would still have to keep coloring my hair dark until it has all grown out, since the dye would fade from the (now white) hair underneath. Hmmm…not a deal-breaker, but it was something to consider.new hair 1

2 – All that would be very bad on my new hair. I knew this, but sort of thought that if you do it at the salon they can keep it healthy. Certainly they can help, but apparently it’s not quite that easy. I admit, I wasn’t keen on the idea of completely frying my soft, new healthy hair.

3 – This was the main thing. They said the color would likely not be quite what I envisioned. “Going from a color as dark as yours has grown in, it won’t turn out like mine and it won’ t turn out like hers.” (Of course, both stylists had quite blonde hair themselves.) “It’s likely to go yellowy toned. That’s the danger.” This prediction rang a bell of recognition, as I used to be quite blonde and when I look back at photos I always find the color to have been so. And then – as if the Fates themselves cared about the color of my hair – I came across of a recent photo of Kylie Minogue with her hair dyed platinum. There it was in the magazine in front of me. And – in my opinion – it looked horrible and…yellowish. (These photos are all copyrighted, but you can google them. She was at the Q Awards.) Anyhow, I pointed out the photos and Helena said, “Yes. That’s exactly what we’re shy of.”new hair 2

So basically, I decided to compromise on lots of highlights, three different tones, one of them would be the “bleach”. This would be less harsh and easier to change when the time came. I’m quite happy with the results, though I think I will go “chunkier” next time. As a post script, the stylist said she was more than happy with my hair’s reaction and if I do want to go with more of the bleach next time she feels more brave about it. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it!

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What We’ve Learned about the Hair

I’m posting all the helpful info that’s come in about this issue, as many people knew even less than I did. I suppose the fact that I couldn’t find much online about it was also pretty clear evidence that the topic could use some discussion. Anyhoo…

To go over the basis of the question, there are two reasons why dying one’s hair after chemo is an issue. The first – and I consider to be most important by far – was surprisingly little mentioned by anyone offering advice. That is, it is recommended that the body be allowed a “detox” time. This is the only reason I knew about, and I was all to happy to stay away from chemicals for a good while! But I wasn’t sure how long was considered wise.

The second reason – which I hadn’t thought about but am really glad to know – is that such “virgin” hair is likely to take differently to chemical processes than normal. I hear it is quite likely that my hair color will turn out a little “off” and that you want someone who really knows what they are doing so that, at worst, it can be quickly fixed if the first atempt goes wonky.

What did I find out? That the standard line doctors will give you is “wait at least six months” if they don’t have a personal opinion on the issue. Of the fine women who lent their own experience to the question, most dyed their hair within 3-6 months after, some waited up to 10 months. (Believe it or not I found stories of women who dyed their hair during chemo! Now that seems like an (unhealthy) exercise in futility.) None of the women had any problems other than with color.

I’m scheduled for tomorrow morning. I completely trust Helena. However, I hear that she has been spooked off the idea, but that’s because she’s now worried that it’s too soon for me to be exposed to the chemicals (having spoken to some “extended family”, both of them not knowing the recommended wait either). But I’ve waited twice the basic medical recommendation, so I think I’m fine.  I will be having a little talk with Helena, and if I do not succeed I’ll go into the big bad city of Birmingham. (I’m feeling quite determined to put my foot down and take possession of my hair!)

I promise a report and photos!

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I Saw Myself Her Sitting There

Yesterday I had one of my (now) 4-monthly check-ups. All went well. Dr. Awesome was less personable than usual but seemed pleased with my examination. The mysterious burn that I suffered during the surgery (explained in some doctor-speak I didn’t really understand but I think basically the cauterizing iron got some good skin) is by far the least healed bit. That’s looking yucky but nothing relatively major.

The most remarkable thing about the day was the wait. The doctor was about 40 minutes behind this time, and Del and I sat patiently in one of the semi-private waiting rooms. Each has a cluster of about 6 chairs enclosed on three sides by plants and half-walls, which preserves a quiet and intimate atmosphere. Del and I were in a cluster by ourselves when a woman came out of the office in front of us. In her late 30’s or early 40’s, she was stylishly dressed in heels, dark jeans and a fur-type jacket. Very well put together, which seemed strikingly incongruous against that fact that it was obvious she had been crying mere moments before. She had gathered herself to sit in our mini-waiting room for a few minutes before being called into another door.

I remembered so well being her. I had come out of the office, face all red and blotchy. I hated that everyone there must know precisely the news I had just received. As she sat there lost in her thoughts, sniffing and wiping her eyes, I felt a lump in my throat. I felt so bad for her, knowing how scared she was right at that moment. I so wanted to reach over and offer comforting words. To tell her that she would be alright. To assure her they would give her the best care. She wasn’t even with a loved one to put an arm around her.

But I didn’t. Because you just don’t know what people want to hear in that moment. And you certainly don’t know if they want to hear it from a stranger that she probably wished wasn’t there. After all, I suppose I can’t really know that she’ll be okay, which made me more sad. (I mean, I’m completely optimistic. But she might repond with the thought that I can’t actually know it.) I had no idea how to make words not sound shallow. So I just averted my eyes to give her as much privacy as possible which I guessed is what she wanted most. Del caught my eye and squeezed my hand.

I didn’t make it better for her. But I wanted to. Instead I have just thought about her since, and hope that she has been comforted and found support.

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Filed under breast cancer, diagnosis, hair

Input

Today just a quick question: I have a real urge to dye my hair platinum blonde. I never quite had the nerve to do it before, but the current me says “don’t be a pansy”. So I’m going for it.

However, I want to be sure it has been long enough after chemo. There is not as much information about this online as I had thought. The only direct answer I saw was “doctors will usually say wait at least 6 months.” It has been a full year since my last drip. I think this is plenty of time. My bf’s mother isn’t so sure (and is hoping I will settle on highlights instead). I thought I would query here to see if anyone knows the answer or has experience.

Thanks!

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Filed under breast cancer, chemo, hair

Chemo #5

Hey, remember that “this time last year” thing?

I’ve been off it for a while for ovious reasons, and I don’t plan on overly focusing on the past, but I do like being able to make the comparisons. While here I’ve been doing all this surgery stuff, last year I was having chemos #3 and #4. Three was a breeze. An absolute godsend. No drama. Neulasta worked. It gave me a second wind, made all the rest seem possible to get through. (So for all those struggling through, I wish you a random and unexpectedly easy chemo!) #4 was more usual, but I no longer threw up after any more. Although the “Neulasta flu” made me throw up randomly once or twice each time. This is also when Neulasta started a new side effect: making me feel like I had a fresh bruise all over my body. Everywhere. It hurt to have a massage. It hurt to lie down. It hurt to sit on the toilet! It hurt if Del even stroked my face. This usually lasted 36-48 hours.

Then #5 came. I just didn’t think I could do it anymore. I couldn’t even think about chemo without my stomach revolting. I remember the day before taking a bath. Thinking that I felt good and that I only had to do two more. Giving myself a pep talk. I thought “only 2 more chemos. You can do it.” And I promptly gagged. I decided I better not think about it anymore. In any capacity.

I didn’t know how I was going to drag myself back there and let them pour more chemicals in. My French friend Vanessa was coming back (the same one who shaved my head for me) and would arrive that morning. I got up and got ready, was dressed to go, still wondering how I was going to get the courage to go through with it again, when she arrived. I was happy to have fresh company and knew she would hep entertain me through it. But then she said, “I brought something for you, but it’s too heavy to carry up by myself. Can you come downstairs and help me?” A thought about the limitations of my bad arm flashed through my head but I went to help.

We got to the landing of the stairs and there at the bottom stood two more of my friends! All the way from L.A. and Oklahoma! We four started our flying careers rooming together in Chicago our first year, and every year we try to take a reunion trip somewhere. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but this year they decided to bring the trip to me! I was so happy and touched that I was all teary again. To this day I have found it hard to express how much that meant to me. They really got me through that chemo, and on to the next – and last – one.

So, once again rescued by good friends, a year ago today my second to last chemo was now history. And an exciting moment that should not go without mentioning:  now, before I’d even reached my last chemo, my hair would begin to regrow. A message from my healthy cells that maybe they accepted my mental apologies after all? I liked to think so.

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Filed under breast cancer, chemo, hair, in praise of true friends, this time LAST year

What a Difference a Week Makes

I know I just posted a hair update, but I received a lot of feedback that confirmed it’s something a lot of people are watching. So guess, what? I (already!) have another photo update. I reassured several anxious/frustrated people that they’ll be shocked to see how much difference a week can make when your hair is growing out. As if co-operating to prove me right, today is the day I’ve been looking forward to for a year: I actually would have chosen this haircut! 🙂

hair 31Oct07

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Filed under breast cancer, hair, recovery, this time THIS year