Friday, January 28, 2011

Tired, Bald, and Snowed In

I'm beginning to see the pattern: I slog through the first few days after chemo, thanks to steroids and other medications, and then comes the crash, a little longer and more intense this time than last. The worst is the acidity in my gut and the brine taste in my mouth, not to mention the drag-ass exhaustion. It's hard to imagine doing this again and again. But luckily, that's all: only two more "again"s and I move on to a different kind of chemo, weekly Taxol, which many women tolerate better than this biweekly cocktail of Adriamycin and Cytoxan.

I may make it to the gym in the morning, but by afternoon, I can't quite stay vertical.
I've read that the toughest time for many cancer patients comes after treatment ends. In the meantime, there are appointments to be made, tests results to process, surgery and drugs to consider, side effects to manage; little time to process the devastation of diagnosis, the grueling experience of treatment, the derailing of whatever challenges and pleasures previously occupied life's center stage.

Hard working dog.
Snow-shoeing expedition aborted - I wanted to lay down in the snow and sleep.
I can feel the impending truth of this in my own experience. I see it in how I'm reacting to losing my hair. I didn't think this would be a big deal for me. After all, I'm out in the world now with one breast and that's a permanent disfigurement. The temporary, cosmetic issue of hair loss seems trivial in comparison. But here's the thing: it makes me undeniably a chemo patient. Baldness feels akin to having "CANCER" tattooed across my forehead. I suppose if I really wanted to, I could try to hide it from the world, but in the mirror I can no longer pretend.

In the last few days, I've found hair on my clothes, hair on my pillow, hair on the keyboard. Last night, after pulling yet another hair from my food, I decided to call it quits. "Get out the clippers," I told J~, "it's time."

Between the two of us, we buzzed my remaining hair away, and then he lathered me up and shaved me with a razor for ultimate cue-ball smoothness. After a shower, I had the novel experience of applying lotion to my head. J~ kissed me and B~ hugged me and I felt energy enough to change the sheets and throw all my hairy clothes and linens in the laundry basket. And then I slept. Well.


Spruce Hill said...

Tou look beautiful!

A, said...

You're stunning.

Kerry said...

Your so friggin' beautiful...I just wanna kiss you!

claire said...

i guess on the bright side it gives you a chance to grow back some really healthy hair when you put this cancer in it's place!

you really are lovely hair or not.

Shannon said...

ooooh Amy - I love what everyone has commented. Raw, authentic & real, you are.

This calls for planting! Plant in the dead of winter. Many of the trees are bald,'s the season.

Go to Lowe's or Home Depot or your local garden center in CT & buy a spruce on sale - they're there 1/2 price right now....just waiting for you.

Plant the tree and feed the branches, too...cranberry & popcorn for the birds and the flight to come.


Anonymous said...

Doing the bald thing, sans wig, is akin to coming out of the closet. Everyone knows--or assumes--now. I am sure that however this impacts you, you will take it in and learn and express yourself around it--in words, in art.

Years ago I used to use clippers to give myself a a very short haircut--about every six weeks. One time I picked the wrong setting and I was close to bald--extremely short--to the point where, when I went out, I began to consider if people might think I'm sick. I remember feeling very vulnerable and feeling eyes on me--assuming things about me, etc. I also remember having empathy for those that are losing their hair and will never get it back. It's not unsubstantial.

Your insight around how treatment becomes your life is interesting. It will serve you well when you are done with your treatments--you are prepared for it. I think if you project out a year or two from now, you will see yourself, forever changed but still, running, swimming, embracing life. These treatments are insurance--money in the bank--to make sure that you have a long road ahead. You wisely made that choice--soon only two more of these very difficult doses and you are onto an easier phase.

Thanks for continuing to share your journey with us. It is lightning in a bottle to find someone like you that has the courage, intelligence, talent and strength to so beautifully document what you are going through.

Anonymous said...

You look like a handsome young monk in that photo. Younger.
And that painting is gorgeous.

A friend who used to shave her head once said when bald you feel like you have antennae, aware of wind, changes in temperature etc. She loved the sensation. I hope you do too.

Nancy said...

you look beautiful! can't wait to see you Monday if you're still up for it. xo

Anonymous said...

You wear it well, my dear.

But no surprise there.

You continue to inspire with your strength.

In awe,

Anonymous said...

OK, will this make swimming even more pleasurable? Because I hate wearing swim caps, and even when I put one on *perfectly*, my hair is so silky that some sneaks out and always winds up in my mouth or eyes.

Not only will you have to wear a cap, but perhaps the sensation of the water going over your head will be nice.

motherof5boys1girl said...

you are so awesome! you look like ripley, but instead of kicking aliens asses, you are kicking cancers ass!!

Lucy said...

You have a beautifully shaped head.