Piss-and-vinegar alert: Most of my blogs--even the ones about scary, uncomfortable, or difficult topics related to cancer--have had a humorous bent to them. I'm not feeling one bit of humor tonight. I don't feel like looking on the bright side. I don't want to gain perspective. All I want to do is rail and rage (at least for now).
It took many many months to get an appointment with a dermatologist. Many months building up hope that he or she would be able to fix my chemo-blasted scalp and grow me some hair. My hair remains thin, patchy, and gray...and at this point, it's long enough to sometimes look like a really bad comb-over or an Einstein impression. I've colored it, I've tried styling it...but it still looks pretty pathetic. I may just shave it off completely.
Turns out the hair loss from chemo is permanent. This is it. The follicles have given up the ghost, gone to the great hair brush in the sky.
My reaction surprises me. I think I took the cancer diagnosis, and all the crap during treatments, in better stride than this. That seems to make NO SENSE. Learn you have Stage 3 cancer and you rally. Learn your hair is gone for good, and lose your shit completely.
I made some small talk with the doctor after the exam. I nodded in agreement when she said "Well at least you survived cancer". As soon as I stepped out of the exam room and made my way to the checkout desk, the end of the hallway blurred from the tears. My belly flipped with a rush of anxiety and nausea. A basketball felt lodged in my throat. All I wanted to do was get back to the privacy of my car.
Then, oscillation between tears and anger. Waiting to check out at the doctor office front desk...the woman (full head of beautiful blond hair in a loud pink bow) ahead of me with the million fucking questions and issues and complaints. A line building up behind me. Too many people. And, the pink bow lady prattling on and on...I wanted to just throw the paperwork at the receptionist and run before I either strangled the woman with that ridiculous pink bow or dissolved in a puddle.
I remember sitting in the oncologist waiting room, last year... well into chemo, 30 pounds lighter, totally bald, and barely able to walk. A woman with this stunning head of dark long hair came over and said "don't worry, your hair will come back! You have that to look forward to!". I learned I'll never say that to anyone undergoing chemo. And, I'd advise others from making such sweeping, know-it-all statements. I know she meant well...but the truth is, sometimes your hair doesn't grow back. And while I'm at it, I also put "don't worry, you'll beat this" type comments in that category too. Because, you know, sometimes people don't beat it. Sometimes they die instead.
So, I lost a boob, 30 lbs, my hair, my stamina, and a fully functioning brain. The last several months have been an all-day pass on the unpleasant post-cancer emotional, lingering-side-effects rollercoaster.
And, the pissy and really discouraging thing is that of all of the things that got lost along the way....the only thing I DIDN'T want to come back was that fucking 30 lbs I lost.
And, that's the only thing that did come back.
When cancer is gone, treatments well behind you, you just want to bloody get on with it. But cancer still throws you those little "hahah...I won't let you forget me..." reminders: the words you just can't remember, the wave of fatigue when you try to push harder, the mis-firing memory, the scar across your chest...and of course...the gray thin sickly patches that remain of your hair.