Category: hair loss

I never planned on having a buzz cut.

Cancer is (but really isn’t) so much about the hair.  For everything else that’s going on, it’s, like, a lot of hair talk, you know?  But seriously, I just have to tell you that having this “haircut” feels a little like wearing a vest that your grandma knitted with her knitting circle buddies.  Just no.  And I need to talk about it.  (You guys are pretty much free therapy, right?  And you’re awesome at keeping my secrets, yes?)

I’m having troubles figuring out how to field niceties re: my hair situation.  When someone compliments my buzz cut, I don’t know how to respond.  Like, truly, I haven’t figured out how to react, and I should probably work on it because this is how my life is going right now:

Random person that I work with/run into at the grocery store/live with:  “Heather, your hair is so cute like that!  Not just anyone can pull off a haircut like that, but you are!”

Me:

RaphieGif

It feels like people are complimenting my coffee-stained teeth or how great my last fart smelled or something.

Is this a joke?  I don’t understand.

How do you take a compliment for something that you absolutely hate?  Or wasn’t even your idea?  Or was a result of the worst experience of your life?  Gah.

And the other night, at work, it got worse, or possibly better.  I’m not sure.  A patient HIT ON ME.

As I’m flushing his IV, “You’re beautiful, you know that?”

“Pfffffffffft.  **fart noise**”

I awkwardly finish up and start for the door.

“You are.  And if you ever want to talk, we can talk.”

“Umm…if you need anything else or if your chest pain comes back, let me know.  I’ll be back to check on you in a little bit.”

“And if you need anything, let me know.”

Before I make my quick retreat, my mind takes him in and screams, “Oh, COME ON!  Are you seriously hitting on me right now?  I’M BALD!  I know you have a past history of drug abuse, but are you high right now?  If you’re seriously hitting on me, I suggest that you get your shit together and raise your standards.  This is an embarrassment for both of us!”

But then, you know, I walked down the hall back to the nurse’s station with a pep in my step.  Drug abuser or not, this is the first time I’ve been hit on since the big C took away any chance I had at working the pole for a living.  (I mean…you never know.  Maybe it’s how I would have sent Penny to medical school or gotten Alice those braces.)  When I wasn’t looking it in the face, it felt pretty good.

Josh tells me I’m pretty all the time, but that doesn’t really mean anything.  He’s my husband; he’s just trying to get what is his.  When this thirty-something, drug abusing, unemployed cardiac patient told me that I was beautiful, well… baby, I’m back!

Buuuuut then, I found out that he hit on my nurse’s assistant.  And pretty much every other female that entered the room.  It was really fun while it lasted though.

I knew this hair made me look like a lesbian (Legit — I’ve been mistaken for a lesbian twice now.) or a dude.

Because last night it got even worse.  Last night, I answered the door to a Charter saleslady, and she didn’t know how to address me.  In all fairness, I was wearing my husband’s t-shirt, and I wasn’t wearing my boobs.  I saw the confusion in her eyes, and I heard the struggle in her voice as she asked me if I was “the…the…llllll….lady?…of the house.”

Damn this buzz cut!

In truth, I just don’t feel like myself.  I feel naked without my hair.  I feel like someone else.  I feel misrepresented.  When I’m around new people, these feelings are multiplied by a hundred because they don’t know that I didn’t choose this.  They have no other picture of me in their heads besides the one I’m showing them right now.  They can’t reference my long hair and know who I really am (physically).  When they say, “I like your hair,” I’m faced with the dilemma of either having to tell them that I didn’t do this on purpose (and, subsequently, the whole story, which just leads to me awkwardly comforting them) or just smiling and thanking them, which kills me.

Actually, now that I’ve written it out, it seems so easy.  Just smile and say thanks.  Geez, Heather…get over yourself!  The lesbians would be lucky to have me!  And I them.  (I’ve always wanted wife.)

And come to think of it, I ran into an acquaintance at Siteman who is fighting stage 4 colon cancer, and her chemo doesn’t make her lose her hair.  My first thought was one of sorrow for her because by not losing her hair, people won’t know how sick she is or how rotten she feels.  In a way, I’m glad that I lost my hair.  It’s the physical sign that one has been touched by cancer, and the world reacts accordingly.

I just can’t wait until people know, for sure, that I’m a lady again.  That’ll be nice too.

 

P.S.  You guys have really brought the voting up a notch in the last week, and I really appreciate it.  You are pretty much the bee’s knees.  There are only five days left, and I’m about 1000 votes behind so what do you say we take that other blog down (just to second place — I’m not a complete jerk.)?  Click here to vote daily!

The five stages of hair regrowth.

Everyone I run into seems to want a hair update — a peek under the ole wig — so here it is: My daughter pulled my hair yesterday.  You guys, she pulled my hair.  That means that I officially have enough hair to pull.  I mean, she does have tiny, sticky little fingers, but she managed it.  It’s slow going, but check out the progress.

20141213_134527

I’m kind of in love with my little cowlick.  I fully know that maybe it’s the kind of hairdo that only a mother can love, but I bet my mom would just love my cowlick too!  (My brother, who shaves his head on the regular, also has one.)  Anyway, I feel like it gives my “hairstyle” a little sass.

My Christmas wish this year is that I would have enough hair by Christmas that you couldn’t see my scalp, and I think Santa’s little follicle elves or maybe baby Jesus himself are working it out for me.  Speaking of Santa’s elves, we have the LAZIEST elf on the shelf ever.  She’s always “falling asleep” when we do and waking up in the same spot in the morning.  Half the time she doesn’t move until we are eating breakfast, and we’re not sure when she has the time to report back to the North Pole what with her narcolepsy and/or irresponsible nature.  She was much more on top of things last year.

Anyway, back to my hair because I know you are all of the edges of your seats waiting for more.  Can I just say that I expected this process to go a little faster?  Like, it’s been two and a half months since I’ve had the toxic poison in my veins and that’s all I’ve got.  I’m trying to make some breast cancer buddies, and when I see the hair of a couple of girls that are months ahead of me, I am disappointed.  (You girls are beautiful, but you know what I mean.  You are disappointed in the AGONIZINGLY slow way our hair is growing back too!)  I kind of thought that at a year out, it would be down to my shoulders or something ridiculous.  Yeah, no.

315

I can’t believe that, under a year ago, I had so much hair I had to pin it back so it wouldn’t get in my face.  I used to have so much hair that, most days, I would put it in a messy bun.  That means I had so much hair that I could FOLD IT OVER ON ITSELF.  Oh, how I took it for granted.  The day I can pull off a ponytail again will be deemed an official holiday in the Lagemann household.  And do you know how pissed I’m going to be if the Sumbitch comes back and makes me start this hair process all over again?  (Umm…among being mad about its stupid death threats and what not.)

In other hair news, the rest of my body hair is forcing me into the five stages of grief.  I have been in straight DENIAL about the rest of my hair growing back.  I’ve been denying that I need to shave my legs and armpits.  I’ve been in denial that I need to clean-up my eyebrows.  I found a little whisker on my chin — straight denial.  My mustache is what snapped me out of the denial phase because I always told Josh that when my mustache came back, I would know that my hair was getting its shit back together.  Well, there it was looking me right in the face (??), and I quickly moved into ANGER.

I am now super angry that I have to deal with all this other unwanted hair again.  It was one of the only good things about cancer, and I don’t wanna!  Three minute showers are amazing, and presently, it only takes me fifteen minutes total to get ready in the morning.  I think I will continue to be angry about my mustache and forest of leg hair for a couple more days before I move on.  The last three stages are bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance.

So if you see me in a few days trying to cut a deal with God or Josh (Who do I bargain with to never shave my armpits again?), move along, I will soon be depressed, and you probably don’t want any part of that.  When I reach acceptance, it’ll probably be a good two hours in the bathroom with an assortment of new razors, wax kits, and maybe even a little Nair and bleach for fun.  I’m not there yet, but Josh will be so happy.

 

P.S.  Thanks to all of you who keep voting for me in Healthline’s blog contest.  I am currently in third place, and I owe it all to you.  I love you guys!

The time I had to beg a homeless man to take my dollar.

I think my eyelashes have PTSD.  They mostly hung in there through the war that was chemo, but now that the official assault is over, they are ditching me, and it’s really bumming me out.  Straight vanity: I always kind of thought that my eyelashes were my best feature.  You know, those and my badonkadonk.  jk.  jk.  (That thing actually landed me the clever and very humiliating nickname of “watermelon butt” in the seventh grade.)  But seriously, my once beautiful mane of eyelashes…  People would ask me what kind of mascara I used.  If I curled them.  If they were fake.  And now… well now, I am desperately coating my remaining ten or so, and it’s ridiculous.  DON’T THEY KNOW CHEMO IS OVER?  Someone PLEASE tell them.

On that note, I really hope I don’t get pulled over right now without my beautiful eyelashes and boobs and what not.  I might actually get a ticket!  Unless I pull off whatever wig or hat I may be wearing and play the cancer card.  Is that too far?  I mean, my mom told me you gotta use what you got.  How about I just try not to speed?

So my birthday was last week, and it was such a strange day.  The day before (because age 32 officially hated me), Josh and I were sick.  Like, real sick.  We spent the night and day playing toilet bowl relay and one of us may have been exerting so hard that she peed her pants a little.  Twice.  But I’ll leave it to you to figure out who has the weaker pelvic floor (because I know that’s the kind of thing you come to this blog to think about).

Anyway, on my actual birthday, I was overly emotional and spent half the day at Siteman getting my Herceptin infusion.  I decided to put on my party face by putting on my party hair, and it actually helped.  I was in a pod (Are cancer patients aliens?  Peas?) with four older men and a couple of wives, and they just LOVED the pink wig.  One of them wanted to know if his hair would come back that color too, and I tell you it was hard to be in a bad mood being surrounded by all those cute, funny old men.

Here’s where the day got strange though.  As I pulled out of the parking garage, I also pulled off the wig because four hours of wig is three hours too many.  I pulled out of the complex and hit a red light.  As I stopped, I looked over and saw a man about my age with a sign that said something like “HOMELESS.  Please help.  God bless.”  All I had in cash was one dollar so I grabbed it and held it out to him.  He walked over, grabbed it, and looked up at me.

“I can’t take this from you,” and he handed me back the dollar.

Umm….what??

“What do you mean?  Here.  Take it.”  And then I saw his eyes.  Probably the saddest, emptiest blue eyes I have ever seen.

“No, I can’t take this from you,” and he looks at my baldish head.

“Oh, it’s okay.  I want to help you.  Here.”

“No, no, no.”

“It’s only a dollar,” and I hold my hand out farther.

“No.  I feel sorry for you.”

What the whaaaaat?  You feel sorry for me?  I feel sorry for you!  Excuse me again…whaaat?

“I’m okay,”  I say.  “Just take it.  I’m going to be okay.”

“Are you sure?  I can’t.  I feel sorry for you.”

I nod (even though I’m not really sure I’ll be “okay”), and he takes the dollar, says thanks, and walks away as the light turns green.

I drove away totally confused.  Think what you will, but since my diagnosis, I have driven back and forth to Barnes many times, and I have given countless dollars to the homeless that I see, something I didn’t used to do on the regular.  I didn’t know how to process having to talk a homeless man into taking my money.  It bothered me for the rest of the day, and that night I realized why it bothered me so much…and what I wish I could say to him.

This?  This bald head.  THIS is why I’m helping you.  This is how I know what it feels like to need help.  To really need help.  And this is how I know what it feels like to fall.  This is what taught me that we are all connected.  That we need each other.  This is how I know that I love you, and this let me see you.  This makes me think about you and your sad blue eyes every day and wish that I could have seen them in a better time.  (Much like my eyelashes were my signature, I’m sure that your blue eyes were once yours.)  Please don’t mistake this bald head as a weakness; it is my strength.

It’s such a strange life right now.  I’m trying to move on from cancer, but I’m finding that it isn’t possible.  My eyelashes aren’t letting me forget.  My bald head and discolored nails aren’t letting me forget.  My Herceptin infusions aren’t letting me forget.  Even homeless guys that I don’t know won’t let me forget.  I suppose even if all those things didn’t remind me I would remind myself every ten minutes because it’s most of what I still think about.  What I’m learning, really, is that the battle wasn’t going through treatment or “fighting” the cancer.  The battle has just started.  The battle is in my mind, and it’s to learn how to live with the unknown and the ambiguity and the fear.  I don’t really know how to do that yet.  I feel like if my eyelashes would stick around, my game face might be more convincing though.

The Bald and the Beautiful.

Ladies, you know what’s better than taking your bra off at the end of a long day?  Taking your wig off the moment you walk through the door.

I’m just going to let that be a paragraph all on its own.  I’m not sure what else to say about it because I know you’re feeling me, right?  Instead, I’ll tell you a little story of hair loss.  (Oh yes, get excited!)  Actually, it’s a pretty short story.  It goes like this.  Chemo started making me lose my hair.  It happened gradually but steadily until, one day, I decided to take a shower.  I knew that I was losing a lot of my, at that point, very short hair when I had to clean the drain four times just to get water through.  It wasn’t until I stepped out of the shower and saw my poor (loving, ridiculous, empathetic, mouth agaping, maybe should be working on his poker face–I’m not really sure what you want here) husband that I realized it was time.  I foolishly looked into the mirror.  Uhh yeah, it’s time.

“No big deal,” I said to myself.  “I’ve known this day was coming for almost three months.”

So I casually texted my hairstylist aka Aunt Toni and set a time to shave it the next morning at her shop.  “I got this.”

Except I didn’t got this.

I put on a hat, and I’m going to say that I was “pretty cranky” for a few hours until I called my aunt at 8 o’clock in tears asking her to come over asap, stat, right now! to shave it.  Of course, she did.  We even let Penny in on the action.  I wish I could say it was to make it less traumatic for her, but the truth is that it was because she was awake, there, and thought it would be fun. (Please excuse the mess that is my house.  Ain’t nobody got time to clean right now.)

20140709_204525

There you have it.  Until the next night, when my other cousin, Michelle (we have a talented hair family), came over and razored it because my head looked a little more like a globe with continents of hair, and I didn’t want Christopher Columbus discovering anything on my head.  IDK, just go with it.

2014-07-10 19.47.32

Things I’ve learned thus far about being bald:

It is a cold world out there, and I have to wear a hat at night.

Showers only really take three minutes.

It’s super fun to sneak up on your husband and pretend to be Gollum, precious!

People really do want to touch a bald head, but it feels just as awkward as it did when they rubbed my pregnant belly a year ago.

People really do look at you like you have cancer now.  (<—which is blowing my mind because, theoretically, the cancer was removed with surgery.  When I really did have cancer, I didn’t know it and looked just as healthy as the next guy.)

My husband reported that everything I say sounds/looks just a little meaner.

My kids don’t care one bit.

2014-07-15 20.32.56

As hard as this is to go through with two very little girls, my daughters continually put things into perspective for me.  They really, really didn’t and don’t care.  I thought it would take some adjusting to, especially for Alice, but it just didn’t.  She looked at my bald head for two seconds, and then locked into my eyes like she could see into my soul.  That sounds super dramatic, I know, and my brother, Paul, is probably shaking his head at the screen right about now and my other brother, Josh, is totally feeling me.  Still, I felt like no matter what, no matter where, no matter how, she and I were meant to be together.  And she knew it.  Penny too.  She just doesn’t care.

On a lighter note, here are some things that I am playing around with.  I’m not so sure about the scarves.  They kind of scream “sick” to me (and apparently, I can’t even look at the camera in one).  I think my favorite look is the pink wig, and I’m thinking about getting a blue or teal one.  And I’m definitely on the hunt for some cute beanie caps.  Also, so sorry for the awkwardness on display.  I think I am just over the age limit for feeling comfortable taking a bajillion (or even four) selfies on the daily.

MyCollage_2 (1)

Pixies and thermometers.

Hair, hair everywhere!  I mean, I still have it but it’s falling fast.  Like, if I was your lunch lady, you might want me to wear three hair nets OR just step away from your rectangle pizza and fruit medley altogether.  I did go ahead with the pixie cut because Alice kept pulling fistfuls from the left side while I fed her bottles.  I felt like that wasn’t a normal mother-daughter bonding type behavior so I had my awesome cousin chop it off.

MyCollage_1

Aaaand I’m not a fan.  Rachael did excellent work, but I ultimately feel like I look a little more Daniel Radcliffe than Emma Watson if you know what I mean.  (If you don’t know what I mean, I might look like Harry Potter’s lesbian sister.)  It’s just not for me.  Maybe if I hadn’t felt forced to do it, I could be a little more accepting.  Let me tell you though, it is hard walking out into the world without my hair and boobs.  I didn’t realize how much of my femininity was wrapped up in them, but I don’t feel like myself.  Then add ten pounds. (Still eating to nurse a baby, stress, chemo steroids?)  Ugh.  It is definitely a lesson in vanity and pride, but the upside is that it’s forcing me to gain a better sense of self.

We did go to a fourth of July party at Josh’s parents house, and everyone was very nice about it.  I got a lot of compliments and such.  I just don’t know if I can trust them.  Haha.  I feel like I would dole the compliments out to me too.  Like who is going to tell the girl with cancer who was forced to cut her hair because it is falling out all over the place that her new haircut sucks?  Not me.  I’d be all, “Oh, it looks great!  You are just so cute with that cut.  It fits your face perfectly!  And those shoes!”  Insert huge smile and possible hug.  All the while, my mother-in-law was suspiciously quiet.  She cannot falsely praise and girlfriend keeps it real…but she knows I’m having a hard time.

More hair pics, you say?  This is what I did the night of the cut after the girls went to sleep.  Fun!  I kind of liked how moldy and fun my hair was.  At one point, Josh got freaked out because I slicked it back, and he said that I looked just like my dad.  A fine looking fellow.  I don’t know what my husband’s problem was.  Anyway, I have further thinned, and it’s not quite as fun to style these days. (Uhh, half a week later.)  On the plus side, lint rolling your head is super fun too.

MyCollage_0

Well, it really has been a whole lot of hair woes lately.  For that, I owe you a funny story that I remembered a few days ago while taking my daughter’s temperature.  Besides, now that I have a blog, it is the perfect place to publicly humiliate the people that I love, right?

Last winter, Alice was sick so I took her temperature rectally and set the thermometer on the sink to be sanitized a few minutes later.  My husband, Josh, is a huge hypochondriac.  If someone is sick, so is he.  After my double mastectomy, the guy complained TO ME for a week straight about a burn on his arm that he got from work.  When we took Alice to the doctor last week, he had the doctor check him out too.  I think you can see where this is going.  He saw the thermometer on the sink and took his temperature orally.  I didn’t know he was doing it until he walked out of the bathroom.

“Well, I don’t have a fever.  Yet.”

“Uh, Josh, did you just use that thermometer on the sink?”

“Yeah.  Why?”

I barely got it out.  “It was just in Alice’s BUTT!”

I couldn’t breathe for the next five minutes.  I cry-laughed so hard.  I was literally ROFL.  Maybe you had to be there.  Maybe I have the sense of humor (and hair) of a thirteen-year-old boy.  All I know is that Josh didn’t think it was as funny as I did.

Hair today, Gone tomorrow

I think my hair is starting to bail on me.  Over the last couple of months, when people in my life found out that I was going to have to receive chemotherapy, a lot of them focused on my hair.  I got a lot of “You might not lose your hair.  You know not everyone does.  My sister’s neighbor’s babysitter’s mom didn’t.”  You know, lots of hair loss worry.  At the time, I couldn’t really understand it.  I was straight up scared that I was dying, and at the very least, I was worried about the toll chemo was going to have on my entire body.  Hair loss seemed so trivial.

Well, I’m not as cool with it as I thought.  Last night, I was about to read a bedtime book to Penny, and I took my ponytail holder out so I could lay with her.  About 25 hairs came with it.  Yikes.  I went to throw them away and gave my hair another pass.  More.  And more.  Sad times.  But I turned around and read my sweet little girl a bedtime story and tucked her in.  I think that’s what it means to go through something like this with little ones.  Grieving later.  Worrying when they’re in bed.

To be honest, I’m not looking forward to being bald, but I’m more worried about losing my eyebrows and eyelashes.  Weird and pretty vain, I know, but I love my eyelashes!  However, I CANNOT wait to lose my leg hair.  Bring. It. On.

Hair!

I mean come on, tell me you’re not a little jealous of my hair.  And my family.  And our attire.

My hair loss plan is to use it to my advantage as best as I can.  I already had my aunt cut it a little shorter and with thick bangs just to see what it would look like.  The bangs look awful on me, but now I know.  Next up, a pixie cut?  I never really imagined cutting my hair that short, but what if it looks amazing?  Now I’ll know.  If not, don’t fret…I’ll be wigging it soon enough.