Category: hair regrowth

I just can’t seem to share in your excitement.

It’s been almost a month since I’ve been here, and to tell you the truth, I thought about never coming back.  Now that treatment is over, all that is left is me.  And I’m a mess.  I didn’t want to share my mess because it makes me feel vulnerable, and I’ve had quite enough vulnerable for the time being, thankyouverymuch.

I also didn’t want to examine what I’m feeling right now enough to blog about it because, you guys, it’s kind of like being 14 all over again — without all the hormones, of course.  Estrogen is, obvs, my kryptonite.  I can go from content to depressed to elated to super anxious in an afternoon.  It’s tiring, and it’s even more tiring trying to figure out the feelings behind the feelings.  So lately I haven’t even been trying, partly because I’m also tired of thinking about cancer.  I’ve just been riding the wave.

To be fair, it’s not as extreme as I’m making it sound.  Generally, I am happy, but I’m not as level as I once was.  I really think it’s all par for the course in life-after-cancer, but I’m not sure everyone recognizes that there are still struggles to be had after you “beat” the Sumbitch.

I went to my husband’s 20 year class reunion (He’s pretty much geriatric, I know. 🙂 )  last weekend and met a lot of really cool people who had been following me via Josh.  As nice as they were — like truly loving and supportive  (Thank you, AHS class of 1995!) — they said a lot of really weird things to me.

“I’m so proud of you for beating cancer!  You did great!”

“You kicked its ass!  Way to go, girl!”

“I’m so excited for you!”

At the last one, I looked around to my brother and husband to see their faces.

This (super nice and well meaning) guy just said he's excited for me, you guys!  Can you BELIEVE that?   Guys, DID YOU HEAR HIM???
This (super nice and well meaning) guy just said he’s excited for me, you guys! Can you BELIEVE that? Guys, DID YOU HEAR HIM???

But there was not a crack in either of their smiles, not an understanding eye roll to be found.

And therein lies the problem for me in blogging about life-after-cancer.

As much as I appreciate the sentiment — and I really do — you would NEVER tell, like, an assault victim that you are so excited for them.

You know, like, girl gets held up at gunpoint, threatened, beaten down, and robbed.  She makes it out alive.  Then you tell her that YOU’RE SO EXCITED FOR HER.

Way to go, girl!  You kicked ass!

I’m so proud of you!

And then, a year later when she’s still suffering from anxiety and depression on account of the event, no one says, “Oh, I though she’d be happy now.  I mean, it’s over.  She beat it!  What’s her deal?”

Because I’ve also heard a few forms of that last statement as well.

And I get it.  I probably would have thought something similar before my own dance with the big C.  You’re DONE (not realizing that a cancer patient is never “done”)!  It’s all parades and confetti in the air now, right?!

Well, frankly, no.  I feel like the girl who has recently been violently mugged.

In the days after diagnosis, I remember trying to explain what I was feeling to my husband.

“It feels like someone is holding a gun to my head!” I said with every nerve ending in my body on high alert because that’s the only way you say something for about a month after you’ve been diagnosed.

Cancer certainly threatened my life.  It beat me down, with a scalpel and chemo-style.  And it definitely robbed me.  Of so much more than I’ve copped to here on this blog — money, sex, self esteem, the surety of a future.

But here’s how I can best explain the fear in life-after-cancer.

What if that crazy gunman left the girl to live but whispered in her ear, “Watch your back, dear.  I might come back for you.  It may be tomorrow, it may be in five years, or it may be never.  You’ll just have to wait and see.  Just know that whatever you do, you can’t hide from me.  I will always know where you are.”  Creepy, no?

And then, she has to WATCH NEWS STORIES OF THIS PSYCHOPATH KILLING OTHER PEOPLE!  In movie after movie, this gunman shows up.  People think she wants to hear stories of others who’ve met the Sumbitch.  It’s all around her.

So she joins a support group.  Those people understand, but now she has to WORRY ABOUT THEM TOO.  The gunman told them the same thing, and statistically speaking, he follows through one out of three times.

You wouldn’t tell that girl that you are excited for her.  You would realize that she’s still “fighting” a battle.  That what she went through was straight-up traumatic.  You would be scared right along with her because it’ll never be over for her.  A shadow is never just a shadow anymore.

So that’s my truth.  A headache will never just be a headache, and my worry is forevermore.  Although, I’m sure as the years go by (and hopefully, the years do go by!) these feeling will dull.  It’s a little intense, I know, and that’s why I haven’t been around.  I didn’t really want to put words to what I’ve been feeling because then I’d have to think about it and stuff.  Instead I’ve just been pushing it back and letting it pop up in weird ways in my life like in my spending habits or in me not taking care of myself.  And after I did do the thinking, I was hesitant to SHARE it with the internet at large so people could throw their two cents in because that’s always super fun.

The thing is that you guys will never know what it’s like without someone telling you (unless you’re here too, which is a bummer) so that’s what I’ve decided to do: let you in on my mess.  Pretty much so you know that being excited for someone who recently “beat” cancer is super sweet but also really weird.

Do these jeans make my boobs look small?

Consider me $1000 richer, but, like, in memories because that check burned a hole in my pocket and then bought me a new pair of jeans.

I know I said that I would let you guys decide how I spent it, but I had to get cancer to win this money so I figured you wouldn’t hold it against me.  (Yeah, I pulled the cancer card again.  I also parked in the “cancer patient parking ” yesterday when I took Penny to the doctor because there were hardly any spots, Penny is so sick I had to carry her, and my hair is still short enough to look the part.  It’s really one of the only perks I get.)  I will, however, give you a short rundown.  It’s actually really easy to spent a grand.

There were the aforementioned jeans because I lost a pair.  Literally.  I don’t know where they went.  Josh is sure they’re at my boyfriend’s.  I’m sure I haven’t seen Taylor Hanson in over a year.  IDK.

Also, I bought a round of drinks for some girlfriends.  That’s mostly because I was showing them my budoir session photos, and I wanted to make sure (1) the photos appeared extra blurry. (2) they wouldn’t remember what they saw. (3) they would tell me the truth…that I’m super beautiful and, really, should be a mastectomy swimsuit model.  Also, because I love them, they make me laugh, they’re supportive and just really, really pretty.

With the rest, I paid some bills (or bill because, let’s be honest, I just couldn’t bring myself to be 100% responsible / boring with my cancer-earned money), and then I swept my husband off his feet or whatever.

The Monday after Valentine’s weekend (because it’s cheaper — you know, like how all the boxes of chocolate are 90% off now.  See, I was a little responsible.) Josh and I boarded a train to Chicago.  I really wanted to do something nice for Josh.  The weight of everything landed on him a month or two ago, and it has been hard to give him much of a break between me going back to work, our two girls, and my ongoing (but much improved) chemo fatigue.  So to show my true appreciation for him so steadfastly taking care of me and our littles, I whisked him away.  And then, promptly got sick on him again.

That’s just how I do.

Ugh.

Monday was a pretty glorious day.  You know, the “Yay!  We’re kidless!” kind.  You barely know what to do with yourselves, and you’ve kind of forgotten what the other person’s face looks like.  Over the poopy diapers, stacks of cancer bills, and sinks full of dishes, sometimes it’s hard to see.

“Oh hey, it’s you.  I forgot I kind of like you.  And look how handsome you are!”

After the train ride — which was waaaay more fun than driving, btw — we found ourselves at our hotel/spa with no real plans.  We filled our evening with food, bowling, drinks, dancing, singing, and a contest to see who could slide farther in their socks.  We made all kinds of plans for the next day and fell asleep.  So imagine my surprise when I woke up to relive the previous night’s dinner.

I know you’re thinking the same thing the hotel staff probably thought when we had to shamefully call them to pick up the bathroom trash can full of puke.  But no, I was not hungover.  I wondered this myself, but the truth is I only had two drinks (albeit, I’m not much of a drinker in the first place) and it lasted all day and into the next, when we went home.  It was definitely a bug.  And that bug kind of ruined Josh’s romantic getaway by, again, forcing him to be my caretaker.

He’s a pretty cute little nurse, though, and he said he still had fun.  He said that Monday night paid it forward for the whole trip, and if I had to get sick, at least it was when we had no children to care for, a king sized bed, and cable TV.

By the train ride home on Wednesday, I was feeling much better but hadn’t left the room since Monday (you know, for reasons other than the good kind of not leaving your hotel room for a day and a half).  It was there, on the train ride home, that Josh and I developed a new addiction: RUMMY.

Ha.  I know.  We are basically eighty years old (which is really kind of a goal of mine anyway) and super boring and surely there are cooler card games (Magic?  Uno?), but we have been having all sorts of “tournaments” and trash talking and scheming and sneaking in games while the kids are asleep or parked in front of a show or destroying the house or whatever.  The other night, Josh had a spray bottle full of water that he sprayed Alice with every time she tried to interrupt our game.  Before you call DCFS, let me tell you that she LOVED it.  She thought it was a hilarious game just for her, and really, how else are you supposed teach your children good game play habits?

So that’s that.  $1000 spent and a new card addiction gained.  What would you do with an extra “I had to go through hell for this” $1000?

Also, an updated hair pic for those of you on the edges of your seats.  jk.  But there have been requests…

Hair 5mos

Flat and Fabulous.

**Disclaimer: Go no further if you don’t want to see mastectomy scars, my friends, but really, I promise it’ll be okay.

 

Last Saturday, I found myself half naked, posing in front of a camera.  My momma warned me about things like this…

But no, I promise it was legit, and my underwear never left my bottom.  You see, my friend and the official Lagemann family photographer, Chantel, did this amazing thing for me and kind of brought my sexy back.  Out of the kindness of her heart, she offered me a free boudoir session in the middle of her full-on boudoir weekend.  She said that she thought we could do something “really beautiful and lovely and sensual,” and she just wanted to bring me some joy.  I was skeptical, but I went for it anyway.  The result: meow.

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But, first, let me back this train up a bit.  Before you go backing dat ass up into a camera, there’s some formal maintenance to be done.  And in my case, I had to face the reality of hair regrowth — in all the wrong places.  That is how I found myself having a conversation about God and my purpose in life with a beautiful Polish woman while she was skillfully spreading my butt cheeks.

“So do you think God was trying to tell you something with this cancer?” she asked while applying hot wax inside my butt crack.

Umm…WHAT is she doing?  Did she just put wax in my butt crack?  I thought this was just a bikini wax!  What exactly is a bikini wax??  I think I’m in over my head.

“Yes, I definitely do.  I think this was His way of redirecting my life.”

Rrrriiiiiiipp!

God, help me now!

“That happened to me too, you know?” she said while spreading another thin line of wax in places to be unnamed.  “When I was younger and still lived in Poland, I had an infection, and I thought I would die.  It changes your life, and I think when God gives you a warning like that, you have to change.”

Rrrrrriiiippp!

So yeah, prep for the boudoir session was fun and enlightening.  I also had to find something to wear, and let me tell you, lingerie shopping without boobs is no fun.  It’s just not.  It’s one billion times worse than shopping for jeans and eighty four times worse than swimsuit shopping.  I ended up taking Josh’s guitar with me out of sheer frustration, and I’m glad I did.  Because this.

boudoir_lagemann_heather_1_2015(112of43)

 

The whole experience was pretty amazing though, and not entirely what I expected.  Chantel had mimosas waiting for us on arrival, and good call, my photographer friend.  Alcohol was the exact right way to start this morning.  There was also a perfect playlist, yummy snacks, take-home gifts, and a hair and makeup wonder worker, Kate.  In general, the mood was cool, feminine, and fun.

The woman shooting before me didn’t mind if we watched, which really made me a little braver, like, “Yeah, why should I care?  We’re all women.”  But she was really, very beautiful, and I…well, I don’t have boobs.  And my butt is kind of out of control.  You know how you are self conscious about this or that about your body.  Well, my this and that happen to be my rear end and my thighs.  So much so that when I walk out of a room naked (It happens.  You know, to the shower or something.) and Josh is around, I moonwalk out.  I literally would rather moonwalk out of a room than have my husband look at my butt in the light of day.  He thinks I’m ridiculous.  I think I’m hilarious.

I tell you this to give you an idea of how nervous I was to strut that thing out in the open and not only let someone look directly at it (You’re not supposed to look directly at the sun, a Basilisk, or my bottom.) but also take PHOTOGRAPHS of it.  When I spoke of my trepidation, “So I kind of have big butt and some cellulite back there,” Chantel retorted, “We all have cellulite.  That’s what the blurring tool in photoshop is for!”  That’s when I knew this was going to work.  And hey, can I get one of those blurring tools to take with me to the pool this summer?  That’d be great.  kthanks.

Aaand after all that booty talk, I can’t show you any of those pictures, but believe me.  They are good.  Those are for my husband’s eyes only though.  And for sexting my bffs.

I also have never felt very “flat and fabulous,” which is kind of a bullshit term in the breast cancer world for “Cancer took away my boobs, and I’m trying my hardest to be okay with myself as I am.”  But I really am trying to do that.  For me but also for my daughters.  I can’t let them think I define myself by my breasts, or that they should when the time comes.  I can’t let them think that a woman is only judged as sexy/confident/beautiful by her body.  I have to show them that, while it’s okay for me to miss a part of my body, I know who I am, and it was never my breasts or my big butt or my hair or whatever it is that people LOOK at.  And for the other women out there facing mastectomies, it really will be okay.  Buuuut that didn’t make it easier to bare all.  Chantel, Kate, the other ladies, and the whole vibe of the boudoir shoot did.

boudoir_lagemann_heather_1_2015(127of43)

boudoir_lagemann_heather_1_2015(128of43)

 

We laughed.  Because when else does a friend say, “Open your legs just a little bit.  A little bit more…  Nope!  Nevermind, close them!” or “Okay, I want you to pop your booty.  Yeah, perfect!  Just like that!”

 

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It turned out to be a lot of fun.  More important than that, though, was how EMPOWERING it was.  I put it all out there, and by doing so, I somehow took my body back — the good and the bad.  For the first time in a long time, I felt like a woman again.  I felt feminine and sexy.  Both of which are super hard to do with a buzz cut and a general lack of boobs.  I felt like I was back in charge, and for that, I can never thank Chantel enough.

I left thinking, “Every woman should do that.”

And I really believe that.

I asked Chantel if she’s ever done one herself, and she said, “Oh no.  I had twins.  My stomach is a wreck.”

“Well, I don’t have boobs, and I’m doing it.”

 

 

**So I promise that Chantel didn’t pay me or bribe me with a lifetime supply of Reese’s peanut butter cups or anything to say any of this.  I just really love her work, and if you are interested in a boudoir session or any other kind of session, you can find her at Breathtaking Photography on facebook or here on her website.  Here’s a post she wrote about her boudoir sessions if you’re interested.

Also, she took my all-time favorite picture of Penny and me the night before Alice was born. <3  So, you know, you can keep your clothes on too if you want.

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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.

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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.

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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!