There are times in life when a person just doesn’t want to believe something. She may know the truth. She is fully aware. With her rational mind, she has a grasp on the situation. Her heart, however, isn’t on board just yet. That is called denial.
I woke up on Wednesday morning to an unwanted realization. I was losing my hair. It was exactly the way my doctor had said it would happen: two weeks after starting chemo. Two weeks to the day. I sighed. It was happening. The thing all cancer patients dread. A pillow covered with hair. My own hair. Sigh. Get up. Scoop up the hair. Throw it in the trash. Change the pillow case. Get a start on my day.
It was also the day of my second chemo. I was going to be going into my oncologist’s office. I figured I would report what was happening. And, that was what I did. As I checked in for my appointment, the nurses asked how I was feeling. I told them I was losing my hair. There were no shocked faces. There were no gasps or shudders. There was nodding. Understanding nods. Yep, it was happening.
One of the nurses told me that sometimes people just shave it to get the whole thing over with. I was shocked. Mortified. Shave my head. No way. I was still living with that hope that maybe I was only going to lose some of it. And, at this point, it was still morning. I had only been awake for a few hours. I had only been dealing with the realization that I was really losing my hair for such a short time. The denial was still strong with this one.
But the day went on. I had chemo. I went home. I kept losing hair. If I touched it, it fell out. If I didn’t touch it, it fell out. If I held the baby, he would get my hair on him. It was awful. Weeks ago, my doctor told me that I was going to lose my hair, two weeks after starting chemo. It had been exactly two weeks. I knew that people who went through some types of chemo lost their hair. I hadn’t really given much thought to the window of time between when that person had a full head of hair to the moment that they didn’t have any at all. I hadn’t thought about how much anxiety would fill that time frame. I hadn’t considered what a person had to be feeling to go from just letting it fall out to just shaving it all off.
The days moved on. Friday was my day three and I spent most of the day in bed, feeling awful. On top of feeling awful, I was still losing my hair, so I was sick AND filled with anxiety. By the evening, I needed to get out of the house. There was someone I needed to talk to. Someone who knew what I was going through. She was the mother of one of my sister’s oldest friends. She had battled cancer before, and was battling it again. She and her daughters had a booth at our town’s Friday evening street fair. I saw her and the girls there before. We had talked cancer. She knew I was starting chemo.
This woman was a breath of fresh air. I smile just to think of her. She was dealing with so much, but she always had a smile on her face. She was always laughing. And happy. Sigh. I wanted to be like her. I had to go and talk to her. Kevin and I put the baby in his stroller. We walked the few blocks over to the street fair. We walked slowly. I didn’t feel great, but I was going. I saw my friend. There was her smile. I told her I was losing my hair. She gave me that same look the nurses did. No shocked face. No gasps or shudders. Just the knowing nod of someone who had been there before. She looked me in the eye. She said, shave it. Just shave it. You will feel so much better. It is summer — the breeze will feel amazing! It is just hair. Shave it. You will feel better. Trust me.
Only two days before, the nurse at my oncologist’s office suggested the same thing. I had been mortified. I had the shocked face. I had the shudder. But now, two more days into the process, and two more days into the anxiety, I understood. I knew she was right. I knew they were both right. I did. They were. But I didn’t want to face it. I gave her a hug. I went home.
My rational brain had already accepted what had to happen. My heart was finally getting on board too. Denial was packing its bags and heading out. I was not looking forward to it. At all. But, I knew what I had to do.