It is interesting to me, however, that I am not finding this as absolutely horrific as I did the first time I went through it. The first time was so emotionally brutal that I can not even express it in words. My eyes usually close tightly, just at the thought of re-living it. But why does it seem different this time around? This, too, I have been thinking about this for a few days. I believe the answer to be more complex than just a simple “because I have been through it before.” This is not to negate the fact that this is a significant part of the reason. I believe the other pieces come from the “circumstances” surrounding my first experience as opposed to my situation now.
In 1982 I was 20 years old, I was a Senior at a very “jappy” university (please excuse the stereotyping of my male and female clan members); but physical and social appearances were of the utmost importance there. Cancer, Hodgkins Desease, was certainly not as common amongst my peers then, as Breast Cancer seems to be today. Really, is there anyone that doesn’t know someone who has or had Breast Cancer? So at BU, I became an automatic outcast. Fear made many worry that they could “catch” what I had. Luckily, I had a friend Nanette Stueck (I have been trying to locate her, but can’t remember her married name) who didn’t care about my ailment at all. She welcomed me in to her apartment, and life with nary a second glance or concern. Over Christmas break when 90% of Massachusetts heads on vacation, I had to remain in Boston for treatments. My family in NY, Nannette invited me to stay with her. It was there I lost my hair! I awoke one morning freezing. I couldn’t figure out why I kept feeling a draft. As I lifted my head from the pillow, I realized all the hair from the back of my head remained on the pillow. Over powered by tears, I sat and wept. I remember Nannette being a real comfort, but frankly mostly I just remember the hair loss. So being alone, away from family, and being an outcast only added to the traumatic nature of this side affect.
Now, my circumstances are different. My hair is coming out at a slower rate than the first time. Still in clumps, but not my whole head. Once again, the back of my head is the first area to disappear; with the top/front just thinning so far. The pace at which it is falling out, makes it easier to adjust to the change. It was very jarring when it came out at once, so the “molting” affect is a little easier to take.
The biggest difference between this experience and the last one, is having family and friends around. If you have a good support system, I believe you can conquer anything (or atleast 99% of things). My family and my friends have been with me every step of the way this time. They have embraced me, they have been a part of my healing and treatment, and they have given me unconditional acceptance during bad days (and good ones), hair days and none.
Today, at my most vulnerable, 2 of the incredible women in my “central support team” joined me for this Wiggy adventure. Julie and Meredith helped me to keep the experience light (again a weight reference, OY!). At Bitz and Pieces, a wig store in Manhattan, we meet Edwin. He was soft and gentle during the initial few minutes of assessment. He was trying to suss out just “what kind of patrons we would be”! Had he only known, he may have had someone else work with us. I wanted to try on all the big wigs for fun. Politely, he got down to business. But quickly he felt our light heartedness, and he loosened up. We joked about never having to wash or blow dry my hair, and how much time that would save me; how I can’t cook with the wig on, or grill with it on, or be near a dryer — on account of the fact that I picked a synthetic wig and it would melt! So I can just give upon those chores altogether.
The whole appointment took an hour. During which time I was able to smile, laugh and, dare I say, enjoy what could be (and was before) a tearful and awful experience. Julie and Meredith encourged me to try on some “fantasy styles”, as well as variations of how my hair has always been styled. For fun, I tried on Red hair a little longer and “Cynthia Nixonish”, and a black haired “Mia Farrow”, a Strawberry and blond Highlighted “Joan Jett” number, and a Black “Uma Thurman/Pulp Fiction” piece. It was fun. While none of these made the final selection, I actually enjoyed the process.
I enjoyed my selection enough to leave the store wearing it! Off we went to meet Elaine for lunch, she is another superhero in my unbeatable group of incredible women friends. She agreed that I made a great selection. Yeah!
My children came home from school with friends. I had honestly forgotten that I was still wearing the wig. My daughter Alissa immediately noticed. “Oh my god Mom is that your new wig? Yes,” I said cautiously worried about her reaction. “It is awesome, you better cut your hair like that when it comes back.” And without a second thought she and her friend went off to do their homework!
This ‘Hairrowing” experience turned out to be “exhilHAIRating” instead. That is a true relief.
Talk to you soon