7 02 2011

Theo and I were both bald and beautiful on his first birthday, August 22, 2006

There was a whirring inside my head the night I found the lump — January 9, 2011.

Don and I were lying next to each other in bed, in the dark, on our backs, staring up at the ceiling.

A kaleidescope of images from my first breast cancer discovery and treatment in 2006 were spinning in my head. Bandanas and baseball caps. Wigs. Theo’s first birthday party — he and I were both bald. That brings a smile to my face. How cute is that?

Then, of all things, came this thought.

Dagnabbit! I’m going to lose my hair again! And I just grew it back!

Yes, I know. I was in treatment nearly five years ago. But my hair takes forever to grow.

I know. Of all the things to be worrying about.

But still.

It’s maddening.

Last time, chemo turned my hair from my lifelong natural blonde (yes, that was real all these years), to some unrecognizable, unsuitable dark black. Permanently.

I’d heard rumor of people who got curly hair post-chemo — forever curly hair. Beautiful ringlets. Spirals even. I was signed on for that, but didn’t get it.

I got black and straight. And now, dyed back to my once-natural blonde every 8 weeks.

When I shared this frustration with my friend and Theo’s pediatrician, Michelle Hicks, she said, “Girlfriend, on the other side of this, I’m going to pay for you to get hair extensions! The best!”

I said, “I am so there!”

Rapunzel…Let Down Your Hair!

27 02 2010

Me, sporting one of my wigs and a crown of flowers, with Theo at the 2006 Gaylord, Mich. Alpenfest

It took me nearly four years, but I finally did it. Yesterday. I donated all of the wigs, bandanas and a knit cap I wore when I was going through chemo. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds.

I came across them a couple of months ago, when I was cleaning out my closet. There was the wig with the long, thick blonde hair that I’d sometimes pull up into a ponytail or through the back of a baseball cap, the shoulder-length one with soft waves that had fooled everyone at my high school reunion, the sexy Marilyn Monroe platinum blonde one that I wore when I was feeling well enough for a night on the town.

As I searched a little farther back on the shelf, I saw all of the bandanas my cousin Christine had made for me — the wedgewood blue one covered in tiny silver stars, the bright yellow one with jewels sewn in the shape of flowers, the breast-cancer-ribbon pink one, and my favorite — the tie-dye one. At the very back, I came across the sable knit cap my friend Maureen had knitted for me over the course of the cold winter weekend when I’d first received my diagnosis. I took everything off of the shelf, packed it carefully and set it aside. I’d bring it with me to my next appointment at the Beaumont Breast Care Center.

Yesterday morning, I grabbed the bag and threw it in the car. I was off for my quarterly blood draw.

After my appointment, I stopped by the Resource Center. That’s where I met Ruth, the soft-spoken woman with the silver hair who oversees the Center.

“I thought maybe someone else could use these,” I said. As I opened the bag and began unpacking its contents, I found myself sharing moments from 2006. “I wore this tie-dyed bandana to a Tigers game in June, and here’s the wig I wore to my high school reunion. It did the trick — no one even realized I was going through chemo.

“This one — well, it made me feel sexy when my husband and I were out celebrating our 7th wedding annivesary,” I continued. “And surely someone could use this knit cap in weather like this,” I said, thinking of an older, bald-headed woman being pushed in a wheelchair I’d seen in the Cancer Center just a few minutes earlier.

Ruth listened intently and patiently as I made my way down to the bottom of the bag. There was a brief silence and then I looked into her eyes and, by way of explanation, said, “I’ve had this stuff for four years now, and I meant to donate it sooner. But I guess I was afraid to — afraid, somehow, that I’d be tempting fate.”

Ruth put her hand over mine, nodded gently and said, “Lots of women feel that way.”

I told her that I’d be celebrating my fourth anniversary cancer-free on March 3, 2010, and that I was finally beginning to feel a little more secure, a little more sure that I was going to be OK.

“I won’t be needing these anymore,” I said, perhaps more to myself than to her. I turned then, leaving everything sprawled on the table in her office,

The bandanas, the wigs, the knit cap have a job to do for other women who are going through what I once did, not so long ago. It was time for me — and for them — to move on.

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