ULTIMATELY CHANGING BAD FOR GOOD

Yesterday was the sixth anniversary of my sexual assault.

And while I still feel the need to acknowledge it, I can say in all honesty that 24 September 2011 is no longer the worst day of my life.  Unfortunately that title now goes to 7 August 2017.  That is the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Neither of these events are things it ever occurred to me that I would have to deal with in my life.  Ever! And yet both have found their way into my experience.  The really weird thing is there are so many similarities between the two: neither were expected; I was/am fighting for my life; my body was/is in total shock; I had to/I have to now learn a new way to be, figure out a new ‘normal.’  Also, my startle response, which has never gone completely away, is back with a vengeance.  All I can think is, how did I not learn these lessons after my attack and why do I have to go through it all again, albeit from a completely different event?

What I really would like to do now, though, is change my mindset around my current situation.  To me, this means thinking about it in completely different terms.  For example, I am refraining from calling the chemotherapy that is running through my body as poison.  Instead, I think of it as the sweet elixir of life that is shrinking my tumor away to nothing.  Instead of lamenting that I cannot walk as far or play tennis for as long, I am doing my best to enjoy being able to rest during this time.  I know when it is all over, my strength and stamina will return.  I’ve always been more of a go-go-go-all-the-time kind of person, so this is simply as opportunity to relax and slow down.  Instead of wondering what I did wrong or what I may have done to deserve this, I am learning to accept that I did nothing wrong nor did I do anything to deserve this, it just happens and, unfortunately, it happens to millions of people.  All the care that I’ve taken up to this point most likely has saved me from far worse diseases, and will play a huge role in my beating and defeating the cancer I do have.

I am very fortunate.  I have a loving, supportive husband. I have great doctors and nurses and all kinds of support from family and friends.  I have people sending prayers and positive, healing energy to me from all around the world (thanks Facebook!)  So as much as I hate what I am going through, as hard as it has been on my body and will most likely continue to be, I am actually very, very lucky.

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IT IS A BIG DEAL TO ME

I understand that in the larger scheme of things losing one’s hair is a very small thing.  But guess what?  Being told by well-meaning people that I ‘just need to get over it,’ that ‘it will grow back,’ that I should ‘just embrace my bald head;’ none of these are helpful to me right now.  It is disrespectful and even hurtful.  That may have been your experience, but, as of right now, it isn’t mine.  I am sad, and I cannot even cry about it, as I am still in shock and my tears are still stuck in my body.  I think the hardest thing  is now I actually look sick.  While I still had my hair, I may have been sick, but I still looked relatively normal.  Now, not so much.

So tomorrow morning I am going back to the salon to get my head shaved.

HAIR TODAY, GONE TOMORROW???

I have consistently bitched and moaned about my hair for as long as I remember.  Unbelievably, I was actually born with straight, smooth hair.   After puberty, my hair came in as bush head.  This is not normal.  The texture of my hair completely changed, suddenly having a rough cuticle, thus beginning the love-hate (mostly hate) relationship I’ve had ever since.

When I was 12 and 13 years old, I would wash my hair and put it in a ponytail at the base of my neck, and then proceed to put rubber bands all the way down the hair in an effort to make it straight.  Then I’d put bobby pins all along my hair-line for the same reason.  This sort of worked, but both the booby pins and the rubber bands would leave marks, and my hair never completely dried because it was so thick.  I also tried the orange juice can rollers.  Not at all comfortable to sleep on.  And by the time I was 14 years old, I had joined the swim team and was diving every day, so after that my hair was pretty much a chlorine mess all the time.

Fast-forward to 2001 when I moved to West Hollywood and had my hair flat-ironed for the first time.  Wow!  What a huge difference that made.  After my hairdresser finished and I felt how smooth my hair was and how shiny, neither of which I had since puberty, I really wondered if she had given me a hair transplant without me realizing.  Seriously, my hair felt so good.  It was then that I finally truly understood what having hair with a rough cuticle meant.  It would be several more years before I got my own flatiron and could make my hair magically smooth without paying gobs of money for someone else to do it.

All through the early 2000’s I kept my hair relatively short–I’d get it cut to right above my shoulders, let grow for a year and then cut it again to the same above my shoulders length.  Somewhere around 2010, I decided to just let it grow.  I mean, why not?  I had nothing better to do, and it really is easier to have it longer since all I do is put it on top of my head because it bugs me.  And while it has not been quite as long in the last couple of years, it is still longer than it is shorter.  Basically, I am super lazy when it comes to my hair.  Now, though, the prospect of losing it all is really doing a number on me.  If I chose to shave my head, that would be one thing; I did not choose this, it is simply coming out because of the chemotherapy.

Last Thursday, I got my hair cut.  My intention was that it be cut to chin length.  When I got to the salon and my hairdresser took out my pony tail holder, it still wasn’t apparent how bad things really were.  So his assistant attempted to wash it.  I told her that I always put conditioner on my hair first, before shampoo, because it helps detangle it.  And I use if after, as well.  She did not listen, although I am not sure it really would have made a difference at this point.  When I got back in Patrick’s chair, I thought he was gong to cry.  My hair had literally turned into dreadlocks, and there was nothing to do but cut it all off.  Luckily, that did not mean shaving my head, it just meant I was not going to be walking out of there with the hair cut I thought I’d be getting.  I did not take into account just how far along in the losing-all-my-hair-process I really was.  He did a really nice job (see picture below) with the only mistake he made being he used hair spray on it.  After a while it felt like helmet hair and I had to wash it out.

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Big mistake on my part.  Again, once water hit my hair, even though it was considerably shorter, I suddenly had dreadlocks.  This time I simply could not cut off the 3 big gobs of hair.  Instead, I painstakingly sprayed each one with leave in conditioner and slowly, but ever so slowly, used a comb to untangle the mess.  It took about half an hour and this is what I combed out:

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Half a sink full of my hair.  If I did not have as much hair as I do, I for sure would already be bald.  Unbelievably, today, Sunday, I still have hair, and while it doesn’t look great, it also does not look like I’m about to be bald as a cue ball.

Look, I understand it’s just hair and that it will grow back.  This is still extremely difficult, even as my hair drives me crazy, though.  I’ve been shopping for a wig.  Even found a couple that aren’t horrible, but they look like wigs.

As I have my second round of chemo on Tuesday, I don’t expect that I’ll have what’s left of my hair much longer, which means I am going to have to make a decision sooner rather than later about my hair situation.  What I really want is for it not to fall out at all.  Clearly, though, that ship has sailed.

 

NEVER A DULL MOMENT IN MY LIFE

Is this a good thing?  Well, at times it can be very exciting.  At others, not so much.  It seems I barely get through one thing and another rears its not-so-pretty head.  I do believe that everything happens for a reason, and that whatever it is, it moves us along our path.  Take my sexual assault–I knew right from the moment it happened that it would teach me many things, that it was, in fact, necessary to get me to the next phase of my life.  And as difficult as it was, I was okay with it.  Truth be told, though I am 98% healed from that whole ordeal, I still have certain triggers that set me off and either make me cry or really piss me off.  I am beginning to realize this may be a life-long thing, that I will never be 100% over it.  This, too, is okay.

For what is happening now in my life, however, I am definitely not seeing the big picture yet.  I know I am still in shock, and it still does not seem real.  Two weeks ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  This is something I never, ever, ever thought would happen in my life.  I have no family history of any type of cancer.  I am super active and have been my entire life; I mostly eat very cleanly, though I definitely have a serious sugar addiction, which I fight sometimes more successfully than others.  Still, overall, as my wonderful husband put it the other day, “You look too beautiful and too healthy to be sick.”

Currently I am being biopsied and ultrasounded and MRId and PET scanned and poked and prodded to make sure I am, in fact, as healthy as I look.  The type of breast cancer I have is very rare; I am triple positive, which as I understand it means that estrogen, progesterone and a hormone called Her2 are over-expressing and have caused a tumor to form.  As of right now, I begin chemo on Tuesday.

I have told very few people of my diagnosis, until this very moment, that is.  I am still getting used to it and talking about it makes it more real, which I don’t want it to be.  My reason for sharing this with all of you is I am asking for your prayers.  I do know that prayer is powerful and I need all the help I can get.  Thank you in advance.

So begins another journey I do not wish to be on.