My first chemo treatment was on Thursday, June 2, 2005. My oncologist said I’d probably lose my hair within fourteen days. Two weeks later, however, I still had a pretty good head of hair. I’d started shedding a bit, but I had so much hair to begin with I thought maybe I’d be one of those rare women who kept their hair. The following day, however, I accepted the fact my hair was dead. It was like dry straw and I couldn’t style it or do anything with it.
That was one of my sad days. I knew I was going to lose my hair and I spent that Thursday in mourning. Here I was fighting for my life and the thought of going bald – even temporarily – was so depressing. I was less upset when I knew I’d be losing a breast. I even thought maybe there was something wrong with me, that I was much more vain than I ever thought. But since then I’ve heard the same sentiments from so many other women. I admit there’s a comfort in knowing I’m not totally off my rocker. Or at least not all alone in being totally off my rocker.
Friday I called my friends, Beth and Rhonda, and asked if they would come over Saturday morning for a buzzing party. In that moment I took control of my situation and my perspective on the whole thing changed. And maybe that was the difference. I had control over whether not I would have a mastectomy. A lumpectomy may not have been a choice for me, but I still could have said no to the surgery altogether. Stupid, I know, but I still had the control. There was nothing I could do about losing my hair, but I had control over when I would lose my hair.
So Saturday morning – 17 days after my first treatment – we had a Free the Follicle Festival at my place. Beth brought her girls, I made coffee and Beth & Rhonda brought donuts and juice for the kids. After getting hopped up on sugar and caffeine we went into the kitchen while the kids watched a movie or played in the living room. Beth had the sheers and Rhonda took pictures.
First Beth gave me a skater cut and then a Mohawk. I think it looked more like one of those hedgehog boot scrapers, but whatever. Beth’s youngest daughter, Baylie, hung out between the kitchen and the living room, acting as herald for the other kids with each new style. They’d all come running in and laugh, especially when I was trying to do the Billy Idol snarl.
We tried gelling the Mohawk to spike it, but sadly it didn’t work. Finally the job was done and surprisingly I didn’t mind the buzz. The small, nicely shaped head was a bit of a surprise. Thank goodness it wasn’t lumpy! And I guess all that thick hair I’d always had gave me the illusion of a bigger noggin. I was given the name of G.I. Jen and fancied myself as a Demi Moore look alike. Until you looked anywhere but the hair.
Wouldn’t you know all this had to happen on one of the weekends my husband didn’t come home. Rhonda took a picture of me and I hesitantly emailed it to Todd, a little anxious about his reaction. Being one of the most wonderful husbands on the face of the planet, he called me and said I was beautiful and it only emphasized my pretty smile and big eyes. I seriously love his delusions.
Sunday night my scalp hurt so bad I had to take some of the pain medication left from the surgery and by Tuesday as I stood in the shower my hair came out by the handfuls. I think if it had happened a week earlier it would have broken me. But because I had already done my grieving and taken control of the situation I had more of an “oh well” attitude.
The way my friends and I made it a fun event was so good for the kids, too. I can only imagine the uncertainty, among many other things, they had to feel. I’m thankful both kids were open and honest about what they were feeling, but I also know they both tried to protect me in their way. I may be way off, but I truly believe the way I handled losing my hair by including them and making it kind of fun was one less stress they had to deal with. At least I hope so.