in which I change my hair

I’d always wondered what it would be like to be blond.

That was the opening sentence to the blog post I wrote two days ago.  The internet gods were not smiling on me that day, however.  I lost it.  I was in such a great mood when I wrote it.  I am no longer.

I’ve struggled with body image my whole life.  That partly drove my decision last weekend to change my hair.

I think the other thing that drove me was the desire to take charge of at least one thing in my life.  The prospect of chemo scares me more and more every single day.  This is the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced.  I am engaged in a struggle for my life.  But all that’s on my mind is my hair.  My body.

I might actually gain weight on chemo.  This is currently the most horrifying thing I can imagine.

I worked so hard to lose weight last year.  I stopped eating junk, and more importantly, white rice; I did sit ups and walked hundreds of miles.  I was getting fit.  Best of all, I was looking pretty good.  I had, after so many years, come to accept what I was.  I wasn’t done, not by a long shot, but I started letting Ryan take pictures of me again; which he hadn’t been allowed to do since Katie was born fourteen years ago.

So when I read this article, needless to say, it was upsetting.

Was all the work for nothing?  Am I going to wind up right back at square one?  I’ve come to terms with the mental aspects of the side effects.  Will I go crazy and fat?  This whole experience is starting to feel like a cruel practical joke.

I’m taking some comfort in the fact that at least some of the side effects will be temporary.

The salon experience was a lot of fun.  I was a salon color newbie.  We asked friends and family for recommendations, and based on those, we decided on the Ho’ala salon in Ala Moana Center.  Ho’ala is very posh and smells wonderful.  It is a member of the Aveda family of spas, and I guess Aveda’s thing is all-natural ingredients and earth-friendly practices.

My stylist, Soo, explained that to achieve the platinum locks I was looking for, they would have to bleach my hair, resulting in fried hair and possibly a burned scalp.  She said she could give me a full set of highlights, which would lighten my hair without exposing me to injury.

In addition to the highlights, I got a hand massage, a cup of tea, and, honestly, it was just fun being pampered.

Afterward, Ryan, Katie and I had a late dinner at a Thai restaurant.  With not many days until my treatment, it’s nice to spend time with my family.  I was certain that after Katie reached her teens, she wouldn’t need me anymore, but I’m so relieved that she does.

two weeks

Like I did before the surgery, I both dread the prospect of the treatment ahead of me and feel eager to start it.  I’ve been reading a lot about chemotherapy and have read all kinds of stories.  I’ve read about chemo brain, I’ve heard stories about weight loss and fatigue, but one thing I learned but never truly understood until recently is that every person handles these things differently.  I can look up chemotherapy on the internet twenty-four hours a day for the next two weeks and still not know what’s really ahead of me.  Maybe it’s futile to try to predict how it’s going to go for me.  If anything, all of this information is making me paranoid.

I was feeling particularly doomy on Friday morning after doing some research.  Ryan was working from home and the boys were getting restless, so I decided to take them to the Bishop Museum.  We arrived right after opening, so it wasn’t very crowded.  In the science adventure center, I noticed a couple and two little girls.  The male half of the couple looked very familiar.  It took me a minute, but I figured out who it was.

It was Dr. Michon Morita.

Zachary was born with a skull deformity.  We were told when he was a week old that he would need reconstructive surgery.  We were referred to Dr. Morita.  He was very highly recommended.  We heard from the parents of other patients that he not only did top-notch work; he was also lovely and kind and professional.  During Zac’s recovery, all of the nurses in intensive care gave glowing reviews of Dr. Morita’s work.  He truly was a nice guy, and I like to think that Zac is a living testimony to his prolific skills.

I was too shy to approach him.  I was sure he’d worked on so many kids that he would never remember me anyway.  I was trying to figure out how to strike up a conversation when Zachary approached Mrs. Morita and started telling her everything he knows about volcanoes.  I took this as an opportunity.

“Is your husband a neurosurgeon?” I asked.

She said yes and I told her that he had worked on Zac.  I instantly was so glad that I had asked.  She called Dr. Morita over, and they smiled and talked to him, and Zac was so charming.  We all had a great conversation about Zac and our family and the doctor seemed so happy.

I was reminded of that time; of the surgery, and his recovery, and the fear I felt then, and the joy I felt watching Zac recover, and I decided that running into him was a sign. Some kind of sign.  I may not have fully worked out this whole God thing yet, but I know someone’s been listening to me when it’s counted, and I’ll keep asking for guidance.



UntitledWith Ryan taking my place accompanying our son Zac on the class trip to the Big Island today, I’m going to be spending the next couple of nights without him. It will be the first time we’ll be apart for more than a few hours since the surgery. I think we’ve always been close, but since my diagnosis, I’ve really come to appreciate what a good man he is. I think we’ve gotten closer. He cares for me so well and I think we trust each other even more.

But I’m worried for him. He’s so strong, but I know he’s afraid, too, but doesn’t readily express it. I’ve been so busy thinking about my health that I hadn’t really thought about how he must feel. This is going to be hard for him, too… maybe even more so than it will be for me.

We had a normal, typical family weekend. I felt great. My energy level has returned to normal. It felt like any other weekend, really, but I couldn’t stop crying, and not even for any particular reason I could articulate. It wasn’t just the prospect of the treatment; it was little things that set me off. And I could feel Ryan getting frustrated at little things, too. We were both emotional and sometimes impatient with the kids. For the first time, we were semi-seriously considering shipping the kids off to stay with relatives for a few weeks, and I felt guilty at the mere thought. We need each other and the kids more than ever.

And since I am undergoing radiation and chemo, reconstruction will have to wait for at least a year. Now I don’t know if I’ll even want to go through that when this is all over. I was seeing reconstruction as inevitable, but today I can’t even imagine having more surgery.

I’m no longer lopsided, at least. On Sunday, I finally got my first piece of post-mastectomy lingerie.

I was originally told to pick up my post-surgical camisole before my procedure from Nordstrom. I hadn’t shopped at Nordstrom before, but I learned that they do a lot of good work for breast cancer patients. Of the national chains that are here in Hawaii, Nordstrom is the only one that provides mastectomy supplies. I put in my order but had to wait for a back order of my size, and the surgery came and went. Our Kaiser nurse, Roxanne, was seriously diligent in trying to sort it all out.

I decided that I would try another size instead, and we dropped by after church on Sunday, and I met the manager, Jackie, who was super cool and very professional. She told me about all my choices and went over the particulars of our insurance plan. In about six weeks, after I’m healed, I will be fitted for a prosthesis. Nordstrom will also give me three bras free every year, and I can buy more tax-free for the rest of my life.

My post-surgery camisole is not very pretty, but it fits and makes me look like I did before, which is all that counts, for right now. I can wear my normal clothes again.

Today I had an echocardiogram. Since chemo can weaken the heart, an echocardiogram is needed to check for any hidden heart problems. It was fast, at least. I also have another follow-up with my surgeon on Friday. If anything, I guess I’m going to be able to find my way around the hospital pretty well soon.