Monday, January 21, 2013

Bald Chemo Kisses

Ezekiel (12 weeks old) and me... Twins?

Last night I went out to dinner with my family.  The restaurant was so hot that half way through dinner I started to sweat.  I was holding the baby while eating and had a sweater and a hat on.  John said, "Why don't you take off your sweater and your hat?"  So I took off the sweater but not the hat.  As I sat there still uncomfortably hot with my hat on, I was ashamed of myself for being weak and insecure.  I consciously looked around the restaurant at all the people who I could care less about whether or not they see me bald but I thought about the waitress and imagined the look of shock on her face when she returned to our table to a cancer patient and not just a lady in a hat.  I couldn't do it.  I couldn't take off my hat.  How is this now me?  Three months ago I was shamelessly going out in public with a bald head and a pregnant belly.  So, I'm left wondering... I'm left analyzing this change in myself.  Boy, does cancer force you to come to take stock of the type of person you really are.  I've come up with a couple of possibilities as to why this embarrassment of my baldness has come about.

Being bald while pregnant vs. bald after baby:
1. Pregnancy provides the most amazing release of hormones.  Hormones made me feel pretty good.  My oncologist said I pretty much breezed through the first 6 rounds of chemo that I received during my pregnancy compared to most of his other breast cancer patients.  In other words, I didn't really feel sick.  I felt pregnant.  I felt in awe of my body that was growing a precious life while fighting cancer.  Being bald wasn't so bad because my pregnancy was more relevant.
2. Baldness after baby is not so pretty.  I am really looking sick these days.  The chemo is really taking it's toll this time around.  Sometimes I look in the mirror and I'm shocked.  I have a bald head with a rash making it look red and splotchy in places.  My face is constantly pale.  I have dark circles under my eyes and sometimes my eyes are also red rimmed.  My face is looking pretty pudgy these days too.  I try to blame the pudgy face all on swelling from the steroids but that doesn't explain the pudge on the rest of my body.
3. After I was diagnosed it felt like everyone knew what was going on.  Everyone expected it when I lost my hair.  Everyone was aware of my battle.  And then I finished up my chemo during pregnancy, my hair started growing back, and my little miracle baby was born.  All those prayers were answered.  I have a beautiful and healthy baby boy who is beautiful gift from God.  A concrete answer to prayer that people can see with their very own eyes.  Then I started chemo again and it got cold outside and all of a sudden I am wearing hats and it's almost like it's my little secret...I'm not done yet.  I am still weak and fighting a battle for my life and if I have to look people in the face and admit that I'm not just "all better" like they might think... it just makes me wish it really was that easy.  I've had several comments about my short hair and I had to say, "Nope, I'm actually bald again."  And then I get a look of surprise and I get to explain that I had to start chemo again.  It felt like I was delivering really disappointing and unexpected news.  It's not a very fun conversation to have.
These are the reasons I've come up with so far as to why I am currently uncomfortable with my bald head.  Tomorrow I'll probably have yet another reason.  Actually, now that I think about it... the whole rash thing makes my head look pretty unattractive... another reason to wear a hat.  The only problem is that hats make the rash worse.  Catch 22.

The other day, after looking in the mirror and grimacing, I decided to go for a walk with Zeek while the big kids were at school.  And then I thought... why walk when you can run?  So I buckled Zeek into my new Bob Jogger Stroller, laced up my Nikes, put on my beanie (I wasn't about to jog around the neighborhood with a bald head), turned on Pandora, started up my couch to 5K app, and I hit the pavement.  Oh boy was I hitting that pavement hard.  Every drop of my foot felt like I had 100 pound weights attached to my ankles.  The sight I must have been... after 9 months of inactivity and 40 extra pounds... trying to jog for one minute straight and then walk for a minute and a half and alternate doing that for 20 minutes. My jogging pace was around the same as my previous warm up walking pace.  It was completely pathetic.  My husband didn't know I had attempted to jog while I was out (I didn't want any witnesses) and when I returned home he was extremely concerned by my fluorescent face and my inability to move from the couch for the rest of the day. The next day I decided to go for a walk again.  This time I took all the kids and I walked myself right up the street to Foster's Freeze to get the kids an ice cream... more my pace right now.

Today I completed #8 of my post baby taxol chemo treatment.  Only 4 more to go.  Only 4 more.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I was diagnosed with breast cancer on April 26, 2012.  I estimate the last of my radiation treatments to be somewhere around the end of this coming April.  One full year of treatment... that's a long time.  I can't wait for treatment to be over.  And then again... I'm terrified of it ending too.  No more treatment means I will no longer be actively fighting off this beast of a disease. But then again... no more treatment means that I can start to get my life back.  I can start a different kind of fight.  Rebuilding my health through diet, exercise and scripture, re-establishing my role as a healthy wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend... these are things I am looking forward to... Oh... and kissing my kids.  Yesterday Tobias asked me when he can kiss me on the lips again.  I told him after 4 more chemo treatments.  He said maybe I could kiss him on the lips for his birthday which is this Friday.  This is a birthday request I cannot deny.  My sweet Tobias has always been my little snuggler.  He will turn 8 years old and wants a kiss from me on his birthday.  My eyes well up with tears and my heart is full.


  1. A friend of mine made Charlie a little hat out of a t-shirt not long after she was born. It was the softest little thing. Would something like that, under your warm hats, help protect your beautiful head?

    I love reading your blog. I love reading thoughts that could have come from me. I love knowing that things I've thought of, things that seemed irrational, are thought of by other people. I love it so much when I hold those other people (you) in such admiration. You've got this! Only 4 more!!!!!

    ~Jenn Stewart

    1. Jenn, what can I say? You are my "sister". I feel the same way when I read your caring bridge posts. We are bonded and I truly believe with all my heart that you will see decades and not merely years. You are deserving of miracle upon miracle. I love you, my sweet "sister"!

  2. Hi are beautiful! I love the pic of you and your sweet baby boy!! I can't imagine all you are going through, but I know you are going to come through all this. You have so many prayers being prayed for you. My Mom is 1 year out from treatment and we try not to look back. Just look ahead to what the Lord has in store for you.
    Many blessings to you and your family and I am praying for you often.
    Lisa Gallardo

    1. Lisa, you have been such a blessing to me. Thank you so much for your prayers! You are a gem. There aren't many people out there willing to show love and commit to prayer for someone you've only met a couple times. I am so impressed by you and I appreciate you greatly!

  3. You are an amazing woman and a huge testimony to SO many people you don't even know. I continue to pray for peace and healing for you. You are my hero!

    1. Your prayers are the greatest act of friendship! I adore you and appreciate you SO much!