i’ve had a really lovely weekend with one of my closest friends visiting. he and his partner are expecting their first child, and it was so special, and so wonderful to have just a few days together between this massive change in his life, and the massive changes in mine and alex’s (surgery, those sorts of things). like a lot of the more personal things i share with other people, i prefer not to blog about them. but it was really, really good, and a lovely weekend.
but i want to talk about something weird and confronting that i touched on last time. my hair.
i was pretty much assured i would not lose it. i am not on the right sort of chemotherapy for that. it is not a typical, or normal response to colorectal cancer treatment. it can thin – usually in the six weeks after treatment, but it doesn’t fall out. mine has been coming out, clump after clump after clump. in a fit of impulsive upset, i didn’t wait to see my usual, and dearly beloved hairdresser, and just went across the road to get them to cut it short. the man who owned the salon, after the cut, came over to talk to me – he’s extremely experienced in dealing with people undergoing chemotherapy and the hair loss. he asked me how far i was into my treatment, and how much it was coming out. he then told me outright i had a week and a half or so until it was all gone, and it was probably not going to grow back for a really, really long time, and when it would, it would most likely be curly. he offered to shave it for me, for free, after hours – because i might get emotional.
i never thought i would. i Never thought i would care about my hair. the severe side effects – vomiting, diarrhoea, etc, totally washed me by. two treatments in, it’s likely i would be getting them by now if i was going to. because the hair loss started in the time period of the first treatment. i feel ungrateful here – i skipped severe ones – my fever is a sign my tumours are breaking down – i’ve had some other awesome signs (don’t want to get too excited about them yet, waiting until i talk to the oncologist, but my ribcage spasms have been massively relieved, and the amount that my liver juts out from under my ribcage seems to have receded somewhat) that i am responding well. it’s. just. hair.
but, it’s also not. and now, i am totally ashamed of my irritation at the marketing of ‘cancer stuff for ladies to feel pretty again!’ things. because goddamn, right now, i look in the mirror in the first few days after treatment: my eyes are rimmed red. i smell really weird, and the cats won’t come near me. despite working hard to try and keep weight up, i still look gaunt, and my skin was pale to start with. it’s now ghostly. on top of this, i’m going to have no hair. i look like ‘cancer patient’. not only that, i look like ‘young cancer patient’. i think of pictures of kick-arse ladies with pumps and make up, and rocking their bald heads in the treatment room – and i know that’s never going to be me. and come on – i shaved my head a few years ago, for fun. i liked it. i looked cool. but i chose it. i didn’t choose this. and i hadn’t prepared for it either. and i feel so childish for such a trivial emotional response to something like Hair.
there are other practical irritations as well – the fever still happens most nights, and my ‘I WILL NOT TAKE PANADOL’ thing has ended, because, well. my oncologist knows more about my liver than i do, and if he says it is ok, it’s ok. so, my head feels both hot and cold. i am tending to wear beanies around the house – and i have a beautiful silk headscarf a friend of my mum’s sent me, which i think might be great for sleeping in, perhaps? but it gets hot, and then cold, and then hot, and then cold – daytime is fine, but working out nighttime techniques are baffling me.
i’ve also become terrified that i have a portacath infection, or that there is something wrong with it. i can feel it under my skin – i mean, it’s a prosthetic device sitting under my skin, so it’s not actually surprising that i am slightly aware of it, especially when i focus on it. ok, only when i focus on it. so i know there’s actually nothing wrong – it’s just me, being slightly silly about it all. i can sort of see it. if it was infected, i would be actually sick. i spent all day walking around, eating food, enjoying myself, at an art gallery. this wouldn’t have happened if i had a severe infection, or if my body was actively rejecting it. i forgot to ask in my paranoid-call-to-nurse-who-is-my-saviour about how i don’t have an infection there.
but amazing-nurse insists that it’s fine to take the trip to tasmania. that it’s important that i continue living a life, not just Being Cancer. i can’t say how good that makes me feel. i’m still a bit scared – the fever is erratic and might not do so well when i’m in a colder climate, and we’ve got a busy-ish schedule, which i’m not sure how awake i’ll be for – but i am also really really excited to get away again. to actually do normal things. ‘normal things’. i don’t know how normal anything is anymore – my hands feel like ice and i have a heat rash on my chest – (this happens every night) sometimes one cheek heats up more, or less, and goes bright red. my hair is falling out. but i can spend time with the people that i love. and i can go places, and see things, and do things. and that’s something i am only starting to really understand, if that makes sense?