New Day

Pink Ink…

“My best friend thinks I am going to grow my hair to my butt when this is all done. I don’t think so. I may keep it super short. Aside from teaching my daughter that hair doesn’t make the woman, I think it looks kind of fly. At the end of the day…it’s just hair!”

That’s how I closed my post on November 13th. Halloween will forever be remembered as the day we shaved off my hair. We look back at those pictures and laugh, happy that we were able to turn the process of losing hair into a fun family activity. Here we are many months later and my hair is growing back!

Recently, I met two women at a symposium, who shared that they chose to forgo chemo because they didn’t want to lose their hair. I was dumbfounded. I actually had to sit back and collect myself before I said anything. As a Moderator, it wasn’t my place to judge…at least outwardly. Trust me, I am well aware that every woman’s journey is her own. I also am very clear on the importance that hair plays in our society, especially among Black women. Nonetheless, I was shocked, mad, resentful, and then finally, sad. When I asked if the women were happy with their decision, they both said yes. Instead of saying what was on my mind (“Are you that crazy? Your hair isn’t even that fly! So you would rather be dead?”), I directed the conversation to the way cultural perceptions about breasts and hair can direct how treatment is determined. I followed up with how we, as patients, should pursue the most aggressive treatment available. What else could I do?

But our dialog got me thinking, as I rubbed the fuzz growing on my head. Folks need to hear that it really does come back! So today, instead of dwelling on the fact that I am waiting to find out what’s going on IN my head, I thought I would touch on what’s on TOP of my head.

Now, if you are uncomfortable discussing hair on body parts, STOP HERE! You have been warned! LOL

Now to refresh, chemo kills. Chemo attacks all dividing cells in the body. So in addition to cancer cells (which quickly divide) chemo attacks in particular, hair follicles, the stomach lining, & digestive track. This is why patients get nauseous and lose their hair. The extent of hair loss depends on what drugs are given. For example, the Red Devil caused my hair to fall out…EVERYWHERE, except my eyebrows and lashes. My 2nd round of chemo was a different mixture. So then, my eyebrows and lashes came out as well. Now, I was a hairy chick before all this started. I believe in waxing. So I was happy to lose the unwanted hair.

Again, STOP HERE if you don’t want to read about body hair!

No light fuzz above the lip, no underarm hair, no arm or leg hair was great! Having no eyebrows wasn’t great! It got better, once I learned to draw them on. No eyelashes was no fun. My eyes were dry all the time. Now, no hair…down there…was…umm…interesting. Full disclosure, I was not a “Brazilian” girl. (The pain!) But landscaping is a necessity! Even so, to have nothing down there was a lot. Eventually, I got used to it. The only challenge was when in a public toilet. You know, squatting. When you have NOTHING, there is nothing to direct…the pee! So a few times, let’s just say, it didn’t all make the toilet. Hey, this is CANCER REAL TALK!

But back to the point. It does grow back! And let me tell you, it grows back with a vengeance! As with hair loss, hair growth has become something “the 3Bs” laugh about. Yes, it’s true that the hair on the head “changes”. My hair is now straight. It will be interesting to see if it stays that way. There is also grey now! That’s ok. I don’t mind that, even though I didn’t have it before. It’s also, the 1st time I have seen my natural hair color in years! I love a highlight! So “natural” is interesting. I am also amazed by how many people touch my head. Kind of like when you are pregnant. Side note…please don’t touch my head! As people now ask how long am I going to grow my hair, I realize that folks associate my hair growing back with me being better. Ironically, I miss my baldhead. I look back at my bald pictures with nostalgia. No, I won’t shave it. But I am going to keep it short.

Ok, here’s the crazy part. The rest of my body hair is growing in with the quickness! My hair…down there? Like it never left!! TOO MUCH! Unfortunately, my skin is still too sensitive to really wax. So shaving is a necessity. Underarm hair? Check? Legs? Check? SIDEBURNS??? CHECK! You read correctly. I didn’t have crazy face hair! I felt sorry for those women! But umm, now? Yeah, still trying to work that out! Other Survivors have told me it will fall out. But right now, when I look in the mirror, all I see is hair! All down the side of my face! Plus I have a light mustache! Cute huh? NO! LOL. I’m a tweezing fool. I’ll let you know how that works out. Lil B is tickled. Laughing, she says “At least it’s growing back mom!” My eyebrows are back in. I risked getting them waxed about a month ago. No bushy brows for me! But a month later, they haven’t grown back. So you never know how it will play out. In retrospect, I think I like my drawn on brows better than the real ones! Camouflage makeup is my friend. Thank you MAC and Bobbi Brown!

Why do I share all this? To make the point that hair DOES indeed grow back! Lil B is back to playing with my hair. She wants me to get a Mohawk. (No!) Why do I write about this? Because I want people to fight as hard as they can, even if that means losing their hair. Choose Chemo! Choose life! I did!

Per Alicia Keys…”I’mma live life. Live it loud, like’s there’s only one life. Have to live it up! One Life. Have to live it up.”

Because I chose chemo, because I chose life, I can sing with Alicia…

“It’s a new day, NEW DAY”.

Stay Tuned

pink ink…

Life in the cancer lane could best be described as a “dramedy”. It’s a whole lot of drama with some pretty funny moments sprinkled in. You never know what you’re going to get from day to day. Sometimes it’s all comedy and other times…well you know.

This week, if “My Life in the Cancer Lane” were a 30-minute comedy, it would have played out like this. Each scene starts with me coming out of radiation.

Scene 1: After radiation, you see Cancer Chick with just eyebrows and lip-gloss on, leaving Mayo and driving to get her morning coffee. She pulls into the drive thru, orders coffee, and pulls up to the window to pay. The young guy says in his best “I will always be a drive thru teller” voice, “How you doing SIR? That will be $4.37”. Chick looks up, rolls eyes, and responds, “I am NOT a Sir, here’s the money”. Teller guy pauses, slightly leans out, and says, “Oh…ok…here’s your coffee”. Cancer Chick takes coffee, says “Seriously?” and drives off. FADE TO BLACK

Scene 2: After radiation, you see Cancer Chick in a little more make up, pulling into Nordstrom for some retail therapy. As she is perusing the dresses, two 2nd graders walk by. Cancer Chick smiles and says hi. (They are staring, after all!) One points and says, “You’re ugly.” The other little girl looks shocked, grabs the girl, and runs off to tell the mom. The mom looks back in horror, doesn’t apologize, but hurries away. You then see Cancer Chick text her friend what just happened. The friend responds that Chick should have said “You think this is ugly, you should see my A$$!” Chick laughs. FADE TO BLACK.

Scene 3: After radiation, you see Cancer Chick in FULL FACE, headed to a local convention. She is happy b/c she was recognized with others, for 25 years of philanthropic work. While waiting for another part of the program to start, a little boy with beautiful bouncy curls comes over and just stares. Cancer Chick, again, says hi. He just tilts his head and continues to stare. Finally, he asks, “Why don’t you have any hair?”. She responds, “It all fell out. Can I have some of yours?” The little boy grabs his hair, and screams “NOOOOO” as he runs to find his mom. FADE TO BLACK.

Scene 4: Cancer Chick is in bed with her husband. “Three weeks done!” she says as she looks down at her noticeably browner breast. Husband says she is starting to look more and more like herself. She is beautiful, he says. Cancer Chick rolls her eyes, and says she’s been assaulted by comments all week. Husband laughs and says, “Well at least your nose hair is growing back. That’s a start!” She hits him with a pillow. FADE TO BLACK.

The outtakes of the show would show Cancer Chick at the gym after radiation, after working out, watching tennis. An older gentleman asks her if she found her cancer herself. (They had been talking, but, how forward!) She says yes. He responds, “You need more boyfriends!” and laughs! She says, “I will be sure to tell my husband”. Dude responds, “Well he is useless, b/c he didn’t find it.” FADE TO BLACK.

But you know my journey in the Cancer Lane is never without drama. I have been relying on BET (I’m trying to help them jump into the mini-series game!) or Lifetime to do my story. But I think I am officially moving into HBO territory!

Scene: Cancer Chick is at radiation getting dressed, and phone rings. She ignores it, and camera catches “No cell phone” sign on wall. Next, she gets a text saying, “Call me”. Chick texts that she will call back in a day, after her visitor leaves, and she has a free moment. The responding text “Ok, I’m now in your lane”. Next, the scene goes into slow motion, and you hear only a heart beat. Images pop up on the screen. 2 girls at college. 2 girls in Sorority sweaters at Greek Picnic. Same girls, 1 is a bridesmaid, the other a bride. The two girls, one pregnant, at a baby shower. Same girls on phone laughing, split screen. One is bald. The other isn’t. Finally, screen comes back into focus, and you see and hear Cancer Chick burst into tears. FADE TO BLACK.

Yes, I learned that another woman has entered into the Cancer Lane. Not just any woman, but my 1st friend in college, sorority sister, bridesmaid, my…friend. The friend who texted the “A$$” comment above! Ours is a friendship that has seen many ups and downs in 26 years of knowing each other. But ours is a friendship that brought her front and center during my cancer journey. As I have said before, she and her mother have made me laugh & smile many times over the last 6 months. How could this happen? My initial reaction was panic and tears. Since then we have laughed together, reminisced, and talked “Cancer”. She already has her own growing list of “Sh*t, people say”! Alas, her story is not mine to tell. But our stories are forever intertwined. We will be writing a “bang up” story for the Alumni magazine when this is all done! I only hope I can do for her what she has done for me. Man, talk about being thrown into the role of Cancer Mentor! Where did those big girl panties go…

So life is full of stuff! Drama, comedy, and more drama. Hopefully, I will have more comedy and less drama!

Stay tuned!