The countdown is on: just 5 more dates, then I have completed the time of radiation! Next Monday is the final date - and then I have completed the hardest parts of the cancer treatments and can start to recover.
My hair is sweet and follows the timing, it now reached a (very short) first haircut length. I actually had started to go out of the house without wig a couple of times, feeling okay and comfortable with my short hair - and the high temperatures and humid weather added to that, making me feel fresh when going "topless" without wig. Not that this would be a hair length I have dreamed of, but rather in a “so this is how I look now – I was worried about it, but actually, I like it when I look in the mirror”-way.
Knowing Pema Chodron, the buddhist nun, from her videos does help, too, and gives it an additional positive element. Also, I try to see everything as an experience, and try to accept it as it is, and more so, try to live it positively.
I wasn't sure when the right time for a first cut would be, but then my fellow patient Rachel went to the hairdresser last week and called, saying: “Doro, you have to go, too! It is so soothing for the female soul to be there, especially now with the new short hair.”
So I went to the hairdresser, the one where I bought the wig, and she pampered me: we put color back in my hair. And she took care of my eyebrows, bringing them into shape, and adding color, too. The color made all the eyebrows that are growing again visible – so many!
It feels both good and strange, though, to look in the mirror now: such a difference with the color. I am still a bit shy about it, but here's a photo that I like:
And photos: the one on top shows a hair curl that I cut as memory before chemo started, and the bits of hair my hairdresser cut in my neck.
Right now, I feel sometimes-happy, sometimes-sad. With the color back, I now look like I have a real haircut, and not longer like chemo-hair. On the other hand, my hair looks like it used to do - but just by color, not by length and feeling. So seeing me with the first real haircut since ages makes me go alternatively “hah!” and “huh?” when I look in the mirror. I guess it will take some days until it feels natural.... ah, to have my curls back right now.
From hair to the healing question
The new haircut also sparked a question: two times, I met friends by chance who thought that I am now finished with treatment from the way I look, and who asked: "You are back to health now, yes?" It made me realize that the new haircut and color makes me look healthy. The question remains, though: am I? There is still the radiation that is going on, and afterwards the recovery from it.
The radiation, it will be an important milestone to finish, but the treatment won’t end there – there will be hormone therapy afterwards, which will block possible growth of remaining tumor cells. And again, this is a therapy that is coming with possible and likely side-effects. It is tiring just to start to write about it, and I really wished the radiation was the ending point to all treatment. But then, and I know that on a rational level, it is good to be doing all things that are possible, one measure after another: the operation, the chemotherapy, the radiation, the hormone therapy.
“Think of it as a protection shield”, Rachel said to me. “Don’t dread it, but be positive about it: every day, you can actively protect yourself so that this terrible illness can’t come back.”
It’s a good image: a shield. Which will be charged on a daily basis, ongoing, for the next 5 years. To protect.
The really difficult thing about cancer is: there is no way to tell if there are any tumor cells remaining. So you do what you can, to be on the safe side. Maybe there haven't been any cells remaining after the operation, maybe they caught all there. But you can't know that. It's like dealing with a tiny, tiny ghost that doesn't even cast a shadow.
Those thoughts brought me back to my diagnosis, and with the upcoming milestone doc dates that come with the end of radiation and the start of hormone therapy, I thought it might be an idea to go through all those key figures again. I once did this for some of them, but there are many, and with time I started to mix them up again. So that was good, to get into this theme again. Will blog more about that when hormone therapy starts, but here is a link: cancer diagnosis / staging.
While googling, I also found a lovely video, which is on the uplifting side - and yes, when it started to grow back, my own hair looked a bit like Amelia's, thin and fluffy:
Later I had to smile: guess all the hair reflecions and fussing are a substitute for the deeper anxiety that is coming with words like cancer, staging, therapy. Or when looking at the skin irritations from radiation which are supposed to "heal in a while". Easier to fuss about hair, right?
I am still so glad that there is art therapy, to help to find one's way through all the challenges and changes. In the last session, we did experimental paintings with aquarell colors and ink. And I added an extra layer of experimental by taking photos in a place of shadow and light:
When looking for a shadow quote, I arrived at this beautiful quote from Rilke, which also is a good ending note for this blog post:
“So don’t be frightened, dear friend, if a sadness confronts you larger than any you have ever known, casting its shadow over all you do. You must think that something is happening within you, and remember that life has not forgotten you; it holds you in its hand and will not let you fall. Why would you want to exclude from your life any uneasiness, any pain, any depression, since you don’t know what work they are accomplishing within you?” ― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
Previous Blog Posts
Here are the links to the previous blog posts:
- From 2 weeks ago: Radiation countdown: 13 left to go (+ the tiredness of it)
- The first post about radiation: Going through radiation, or: emotions vs. logic, ghosts, that parallel world, and a hammock
- Between chemo and radiation: "Deported", chemo dreams, and a life lesson in a bubble
- And the one from the last chemo: Final chemo, snapshot of me, and a flashback forward look