Thursday 22nd August 2013
The nurses had told me that my hair would start falling out some time between 17 and 21 days after my first hit of chemotherapy. It started falling out on day 19, Friday 16th August, smack bang in the middle of their predicted time frame. It wasn’t falling out in big clumps, it was just shedding. If I ran my fingers through my hair, I’d have quite a bit of hair in my hand, which my daughter found quite amusing and loved to show her friends at school drop off or pick up, or on play dates. It got a bit worse each day, to the point where everywhere I went, I’d leave some hair behind.
So, how did I feel about the hair loss? Initially I didn’t really care. It was going to happen and there was nothing I could do about it so no point getting upset. There were much bigger things to worry about anyway. When my hair started falling out, I will admit, it was not pleasant. It just felt like another kick in the guts to go along with all the other crap cancer brings into your life. Fast forward two months and now I really could not care less. In fact, I would go as far as saying I’m glad I don’t have (much) hair. As anyone with long hair will know, the washing, drying and straightening routine can really be a drag, so on days when I’m feeling crap, not having to wash my hair is a bonus. And on days when I’m feeling good, not having to wash my hair is also a bonus. Just throw on a scarf and I’m ready to go. Hair loss is one of the welcome side effects of chemotherapy.
A sightly amusing aside to this hair loss business, was that the last time I had my hair cut, I made an appointment for my next hair cut. I never do that. I always wait until I’m desperate for a hair cut and then I can’t get an appointment for about a month so I have to wait even longer. I’m not as bad as Lisey; I’ve had a lot more than seven hair cuts in my life, but I was never one to tend to my locks regularly. The appointment for my next haircut was 31st August. That appointment was quite promptly cancelled when I was diagnosed with cancer.
The beginning of hair loss made the need for wigs and scarves more urgent. I had one wig and a few scarves from the wig library, but didn’t have anything I was really happy with, and I had a wedding coming up. I mentioned in an earlier post that I was really surprised, completely gobsmacked actually, by how hard it was to find scarves. Nobody seemed to know where to find them. After much googling, I finally stumbled across Hat House, an online hat store specialising in cancer hats, chemo hats, scarves, headware and accessories. Hat house was created by a lady who went through breast cancer nearly ten years ago. Her website had such a huge array of hats and scarves, I didn’t know where to start. Fortunately there was an option of going to her house to look at the range and try them on. After a quick phone call, an appointment was made for Thursday 22nd August. This is the day Jenni had set aside to accompany me on the expedition, because we all know how much Jenni likes shopping. Oh, and she was being a caring, helpful sister. Jenni had also done some research, through a friend with alopecia, and had been recommended a wig shop on Chapel Street. The plan had been to take my mum along too, to buy her a dress to wear to the upcoming wedding, but a gastro outbreak at the child care centre meant my son was not going to child care to be exposed to germs to pass on to me. At 18 months of age, a full day of shopping would not have been pleasant for him (or me), so he stayed home with my mum.
I should probably interrupt the scarf and wig expedition to talk about the aftermath of chemotherapy round 2. Fortunately, I don’t need to dedicate a whole post to it as it was nowhere near as bad as round 1, thanks I’m sure to, the avoidance of maxolon. On Tuesday after chemo, I was a bit fuzzy. Wednesday was wig library day, which I couldn’t be bothered with, but I got through. Thursday was the worst day and was mostly spent in bed feeling completely drained. Friday was slightly better and I was pretty good by the weekend. On Sunday, I noticed a bit of pain and swelling on the back of my left hand above where the cannula had gone in to deliver chemotherapy. I could feel that the vein had gone hard and felt like a cord. I mentioned it to Lisey who said I should call the chemo nurses to let them know. I was a bit annoyed by the need to call them because after three phone calls following chemo 1, I was hoping to not have to call them following chemo 2. I called the nurses on Monday as I was a bit concerned it was a reaction to the chemo leaking out of the vein and damaging the surrounding tissues (called extravasation) but I thought it was a bit late for that (that is, I thought that reaction would have happened earlier). I was told this hardening of veins in pretty common and that as long as the area wasn’t red and looking infected then I didn’t need to do anything. I wondered if it meant I’d need a PICC line (more about these in a later post). I didn’t need one urgently but if my veins kept hardening (or sclerosing) then I would probably need one. I felt pretty normal for all of the second week, which included the scarf and wig expedition day. I started referring to my bad (chemo) week and good (non-chemo) week.
Back to the expedition. Jenni and I set off on Thursday morning. First stop, Hat House. I was so glad I’d found this place. The lady who ran/owned it was lovely and very helpful. Finally someone could tell me how to tie a head scarf! And she had several scarves that had built in caps so you just slipped them on and tied a bow. It almost felt like cheating. There was such a huge array of hats and scarves that I probably spent over an hour trying them all on before I purchased several. I’m sure I would have purchased several more if Jenni had her way. If there’s one thing she likes more than shopping, it is shopping with other people’s money!
Part 1 of the day’s mission was very successful. I had several scarves including a classy silk one that would match the dress I was planning to wear to the upcoming wedding. Now onto wig shopping. We headed in to Chapel Street and tried to find the wig shop we had been referred to. The lady who had recommended it to us couldn’t remember exactly where it was so finding it proved a challenge. We had parked outside a hairdressing salon so thought we’d start by asking them if they knew where the wig shop was. They didn’t know but told us that they made wigs. From memory they started at about $700, which I thought was expensive, but they were made from human hair and were tailor made. All I had to do was tell them exactly what I wanted, and they would make it. Something to think about. We left there and tried to find the wig shop. After marching up and down Chapel Street several times, we were finally informed that the shop had burnt down, along with several others, in a fire several months ago.
I was a bit over it by then so we decided to head to Southland as Jenni wanted to buy a computer and she’d spent the last three years researching and thinking about it. On the way to Southland, we just happened to drive past a wig shop called Waks Wigs so we popped in for a look. The lady in there was wearing a wig and we couldn’t tell. It looked like her real hair. We found out that Jewish women wear wigs after they get married so they look beautiful for their husbands. I will bite my tongue! This shop had so many wigs; synthetic and human hair, ranging in price from several hundred to several thousand dollars. The human hair wigs were clearly better and you really could not tell I was wearing a wig when I tried them on. See for yourself.
I’m sure you’ll agree that they look just a tad better than the wigs on offer at the wig library……but they came at a price.
The ladies in the shop tried very hard to convince me to buy one, as did Jenni, and they were nearly successful. I was almost going to say “what the hell? I’ve got cancer, might as well spend some money on myself” and splash out but I was quite convinced that if I did, Jenni would find the same wigs for half the price the next day. The ladies told me that I needed to buy a good wig because I was going through such a horrible experience so I needed to be able to look beautiful. Some may find that comment offensive. Why should I need hair to look beautiful? But I wasn’t offended. I knew what they were trying to say. They tried to convince me that I would wear the wig every day and get so much use out of it that it would be money well spent. Given that it seemed I would hardly be leaving the house every second week for the rest of the year, I thought that was unlikely, so I decided I didn’t need a very expensive wig and would shop around. I should add that they offered me a discount on the wigs because I was sick. The good old cancer card!
We then headed off to Southland where, after much deliberation and further shopping around for the best price, Jenni bought a computer but then she couldn’t go through with the purchase because some gift cards she had didn’t work. We were under time pressure to get back home to get her daughter to dancing but we ended up being too late so she missed dancing anyway. Jenni had to return to Southland the next day to purchase the computer but it all turned out good because she found some computer accessories for a better price in the mean time. That all may be a little bit irrelevant to my cancer adventure but if you know Jenni, I’m sure it’s given you a laugh.
When I returned home that night, I showed my daughter my scarves and she took great pleasure in modelling them for me. She had rather creative ways of wearing some of them.
As I mentioned earlier, once my hair started falling out, it got a bit worse each day, to the point where it was getting annoying and messy. It was time to cut it all off. I’d cancelled my appointment for a hair cut on 31st August but my hairdresser had very kindly offered to cut my hair short whenever it was time to do so. She is usually very hard to get into but when Jenni told her my hair had started falling out, she offered to stay open late on a Friday night to cut my hair. So, the appointment was made for 5 pm on Friday 23rd August.