Sunday, June 19, 2011

Hair and Happy Father's Day

Last weekend I had a revelation.  The last time I had a full head of hair was in December of 2009, before my transplant.  I've mentioned a few times here that about a third of my hair grew back, and we were a little unsure as to why it wasn't totally returning, if it was chemo or GVHD.  It usually takes 2-3 months for hair to fully regrow after chemo, so as the months went by I was pretty disappointed to not have my own hair, and I was using Rogaine for Men to try to make it grow more.  Baldness is the number one physical mark of being a cancer patient, and you just want it gone.  I got a couple of wigs and wore them occasionally, but it's been a long time since I dressed up or put on a wig because I've been pretty busy with treatments and being weak and not doing a lot.

Last weekend it all of a sudden occurred to me that I don't really care if my natural hair ever grows back.  It's probably been wiped out by graft versus host disease over the past 18 months.  GVHD, which is the reaction of the donor cells against my cells, can cause joint, skin, liver, eye, and hair issues (among many, many others!).  I realized on Saturday that my hair has been the victim of GVHD and is gone forever, and it really wasn't a big deal.  I was surprised when I reread the entry I linked to above because I was so sad at that time at not having my own hair, and my attitude now is so different.

Hair is such a complicated issue when you're dealing with cancer.  Losing it is a very clear symbol of your illness, and it takes a while to grow back to your original style after you've finished treatment; it can take a year or more depending on your hair.  Cancer makes you feel pretty unattractive and being bald, especially for women, makes you feel even uglier because it's so abnormal.  Everything else in your life changes so much, and you don't even look like yourself anymore.  You have to come to the realization that if you need to lose your hair in order to live, that's okay.  I am really lucky because my dad has been bald as long as I can remember and always been very cool about it, so the fact that I am bald has never been a problem for me, just the fact that cancer made me bald, if that makes sense.     

So this week I wore the Aubrey wig almost every day, and it was great.  I felt less sick, more normal, and even kind of pretty!  I really like the Aubrey color and cut, and I got tons of compliments from everyone at the hospital.  I had never worn a wig there before so it was a new thing for everyone.  There's no point in wearing a wig to a cancer center, they're all bald anyway!  You aren't fooling anyone!

Anyway, so there you have it.  I'll be a red head until I decide to switch wigs.  It's really liberating to have come to terms with this and be so comfortable with it.  Look at how much easier my life is.  I only have to wash the wig every 8-12 wears, it's easy to style, takes 30 seconds to put on in the morning... life is good!

A few words about my dad, since it's Father's Day and he's such an important part of my life.  My dad and I are very similar, and we've always gotten along really well.  He'll do things to help you without being asked, just by anticipating what you might need, and he's such a loving, caring guy, which you can tell by all of his actions.  He's also really funny and has a list of reasons why being bald is great.  Saving time and money are of course the most important reasons, but don't forget that if you're being chased by the police you can hide out in the melon section at the grocery store.  Hahaha!

Thanks Dad, for being such a great guy, and Happy Father's Day to everyone else out there.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad that you are feeling better about hair loss. Have your doctors said whether its likely to be permanent? A friend is going through chemo at the moment and I thought being a guy that the hair loss would be easier to deal with. Although he admitted it was hard to lose his underarm (and other) hair because it made him feel less masculine.

I like the wig you've chosen! Does it get itchy? I'm glad it makes you feel good about yourself. Is a wig hard to care for? I've lost a lot of hair lately with dermatitis of my scalp which was a tad worrying until the doctors said it would grow back in time.

Take care of yourself and enjoy the different wigs!

Anonymous said...

It took me ages to write that last post trying not to sound insensitive about hair loss... it doesn't quite read as sincere as I meant it! My minor hair loss is nothing to what you've been through and I'm so glad that you have found comfort with the possibility of your hair not growing back, with your hair as it is and also with wearing a wig. You sound like a very courageous and strong woman and you should be so proud of yourself!!

Zhu said...

All in all, it's just... hair. Okay, that sounds insensitive, let me explain! It sucks you lost it but it's because you fought hard and maybe you can see it as one of these scars, a reminder of how brave you've been.

The wigs are a cool option, and I like "Audrey".

Animesh said...

Yay for the new PoV :)

Are their pics of you in this wig?


au soleil levant said...

Kim - your post was perfect, don't worry about a thing! I'm sorry to hear about your friend who is dealing with cancer, I hope he has a quick and complete recovery.

As far as the permanence of the hair loss, no one really knows. It might grow back some day when the gvhd eventually burns itself out, or it might not. There are a lot of unknowns with transplant, and everyone is a little different. The wig isn't too itchy, but I haven't worn it outside in the heat much, so we'll see what happens when I wear it in the heat. The wig is pretty easy to care for, just dump it in a sink full of water and special shampoo for a few minutes, use conditioner the same way if necessary, and then let it dry. Drying time depends on the length of the hair.

And no worries about complaining about the dermatitis. I'm very sensitive to people with hair growth problems in general, no matter how they started, because I know how tough it is to deal with. I'm glad your hair will grow back in time, and until then, scarves are a lovely accessory for the head too :) Thanks for all the nice comments.

Zhu - you're right, it's just hair! I never thought of it as being another scar to remind me of what I've been though, so thanks for the suggestion, that will be useful. The wigs are definitely fun, but I like accessorizing with scarves too, that's a fun way to dress up my totally plain, boring wardrobe :)

Animesh - you know I like to pretend that I'm anonymous on my blog and don't post pictures of myself :) I also don't have any yet. Maybe I'll send you one when I have it :)

Animesh said...

Sure. Will wait for a pic in my email :)

Mary Harvest Kitchen said...

So excited to hear that you've started wearing your wigs on a regular basis. I really hope you'll wear it when we hang out on Wednesday--it'll be sweet to see what you look like as a red head. Yay!

getyourselfconnected said...

I thought we discussed purple hair a while back......

Happy Fathers Day for your pops!

au soleil levant said...

Animesh - no promises of a picture in your inbox anytime soon :)

Mary - okay, I'll wear Aubrey on Wednesday! She'll be freshly washed and clean.

GYSC - you're right, I should get a fun purple wig with s rocker chick cut. I'll have to look for that next!

Leesa said...

Hey Mira..

This post is very true to the heart... I'm going to send you an email instead of posting here.. but I wanted to say- I just admire you and your thinking so much!

Also, Happy Father's Day to your wonderful dad.. I'm sure he's proud to have such a wonderful daughter as yourself..

Love and hugs, Leese

au soleil levant said...

Thanks Leesa!

Monique said...

That's so awesome you're accepting this! I bet the red hair looks great on you :)

And I hate to admit, I had no idea that hair doesn't really grow back after chemo. At least you can style it and be out the door in seconds! :)

I hope you and your dad had a wonderful father's day. He's lucky to have a daughter like you.

au soleil levant said...

Monique - I'm a rare case of hair not growing back after chemo that would only happen to someone who has had a bone marrow transplant. So don't worry too much about it. Thanks for all the nice comments :)