When my oncologist said “chemo,” I immediately thought of a bald head, and he explained that not all chemo makes your hair fall out. There are actually only a small percent of people that experienced loss of hair with the chemo that I was assigned. I did, however, talk to our kids ahead of time about hair loss. I wanted our kids to be well informed throughout my treatment and I wanted them to hear the correct information from us, their parents, not kids on the bus and not kids on the playground.
When I told our daughter that there was a possibility that my hair would fall out, with her first grade wisdom she informed me that it would be alright because we have already have that blue wig for dress up and I could just wear that one. So, that was my promise to her. If my hair were to fall out, I would wear the blue wig.
Week after week, I still had my hair. Then there was surgery, complications, surgery and a long hospital stay, but I still had my hair. Shortly after beginning my second 6 months of chemo, my hair began to change. It wasn’t falling out. It was breaking off – just about 2 inches from my scalp my hair was literally snapping off. I would blow dry my hair and just watch it fly away. I felt like I was covered in lose hair all the time. I would find it in my shirt, my sleeve and on my pillow. I clogged the shower drain like it was my daily job!
I thought getting a cute bob would eliminate the “hair, hair everywhere” effect. Wrong! With a short hair cut, I couldn’t pull my hair back into a ponytail or messy bun, so all those 2 inch strands just stuck straight up like I had been electrocuted or like I had my hand on one of those static electricity balls at the science museum.
When I brought my hair issue too my oncologist he explained that it was a combination of the body’s response to trauma (chemo, surgery) and malnutrition. Yes, malnutrition! I couldn’t eat much during treatment and in the hospital I was put on TPN – total parenteral nutrition. TPN is concentrated nutrition received through IV when the GI tract is non-functional.
It’s funny. I really hadn’t thought about that hair issue, until just recently when someone asked me when did I get bangs. Bangs? I don’t have bangs? A scrutinizing look in the mirror revealed that I did in fact have bangs and that all too familiar halo of broken hair. What the heck?
I often say that I have short term memory loss (chemo brain really never truly goes away)…which is very true, but I guess my long term memory is quite intact. One look in the mirror and it was as if I was sitting in my oncologist office listening to him describe the effects of malnutrition on the body. Damn it!
My most recent surgery was much more complicated than anyone anticipated and I quickly developed an ileus. An ileus is basically when the bowels stop functioning – no gas sounds and no movement. An ileus is treated with an NG tube (check) and IV fluids (check). After surgery the patient (me) is NPO – nil per os – Latin for nothing by mouth. I’m assuming you can guess where this is going. Nothing by mouth – no food. No food – malnutrition. Hello TPN!
After a few weeks at home, I noticed my hair felt a little different and the drain was starting to clog, but I didn’t think anything about it until the bangs conversation. Damn it!
My hair is starting to grow back in, so I have an awesome 2-inch halo of thick hair. Yesterday after blow drying my hair, I realized that I could easily fit in with an 80’s hair band or possibly Wayne’s World. As I came out of the bathroom this morning, our youngest said, “What wrong with your hair?”