Thursday, February 9, 2017

Do I Love My Chemo Curls?


The short answer to that question is "Maybe." It's growing on me.😉

Every time I pass by a mirror these days, I'm startled because I look foreign to myself. All my life, I've had thick healthy hair with good body and just a bit of wave. (My mother is forgiven for the Toni perm she gave me when I was 8.) I've had more cowlicks than I'd like but I've always liked my own hair.

When I learned I needed to have chemo for my breast cancer, like most people, I immediately thought of my hair. Losing one's hair is the most obvious side effect of chemotherapy. Most people do lose their hair -- and not just on your head! -- and most often it happens soon after the second treatment.

My hair started to come out in clumps right on schedule. Instead of waiting for it all to come out, I went to my hairdresser, Bobbi, who shaved my head.  She was kind enough to meet me at her shop after her regular hours. I didn't ask Mr. Rosemary to come with me, even though I'm sure he would have. I went alone. Looking back, I think I was afraid. Afraid of what I'd look like, afraid I'd cry. And I always wanted to appear brave, even if I wasn't.

Getting my head shaved wasn't nearly as traumatic as I'd feared. In fact, Bobbi made it fun. She had me laughing and thinking about what fun we'd have styling my hair when it grew back. (I'm lucky my hairdresser has also become a good friend.)

It is, after all, just hair and it would grow back.

Until it did, I was determined to make the most of it.

I have always loved hats, but often felt conspicuous in them. I once wore a great black picture hat to my niece's wedding (pre-cancer) and a couple of my nephews were reminded of a line from the movie "The Wedding Crashers" -- "Don't waste your time on girls with hats. They tend to be very proper."

Still, I wore hats a lot last summer . . . .


Chemo patients are well advised to stay away from the sun. Another great excuse to wear hats.

I did get a wig, a couple in fact. But I rarely wore them . . . . too hot, too uncomfortable for me. I felt like I was in costume.


I loved playing with scarves, and have built quite a nice wardrobe of them, but the best investment I made was buying a set of bangs. The bangs are on a Velcro strip, so I could attach them to any hat, any scarf.  Made me feel, and look, more like myself.

When I went to bed, I wore a little cap. My head got cold! (Sorry folks, no picture of that.)

Although all these pictures show me smiling, I surely didn't smile all the time. I think I was lucky going through chemo during spring and summer; I know if I was going though all that now, in the doldrums of a gray winter, I might not have been smiling as much.

Good friends throughout my treatment were very uplifting . . . .


Dick and Mary Lou are just two of our friends who made me laugh. I took this group selfie at our neighbor Dude's annual fish fry. Every year on the first day of trout season in April, he hosts a great neighborhood party. He and his brother and friends deep fry walleye, fresh french fries and chicken wings. More buddies play good old-fashioned sing-along music.  The combination of great weather, good food, music and friends -- and plenty of beer flowing -- is unbeatable.  (Dude doesn't go fishing, by the way, not on opening day. He'll wait til the crowds go away.)

I finished my chemo at the end of June, my radiation in September and, yes, my hair started to come back. Mr. Rosemary told me he didn't think I needed to wear hats and scarves anymore. He liked my fuzz; he called me "Peaches" so I had to call him Herb.

A friend who also went through chemo at the same treatment center I did told me about another patient, a very outgoing woman who had terminal cancer, who admonished her for wearing hats and scarves:  "Lose the rag! Be proud of your beautiful head!"

As my hair started to return, I sent a couple pictures to my Florida daughter who told me I looked "distinguished." Her boyfriend said "presidential." Another daughter told me, "Now you really do look like Isabella Rosellini!" (An older Isabella, you understand, not in her super model days!)

My first big "coming out" without a scarf was at my sister Anne's 80th birthday party. It was the first time several family members had seen me and their compliments were plentiful -- and sincere.



I've been back to Bobbi three times for haircuts since October.  I'm not used to managing these curls. All I can do is wash it and slather on some gel . .  and go.  Very freeing.

Will the curls stay? Don't know.  Many people have different experiences. Some people who've had curly hair say it comes in back straight. A lot of people see more gray. (Me, too.) Many of those who get the "chemo curls" say they fade after several months.  We shall see.  In the meantime, I'm just enjoying this wash and go.  And getting back to normal, even if it is a new normal.

Speaking of getting back to normal, I want to apologize to my faithful readers and followers for being absent for a few months. I immersed myself in getting back to normal -- buying and making Christmas presents, organizing closets and drawers, plain old cleaning, all things I wasn't able to do well for months.

But in the midst of getting ready for the holidays, I got another scare -- I needed to get a follow-up diagnostic mammogram after my routine annual screening. There was a "suspicious" area on the other breast, giving me several days of anxiety, even though I tried to talk myself out of it.  But I still couldn't help wondering:  Would I have to go through this again? Turns out there was not a serious problem, so I'm good for another six months.

I continued to be bothered by a herniated disc, too. I got three steroid shots over a period of a two months. The shots helped tremendously, but I continue to experience some pain, especially in the morning. With continued stretching and walking the herniation should continue to shrink. And the Naproset helps a lot. I really don't want more surgery. 

And I missed blogging. I've still been cooking. Even taken several pictures. Have a couple blog posts in draft stages. But mixing blogging about food and cancer in the same post started to seem a bit contrived to me, even though I wanted to do both. (I even thought about sharing a recipe about spiralizing, making "zoodles," along with this chemo curl diatribe! Aren't you lucky.)

I've also been plagued by procrastination. Yesterday, for example, I was bound and determined to finish this post finally. But -- wouldn't you know it? -- our internet service was down for the day.

So, today, I was going to finish for sure. After I cleaned up the kitchen and made the beds and started laundry and paid bills, etc., etc. After I made a broccoli salad for dinner, but, what the heck, why don't I make broccoli soup for lunch? And while I'm at it, why don't I brown some beef for enchiladas later? Of course, then I had to clean up the kitchen again, fold the laundry I started.

It's 2 o'clock and I'm finally sitting down and re-reading what I wrote. I better hit "publish" before I chicken out again. No recipe today . . . and no more pictures of me, either!

16 comments:

  1. Hey Rosie, so great to see you blogging again. Now you understand what it's like to have curls! Peg

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    1. Thanks, Peg. Curls are a challenge. Love a challenge!

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  2. So nice to be back in touch! I like those curls!!

    Best,
    Bonnie

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    1. Thanks, Bonnie. I'll try to be here more . . . and to visit you, too.

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  3. Rosemary, So glad you are on the mend from your cancer journey and the hardest parts are now behind you, wishing you continued strength and good health, and by the way you look beautiful with your short wavy hair, you go girl!

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    1. Yes, the worst is over, Marie, and I know I'm luckier than many. I've never had short hair for very long -- I just may keep it this way!

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  4. Rosemary, you looked GORGEOUS wearing those beautiful hats, but what I love the most is that first coming-out shot...short hair suits you very very well and you glowing! I am so HAPPY for you. My father-in-law just lost his battle to stomach cancer and we have been so worrying about my MIL because she is bounded in wheelchairs, but she seems doing okay.
    Lots of love to you and your family!
    Angie

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    1. I'm so sorry about your father-in-law, Angie. Cancer is such an awful thing, and it seems to be all around us. I do hope your mother-in-law adjusts; I imagine the only thing worse than cancer is losing your partner.

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  5. You are beautiful, my friend. I love those curls (says the girl with the stick straight hair).

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    1. Thanks, Mary . . . I guess I should enjoy the curls while I got them, huh? I'll never have sun-streaked hair like yours! :)

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  6. It is great to see this email in my inbox this morning. You really do look fabulous - both with hats and short hair. I love short hair - I am partial with my own short hair for years. Thank you for sharing your journey. I am a blogger from the west coast - time to step away from read mode only. I love your stories!

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    1. Thanks, Donna . . . glad to meet ya! Give me a way to follow you and I will. I am realizing the convenience of shorter hair (and have always been told that women "of a certain age" should have short hair) it's just taking some getting used to.

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  7. This is very inspirational, Rosemary, and I'm sure your experience will help many women struggling with what to do about their hair. I was one of the lucky ones when I went through chemo. They were trying out frozen gel caps during chemo at the time (in 1990) and I never lost my hair. I'm not sure why they stopped using them - maybe there weren't enough success stories. Continued good health and good hair days to you :)

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    1. I did read about the gel caps, Susan, but I think one of the problems with them is -- not that they don't work -- that they're not covered by insurance and they're expensive. Glad you were lucky! Continued good health (and hair) to you too!

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  8. Good to see you post again! My mom got a wig when she went through chemo, and wore it sometimes. But she wore scarves a lot more -- cooler and easier, she said. Really interesting read -- thanks.

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    1. I'm trying to be more regular, John. I'm with your mom -- the scarves were much more fun than wigs. (Love your chicken chili.)

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I realize you don't have to take the time to comment . . . but it makes my day! So glad you decided to stay.