It’s Just Hair

I cut my hair this week.

Knowing that it’s going to fall out once I start chemo, I figured it would be easier to deal with that loss if less hair was actually hitting the floor/shower/pillow.

A haircut might not sound like a big deal, but for a long hair devotee like me, it’s a major change. How major? This is the last time I had short hair:

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In case you can’t tell by my amazing fashion and way-cool Geo Storm, this is 1999.

That’s right folks, I haven’t had short hair since the ’90s, when I was growing out my Dharma & Greg haircut (I also had the Rachel–I was really into sitcom hair back then).

I love my long hair. It’s thick and shiny and pretty.

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R.I.P., long hair.

I told my stylist about my cancer diagnosis, and she was understandably shocked and saddened. She’s been styling my hair for nearly a decade now, and she and I have known each other through getting married, buying houses, having kids–all the big stuff.

Since she knows me so well, I knew she’d be able to help me through this process. We decided on a sassy layered bob. I probably should have gone shorter, but this was already pretty drastic for me, so I decided to stick with what felt comfortable.

But first, I had to take care of my roots.

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Sex-ay!

I know it was probably stupid to spend good money on highlights for hair that’s going to fall out in a few weeks, but getting my color done just felt normal and good. I need every chance I can get to feel normal and good right now.

The actual process of getting my hair cut wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. A few snips and it was gone. And once my amazing stylist was finished, I actually felt excited about my new ‘do.

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Hello, awkward selfie.

I know this look won’t last long, but I’m enjoying it while I can. In fact, I’m actually thinking about staying short once my hair grows back in.

I know the real hair drama is still ahead of me. My stylist made me promise to call her when I’m ready for the clippers. I know that cut will be different and much less fun. But, hair grows back, and right now I’m trying to remember that it’s a small price to pay to meet a much greater goal.

 

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The End of Breastfeeding

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I was one of those lucky moms who was able to breastfeed their child. We hear all this stuff about “breast is best” and women feel an incredible amount of pressure to breastfeed their children. The reality is that, yes, breastfeeding is great for babies. But it’s also incredibly hard. And sometimes, it just doesn’t work out. Babies won’t (or can’t) latch correctly, moms don’t produce enough milk, etc., etc.

The first couple of months were really hard for my son and me. There were plenty of tears from both of us as we found our way, but eventually we did, and established a pretty good groove. So good, in fact, that I breastfed much longer than I ever intended to–21 months.

I always said I’d be thrilled to be able to do it for six months. I never thought I’d be an extended breastfeeding mom. But my son never lost interest, and honestly, I’d backed myself into a corner using the boob as a crutch to soothe him and get him to go to sleep at night. I was actually ready to stop, but afraid I’d never get him to sleep again.

Then cancer intervened. Once I found out about it, I stopped letting him nurse on that side. And this week, the other side had some weird spots on an MRI. My doctor asked if I’d been breastfeeding on that side, and when I said yes, he let me know that was the culprit. I knew I’d have to quit altogether soon anyway because I’m about to start chemo, so I decided that day to pull the plug.

My son was not pleased. He’s too little to understand, so he cried a good bit when I told him no. And then I cried because I never expected our breastfeeding journey to end this way. Even though it was certainly time, we were forced to stop, unable to end it on our own terms. I know it’s the best thing for us both, but it still hurts.

Cancer takes so many things away from a person. I’ve just begun my journey, so I haven’t lost the biggies yet, like my hair or even my breasts, but these little losses are still pretty tough. They serve as constant reminders that my life is no longer in my control, and that things will never be the same again.

 

“I have cancer.”

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One of the things that people don’t tell you about having cancer is how hard it is to tell other people about your diagnosis. I mean, who wants to call someone they care about and drop a giant turd like that?

I’m still in the process of telling people. There are friends whom I care about but don’t talk to often that I still haven’t told. It’s just awkward. “Hey, I know it’s been a couple of months since we spoke, but I have cancer.”

See? Awkward as hell.

But here’s the thing about telling: It actually feels kind of good once you get past the awkward part. The amount of support I’ve felt in the last two weeks from family, friends and coworkers has been incredible. It has moved me to tears more than once. And it has reminded me that even though I’ve been dealt a pretty shitty hand, I’m also incredibly fortunate.

So, I’ll keep telling. The awkward will pass, but what I’ve found is the love will remain.

The Worst Layover Ever

I found out I have cancer as I was boarding a plane in the Atlanta airport, en route to Chicago for a work trip. My boss and another coworker were with me. I stood in the crowded terminal, struggling to hear and comprehend the words of the radiologist while boarding orders were announced and fellow travelers streamed around me.

It was like a scene out of some kind of really terrible chick flick.

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This is not where you want to receive really terrible news.

But we don’t get to choose where we get shitty news like this. And we don’t get to choose the point in life when something like this happens. Were I to get that choice, I’d decide at 102 it was time and they could throw whatever they wanted at me.

Instead, I got cancer at age 37. Thirty-freaking-seven. I don’t smoke, I exercise regularly and I’m relatively healthy. I have an almost-two-year-old. I am just starting to hit my stride in my career. My marriage is great. I am comfortable. I am happy. Why the hell is this happening now?!

The thing is, cancer doesn’t give a damn what you’ve got going on. Happy and healthy? Too bad. Old and alone? Sorry, not sorry. Broke and barely getting by? Tough shit.

Cancer is an asshole, and cancer does not care. And that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned, thus far. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you are or what you’re doing. It can happen to anyone.

So, I’ve become that annoying person who reminds everyone to do their breast checks and go to their annual physicals and get that weird mole checked out. Yes, those things can be annoying and slightly scary, but they also can give you the gift of time that can save your life. I’m thankful I found my lump when I did and not a year from now. And as anyone with this disease will tell you, any little leg up you can get in this battle is good.

All that said, this blog is mostly a place for me to dump my feelings and experiences. If someone else can get something from it, that’s even better. Thanks for reading.