The Branding of a Cancer Patient

First Chemo Treatment

If you want #thedirtytruth… I am having some real issues writing about cancer.  I always get stuck right before I am about to write about chemotherapy.  I end up distracting myself with other obligations and my computer begins its journey of dust balls.  It happens when I begin to write about the first day of chemo.  Out of nowhere my mind starts to trail off into the memories of walking down the green mile to the double doors that housed rows of green leather chairs.  I can still smell the aroma of freshly brewed chemo and the vision of each patient with an IV attached.  I can still feel the pain on the top of my left hand from where the IV was inserted each visit.  And if someone were to ask me to describe it I can still go back and taste the metal in my mouth.  I can feel the coldness of the liquid behind my eyes and down my thighs.  I can still see the blood red pee that happens from one of the many cocktails they give you.  That’s the reality of it.  It was disgusting.  It lingered in my body long after leaving the hospital.

It made my mind foggy and my thoughts were meshed into knots.  Despite going to the gym every day I became heavy.  The steroids and chemo changed my face structure.  My smile changed and so did everything else.  At night when I was alone with Golden Girls on the television and a bottle of Vicodin, I would wait for the moment my hair was finally ready to part.  I would lie on my pillow and feel the burning of my scalp.  It would slowly die.  My long curly hair would say good-bye to me.

As I would take a shower, my hands would tremble as I shampooed and tears would roll down my face.  It was torment.  Each shower and piece of hair that fell made me queasy.  Anticipation was the worst part.  But finally, it happened.  During one of my showers as I was washing out the conditioner I pulled clumps and clumps of dead curly hair.  I saw it fall to the floor.  The wait was over.  It was a release.  I was able to breathe again.  I pulled as much out as possible and threw it in the trash.  My mom later told me that my dad saved my hair in a plastic bag and put it away in his dresser.  I guess everyone lost something.

So, I had a choice.  Fight or flight.  I chose to fight.  I got dressed and told my parents it was time to shave my head.  They stared at me bewildered, but it was a decision I needed to make.

People always tell you that hair is the crown of a woman.  My hair was an extension of my personality.  My curls told the world I was different and exciting.  I was wild and untamed.  However, I needed to say fuck you to cancer and the stereotypes.  I needed to no longer hide behind my hair.  They say when a woman cuts her hair short she is making a statement to the world.  So I had to Brittany Spears myself minus the massive breakdown.

When we walked into my hair salon and I told them they needed to shave my hair off.   They looked at me like I had asked them to perform illegal surgery.  I sat in the chair and told them again… cut my hair off.

He first put my hair in a ponytail and then stared again at me.  Cut it.  Just fucking firsthaircutcut it.  He grabbed his scissors and cut off the ponytail.  He thought it was over.  Now shave it.  He grabbed his razor.  Tears were rolling down my face.  The sound of the razor buzzed in my ear and he started to remove what was left.

firsthaircut1I had a bald spot in the back of my head from where I pulled out most of my hair in the shower.  But overall, it was a tight cut.  It was temporary until I had to actually shave it all off.  But it was a start.   Going bald was one of the hardest parts of cancer.  Once the head wraps go on your officially branded a cancer patient.  Now you look the part.  People can now see the sickness whereas before it was hidden and silent.


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