Friday, September 16, 2011

Well, ain't that a kick in the pants...

Met with Dr. Tepler yesterday afternoon to go over the Onctotype score and what it means. As previously mentioned, if I scored 18 or under, it would mean that I wouldn't benefit from chemotherapy. A score higher than 18 would mean that I should benefit. And, wouldn't you know, instead of just being able to vote, I'm legal to drink. Yes, I came in at 21. Which means enough to make chemotherapy beneficial.


The chemo I'm being put on is only administered 4 times over 12 weeks, which isn't too bad. It's called TC - Taxotere & Cytoxan. The good news is that there's not much nausea, no real big pain problems. The immune system booster may make my bones "ache," but that's it. Except for one side effect.

I will, 100% for sure, lose all my hair between the second and third round of chemo. Which means between October 18 and November 7, I'll be as bald as a coot.

I was able to rationalize the double mastectomy has merely a really extreme boob job. Not ideal, nothing I'd ever planned, but that's the net result, right?

But chemo? 3 hours of sitting in a room with a needle in my room, poison being injected into me. (I'm going to be bored to tears. I mean, can I have my laptop with me? I'd better be able to have my laptop... focus, Rica, focus... ) Even though TC doesn't have too many side effects, what if I'm the 1 in 300 that does? Odds have been all over the place with me.

Chemo alone would be one thing.

But losing my hair? I've been so depressed over having a short haircut that, at the time, felt liberating but, upon restrospect, had me quarantined in the house for weeks. I love my hair. I mean, I genuinely love my hair. Ironically, it hasn't been this healthy since I was a child when I had my Laura Ingalls braids. When all I had to do was swim in the pool and play in the sun and I would go from rich, ash blonde hair to Barbie blonde wisps. When I could grow my hair to my waist. When I used to take baths just so I could submerge my head and watch my hair move around me like a mermaid's hair, swirling around my face.

And, now, after years of trying to make my hair stay straight, I'd finally learned that my hair was curly, and the frizzy insanity that had plagued me when I tried to style my hair tamed into what my hair stylist called "Mermaid hair." I'd let the processed hair grow out, and I'm now left with my virgin hair, my original color, which, after some bike rides and time in the sun, was just starting to get sun-kissed as it did when I was a kid. And I was finally getting some length.

As if my ego weren't frail enough after losing my bosom, which I didn't have much to complain about prior to the mastectomies, I am now leaving the last remaining (visible) sign of femininity. Can a wig really replace that? Will a wig ever feel like it's a part of me? I'm concerned enough that the silicone will always feel like a foreign body and not a part of me. And now, until at least May or June, I'm going to have to have a wig to replace my hair?

I do not have a good bald head, either. The one styling complaint I've had is the fact that I have a slope in the back of my head. Fortunately, the curly hair and layering has covered it, as have elastics and barrettes. But bald? I'll have no way to hide it.

And the scarf? The tell-tale scarf? The, "WOW, that lady is bald - she must have cancer!" scarf? Yes, I used to wear a bandana on a regular basis at camp and in school. But with my hair flowing out the back, with just the right curl of hair at the front poking out. But this will not be a Johnny Depp homage. This will not be a kefiyah to ward off the sun in the Israeli desert. I'll have no hair poking out the bottom. I'll have no eyebrows. No eyelashes.

Yes, I know, I won't have to shave my legs, or my armpits. I won't have to worry about a bad hair day, as I stated in that last blog. But, honestly, I wrote that last blog thinking that the chemo plan wouldn't be as harsh and I'd have a chance to save my hair. I didn't realize that the shorter, easier chemo plan Dr. Tepler spoke about had only one real side effect - the hair loss.

Now, I'm going to look like Kim Zolciak, only without real eyebrows or eyelashes. And that's really bad. I can't imagine that a wig can look like it grew from my scalp. On-stage? Sure. For Halloween? Absolutely. But look at this. You can see it's a wig a mile away.

I can't help but remember teachers from Bi-Cultural who were so painfully obviously wearing wigs. I could never understand why anyone would voluntarily wear a wig. They stand so much higher above where they should. You don't have a natural hair line. It just looks wrong.

And my hair is never overly-styled. It's always tousled, unless I really go all out and straighten and style it for an event. And even then, it falls into its natural position.

How can a wig fall into anything natural? Even human-hair?

Anyway, to make matters worse, when Dr. Tepler and I figured things out, he told me very simply that I won't be able or alright with going wigless for months - not until May or June! Are you kidding me?!

How am I going to do this?

I am going to shave my head. I have to. I can't bear to see clumps of hair disappear. I get upset enough after the shower when, thanks to my Hashimoto's Disease, I see more hair than others normally see wash away. At least there aren't bald spots. But this? The random spots of scalp? I can't do it.

Besides, I'm an all-or-nothing kind of girl. And this way, I can donate my hair to someone else.

So, I'm shaving my head. On October 16. At the LIVESTRONG Challenge with my LIVESTRONG friends and family, my children at my side. I'm taking charge. I'm going to take my hair before the chemo does.

I'm asking you to be a part of it. My kids are making me a big card, which will be with us on Sunday at ROCK the RIDGE benefiting LIVESTRONG and Yellow Night at Danny's, and everyone who donates $18 or more to my LIVESTRONG Challenge Account from now until September 23 (the last day for Ride for the Roses qualification) to sponsor the head shaving will get to sign the card. (We'll sign your names for online donations.) The kids' idea is that the card will remind me, when I get depressed about not having my hair, that there are people who support me, who can see past the baldness when I can't. (If you're going to be in Austin for the Challenge, donate $50 and you can physically help shave my head and take a swipe with the clipper!)

Donate today. LIVESTRONG.


  1. I'm sorry. I can't imagine.

    But I have watched this happen. My niece was sixteen when they told here she had to cut her gorgeous, thick mane of blond hair short prior to chemo because it was an infection risk. She thought it was her "pretty" thing.

    She and her mother and I cut our hair short at the same time. I hadn't had short hair in years and years. I HATED my short hair growing up, and I'd grown it out as soon as I could, and it took FOREVER. But the perspective of the situation and the opportunity to give ten inches of hair to Locks of Love was a privilege.

    The heartbreak was seeing my niece have to own up to the fact that her hair was really falling out for good. I happened to be the one sitting there as she stoically pulled out clump after clump of hair. Then she went to have some private time until she could see her mom, and I went to hide and cry.

    Because of that experience, and because you just ROCK, I think the shaving of your head BRILLIANT. And, BTW, remember not everyone loses all their eyebrows or eyelashes, etc. My niece didn't (and she was on heavy, HEAVY chemo).

    You will own it. You will rock it. And your hair will come back (probably even curlier at first). It will be amazing.

    Oh - one more suggestion from a sixteen-year-old's fashion files: Try the temp tattoo on the base of your neck. Why not? It's VERY cool and what an excellent excuse!

  2. LOVE the idea of the temp tattoos! I was thinking of playing with henna, actually! Thanks so much for the support!


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