When I was first diagnosed with cancer I, like many people, thought about the hair thing. I knew I would lose my hair. I knew the chemo would be ruthless and even though I could find a few people here and there on message boards that didn’t lose their hair or who only had “severe thinning” I knew that my hair was going to go bye-bye. This is tough. The hair thing is tough. Losing your hair is usually the first outwardly VISIBLE sign that you have cancer. And from what everyone said, no matter how prepared you think you are for it, it is difficult to wake up next to a pile of hair that you think the cat coughed up only to remember you don’t have a cat. If you peruse various cancer websites, they will tell techniques you can use to hang onto your hair. Don’t wash as often. Don’t use heating elements. Use baby shampoo. Comb, don’t brush. Never comb when it is wet. All of this in an effort to hang on to it for a little longer, to add just one more week of hair, to keep dead protein on your head for as long as possible.
100 years ago when I was in college, I dated this guy named Ed. For real, that was his name. We dated for 8 months. It was a heavy duty romance. I was in (what I thought was) love and what I learned later was actually the same emotion I feel when I’m watching a friend’s 8 week old boxer mix poop on the rug….something between humor, horror and desperation. Regardless, it was the strongest I had felt about anyone anywhere anytime. And since I was away from home and could, without reprimand, stay up all hours of the night, talk on the phone until the sun came up and (of course) drink --- well we had the makings of a perfectly dysfunctional freshman year relationship.
Anyway, about 7 ¾ months into it, things started changing. Things were – different. He was – different. Conversations were shorter. Time apart was longer and “time with the guys” suddenly became important. And as a woman – or as close to being a woman as I was at that point – I could tell what was happening. I mean I’m not now nor have I ever been THAT thick. It was obvious, we were on the breakup train. As the days went on I could just feel us screaming down the rails at about 100 mph toward the Can’t We Just Be Friends Depot. And since I was new to this whole thing, this whole “love or something like it” thing, I did exactly the right thing to speed up the evitable. I tried to keep him around.
I started meeting him after certain classes
I surprised him in the morning with donuts
I did his laundry when he was at class
I figured out a way to somehow buy all the ingredients and pan and made chocolate chip cookies in the dorm kitchenette.
I did everything I, or my lousy misinformed friends, could think of to keep him hanging on. And guess what happened?
He left anyway. He broke up with me. He took my heart and used it for cheap one-ply toilet paper and blew his big fat nose into it. Figuratively, of course. It was awful. And as the days and weeks wore on I became aware of something. I was more upset about how I acted than about how he did. I was mortified – not by his decision to live his somewhat pitiful life without me but by my behavior prior to (and let’s be honest immediately after) his leaving. And I realized that every single thing I did to keep him around was wasted effort and worse only made me feel badly about myself.
I vowed then and there to NEVER do that again. I would never waste that kind of effort again. If something was inevitable then by golly, let it happen. Never again would I stoop that low. If you want to go then go. Not that there won’t be tears. Not that it won’t be hard but shit fire and save the matches if you are going then be gone. I may not be able to control the decision but I can control my response to it and if at all possible, I can control timing.
10 days after my first treatment my hair began to fall out. Day 11 hair came out in the brush. Days 12 and 13 it came out when I ran my hands through it. Days 14 – 17 it got worse. Day 18 I had to unclog the drain 3 times during my shower. Day 19 I thought of Ed.
Day 20 I took control.
This is big.