chemotherapy hair loss

Several months ago I walked into a Southampton hair salon and had my highlights done. And no, I had not done any research beforehand, and had not asked anyone to recommend a good colourist. So, as can be expected – as I should  have expected – it was a hair disaster. She took what was a lovely blond with too dark roots, and turn my hair into an ashy, trashy mess. The bleach white darkened my natural brown; I became a skunk.

Freaking out, I made for Boots and picked up two boxes of hair dye. Three hours later I was strawberry blond. Two weeks later that colour was washing out. Now, I was an ugly orange/blond/brown mixture. So again to Boots! This time I selected an even darker brown. Back home, back to leaning over the tub with the hose in my hand – give it twenty minutes to set – BAM, brunette again, finally. (It was my goal to get back to my original colour, or as much as possible, because blond was now out of the question). Two weeks later, that washed out. But I gave up, chopped off some hair, and decided to grow it out with time.

Except here is the thing, back then I had this thought, a terrible thought: “If I had cancer, I’d shave it all off.”

Sigh . . .

Zsolt says I need to stop fixating on my hair. He says it doesn’t look thin, and I have too early accepted the idea of a shave. Maybe he is right.

But yesterday I washed my hair, thinking ‘okay you little buggers, I’m gonna wash you – and anyone who doesn’t want to stick around can make their exit now.’ And then I blow dried my hair (from about 2.5 feet away) and I thought: ‘Right, you stupid strands. Last chance to get out!’ And FINALLY, I ran my fingers through my head and pulled out a nest of hair. It was about then I developed an understanding.

The hair isn’t stopping. It’s slowly shedding, and slowly thinning. It will be on my pillow, and in my food, and across my shoulders so long as there is hair to lose.

I regret that stupid cancer thought. It underestimated the change; the physical expression.  Of course it will grow back, that’s not really the problem. The problem is – if I shave my head, I can’t pretend to be fine.

Well anyhow. The day won’t get better if I keep on sulking. Zsolt has a booklet from the Macmillian Centre called ‘Coping with hair loss’. I guess it’s time for some reading.

Happy distractions

Today was a nice day. It’s so good to know that chemo doesn’t suck forever. Okay, my energy is low as a limbo pole – but the nausea has taken a hike.

A tricky side effect of treatment that I don’t often heard mentioned is depression. It’s incredibly easy to sulk, dwell and recollect while sick – and that nearly always triggers the nausea. BUT if Zsolt comes in and talks about the European Swimming Championship (Hungarians have done well), or recollects how we met, or talk about anything that is not cancer linked – I forget about bad feelings. The depression lifts with happy distractions.

And today was a happy distraction. Plus, I had more energy – and as my mom points out, it’s far easier to feel good when you have a little energy. Here is a list of the distractions which have made my day far better.

Reading. Not a novel (I cannot handle novels right now)  but excerpts from friends. We share our work and give opinions. Choosing to write can be lonely, which is why I think creative writing groups/classes/seminars/workshops are fantastic. Maybe you don’t need to relearn plotting a novel, controlling pace, or developing characters – but you probably do need a dose of perspective and like mindedness. I’ve made good friends through my writing, and it’s making a positive difference in my life. So yes, reading was a wonderful distraction.

Talking to my mother. What the hey – skype is awesome. Today I shared a cup of tea with my mom, Marcelle, and following that we shared lunch with Zsolt. Topics of discussion ranged from supplements, cleaning the house, Ice Road Truckers, and how to find Microsoft Word through the start button.

Chatting with the Dan Man. My little brother is cool; aren’t you, Daniel? Today out of the blue he rang me on skype and we talk for a little while. Nothing cancer related allowed. Instead we chatted about investments (of which I have none and he has several), holidays, university, and just random unimportant stuff. You know what, unimportant stuff makes for the best distractions. It is important to share the unimportant. Man, I miss my family so much sometimes.

Hanging with the Sámsons.  Today was nice; I had the energy to enjoy company. Zsolt’s family are staying at our friends’ home, and on that street you need a permit to park. So, instead of buying a yearlong permit for a weeklong visit, they are parking in front of our flat. Therefore, we saw them strolling down the street this afternoon toward our apartment. And why did we see them? Because I was outside (this is a big challenge, but today I triumphed for about 10 minutes). It was really nice to have them over and talk. Zsolt’s father was trying to teach me Hungarian for “emergency lighting” (vészvillogó) and “car handbook” (autós kézikönyv), Anna washed the dishes, Anita made pasta, and Berci searched the internet. During the past few days I’ve been exhausted, but today I managed to be social. Mind you, I had to take micro naps between conversations, but at least I rested in my chair and didn’t have to hit the bed.

Miért tanított engem László magyar autós kifejezésekre?

. . . Because today we bought a car! Wooohoo! 2003 Peugeot, silver blue. Now some people may say – ‘How many miles?’ ‘What’s the make?’ or ‘How does she run?’ But not me. All I need to know: Is the colour pretty? And it is. But Zsolt is satisfied too; he actually did manage to bargain slightly, which impresses me incredibly, and I think we’ll be happy with the purchase. It needs to be cleaned inside, and the front left tire is a bit off – but that’s why he bargained in the first place, so it’s a cost we can cover. This is our first car.  Exciting!

Now we just need to buy the insurance, and that is not quite as exciting. However, I look forward to driving around town with my man, hanging an arm out the window, and listening to some BBC radio.

So it was a day of happy distractions. The exhaustion is still there, but now passes in waves. This is the other side of the coin that I wait for. . . this is what enables me to go back again. For now it only gets better. Thank goodness for that.

PS- thanks to Zsolt for the Hungarian translation. If you want to translate the phrases yourself, I suggest google translate.

Getting better

Hello again, Hello.

Over this past weekend I haven’t touched my computer – I couldn’t  stand the thought of it. But now it’s Monday and one of my goals is to post a message on this blog. It’s gotten me up and out of bed, and sitting at the kitchen table. So  – that’s great. It’s the furthest I’ve been so far. Yay for progress 🙂

About two seconds after posting my last blog the nausea kicked in, and kicked in, and kicked in some more. It continued to kick me through the weekend. Zsolt says I had the acute response – apparently there are two general responses to chemotherapy: acute and delayed. Well, it was acute. Unfortunately the anti sickness drug they’d prescribed didn’t quite work, but fortunately the steroid did, though I had to wait a day before taking the steroid because it required a stomach with some food inside. That wasn’t quite possible till Saturday afternoon.

But that is in the past. Here I am, getting over the worse (hopefully) and waiting for the nurse to drop by and show us how to administer the white blood cell shot. I need to take one shot a day for seven days. Zsolt will be administering the needle – weird!  I’ve heard there are side effect to this as well, but have the Paracetamol  ready just in case.

So, apart for this world of side effects I’m managing okay. Today has been good so far, and has certainly put me in a better mood. Mom and Zsolt keep on with the mantra, “We’re learning.” And we are.

Next time will be better – next time I’ll get a better anti-sickness drug, I’ll take the drug sooner, and the effects will be less. Why? Because we’re learning.

I feel bad for my poor family, there were times when my mom and husband would  be looking over the bed with concern in their faces, or off in the other room whispering about side effects and ways to help me through. However, today everyone seems in a better mood. We’re listening to my wedding CD and nodding along to the music.

I think that I’ll write a list of things that have helped me through the nausea – because if anyone ever does read this and wants to get prepared, this stuff could be good to have on hand.

Happy music: some of the drugs cause melancholy, so it’s pretty important to have a happier distraction in the background.

Homeopathic remedies: because sometimes I couldn’t even manage a mouthful of water, so taking some anti-sickness homeopathic remedies has been a good alternative.

Anti sickness bracelet: This triggers an acupuncture point on the wrist to help reduce nausea. It helps, but if you’re getting up be sure to go slowly and rub the balls into your arm.

Damp, cold face towel: It’s a total miracle if becoming sick, and even helped me stop the nausea from peaking a few times.

Fan: Whether electric, hand held, or a good strong breeze through the window – the movement of non-scented air is wonderful. . .  air with the smell of pizza, soup, or warm food of any kind is a very, very bad idea. My bedroom door has been shut with the cracks sealed while my mom cooked dinner for her and Zsolt, and even then I could smell the bloody food. There’s a new rule in this flat, NO hot food allowed.

Protein powder, rehydrating powder, probiotic power: mixed in very small doses with a reasonable amount of water – helps with nutrients, hydration and bowels. When you can’t eat anything, these come in handy.

Good company: Essential! Even if I could not carry on a conversation, having loved ones nearby during the difficult times is something for which I am SO grateful. My mom goes away at the end of this week, which will be difficult, probably very difficult – but I’m thankful for each day she’s been here, and I know that whenever I need her or my Dad, they’re always on the other end of that Skype camera. And Zsolt will be here too, rubbing my back and kissing my forehead, googling every question, side effect, and noteworthy bit of information that will help make this easier.

Okay, I guess that’s it for now. I don’t want to plough into details, and I don’t want to freak anyone out. I think the acute has passed, and I’m very, very grateful. My mind has finally turned to food, and a few more grapes seems quite appetizing at the moment. Hmm, and maybe even a cracker or two…