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December 18, 2008

Give Me A Head With Hair

The winding drive leading to my oncologist’s office is about a quarter of a mile long and is lined with stately old oak trees. In the summer, it is cool and green and shady under the oaks. In the winter, the snow lies on the ground beneath the thick black trunks and the bare branches stand out starkly against the cold white sky. But it doesn’t matter to me what it looks like, because as I drive under the oak trees toward that familiar parking lot and building all I can feel is a sense of heaviness. As kind as the nurses and doctors are in that office, I hate going there.

I was there last Monday for another check up and a port flush. It has been a year since my last chemotherapy treatment and three months since my last visit. I was pronounced “perfect” by my oncologist, which is good news. But to get that news I had to walk down the hall to his office, and the carpet and the chair rail and the pictures in that hall all make me feel bald and sick. His waiting room was so crowded with cancer patients that there were only two seats left. I chose the one next to a sad man with teary red eyes who stared at the floor while he waited for his name to be called. I never let myself notice when I was waiting in that room last year what a sad place it is. It is full of cancer patients, but they are not the ones who are sad. It is their family members who fill the room with sadness.

After I see the doctor, the receptionist ushers me back into the chemo room for my port flush. Once there, she leaves my chart for the chemo nurses and invites me to choose a seat. I am always relieved that I will only be in that seat for the mere minutes it takes to flush my port instead of the hours it takes to receive chemotherapy. The office was behind schedule on Monday so I had to wait for longer than usual for a nurse to get to me. I found myself becoming more and more agitated and nervous as I sat in that green vinyl chair, facing the familiar ring of other green vinyl chairs, each one accompanied by the ubiquitous IV pole and containing either a clean pillow or a patient. I had time to think about where I was and I had time to remember and to dread the thought of having to go back there. I thought that by this time I would be far enough beyond my diagnosis and treatment that these visits wouldn’t bother me, but so far that hasn’t happened. It makes me wonder whether it ever really goes away, or whether it will always be there just under the surface. It is always surprising to me that just being in the oncologist’s office can make me feel this way.

Despite the cold temps here in Northern Illinois this December, I have yet to put a hat on my head. The thought of putting something on my head is so distasteful to me, and the few times I have picked up a hat in order to wear it outside I have felt that old familiar repulsion and phantom nausea. It’s going to be a long, cold winter if I am unable to cover my head, but that’s just the way it’s going to have to be.

The good news is that my head…and therefore, me…is much, much warmer this year than it was last year. Here is my most recent hair chronicle picture.
The curls are driving me crazy because they do whatever they want to do and refuse to take any kind of direction from me. My new hair is coming in less curly and more wavy. I have worn it straight a few times and when I do Matthew tells me I look like the “old” mom.
I try not to complain too much about my hair, though. After all, there can be no such thing as a bad hair day once you have had a no hair day.

December 15, 2008

Frisk the 15th!

It's the 15th of December already! Take a break from your holiday preparations to do your monthly self-exam!