Saturday, April 11, 2015

Hair, Change, and Round 5

So, I've been thinking...

A few days ago, I looked at a picture of me from before I started chemo. That isn't really me, I thought. Why? I had hair.

A few weeks before chemo started, my friend gave me a pixie cut.

I lost my hair the second week after Round 1. For the first little while, pretty much every time I looked in the mirror without a scarf or hat on, I was startled by my appearance. Determined not to be beat by anything remotely related to cancer, though, I kept looking, and eventually I got used to the new way I look. It helped that it got too hot to wear a hat all the time, so it stopped being comfortable to hide beneath it. It also helped tremendously to have dear friends tell me I am beautiful even when I felt self-conscious about my appearance. Over time, I have adjusted to being mostly bald, and now I have a hard time imagining myself without it. It has become part of who I am.

This is sort of a parable for life, I think. Changes come. Some changes are subtle, and take a long time - like when you decide to grow your hair out from short to long. Others happen abruptly, like when you get a haircut or when chemo makes it all fall out. Some changes are good, some aren't so good; some are easy, some are hard.

Sometimes after the changes, we look at ourselves and are not quite used to what we have become. Maybe we wish things would go back to the way they were before. But as we persist in looking for the beauty in the change, we see the good that comes from it, and we eventually get used to the new version of the person we are.

My first successful selfie with head scarf.

Cancer treatments may have changed my hairstyle (or lack thereof!), but they have also changed me other ways. This experience has reinforced that people are more important than things. It has helped me to learn to receive encouragement and love - both from those I know and associate with regularly as well as strangers who approach me in the airport or the shopping mall. I am learning to become more empathetic. I am growing more confident in who I am, and in the plan my Heavenly Father has for me. It is teaching me how to be happy even during times I feel limited or inadequate because I can't do as much as I used to be able to do. And it is giving me great hope for the future.

Round 5 has been an adventure so far. Earlier this week, I was on a business trip to Cleveland. Lots of good was accomplished despite the fact that we adjusted to the 3-hour time change about the time we came home again. I have learned this before, but "tired" is not a good state to be in at the beginning of a new round of chemo. Thankfully, so far I am managing OK.

I'm grateful I have only one more round, because the smell of the chemo infusion room makes me feel sort of sick at this point. I had a little trouble during the actual infusion, but once I got home my stomach settled down again and things seemed better. So far, recovery is following the same predictable pattern it usually does, which I am hopeful will continue. The latest happy discovery in making chemo recovery better is that one ice cube of lemon juice per glass of water changes the taste of the water just enough that I can tolerate drinking it again. (I used to be able to drink Phoenix water straight from the tap. Chemo ended that a few rounds ago. Then last round, even bottled water started tasting bad. I'm so grateful it's citrus season and that we have a plethora of lemon juice ice cubes in the freezer!)

I have a long-time friend I knew in Boston who came on a 3-day visit to help me out this round, and it was a joy to have her here. She made all my meals, did all the dishes & most of my laundry, changed my bed sheets, and took me to my appointments. She also talked to me, fed me snacks, kept my water glass filled, and did everything else I needed to be comfortable during the first few recovery days. And the whole time, she claimed it was a vacation from her usual life! She is an angel, and it filled my soul to be with her again.

This morning we decided to go adventuring and headed north to a lake about 30 minutes from my house. We took pictures to prove we went. I may or may not have only lasted about 10 minutes out of the car at a time, but it was good to get out of the house and avoid going stir crazy for another day. :-)

Adventuring after Round 5. We had fun for a few minutes.

Special thanks to the wonderful women who drove me to and from the airport on either end of my friend's trip since my chemo drugs make it not a good idea to drive myself. I feel blessed to have such good people in my life.

My other dear friends from Boston sent me beautiful tulips yesterday just to say I love you, which brings a smile to my face every time I see them.

Thanks, CC & KB! They're gorgeous!

 Good friends and pretty flowers make me happy!