When my hair first started to grow back in after the chemo, it was very fine and blonde, like baby hair. Then it felt wiry for a few weeks, like it would be curly. As it continued, it was suddenly dark, looking like my normal dark brown, and it was sticking straight upon my head (the Sluggo look). And then one day I looked in the mirror and realized it was gray with white thrown in there for good measure.
It is finally long enough that I can grasp it with the tips of my (no longer numb) fingertips. Depending on the lighting by the mirror I look in, the color ranges from grayish brown (with white) to all gray (with white). It’s okay. I have to say I am grateful to have hair at this point, especially with the colder weather now.
I have this Spock thing going on with my eyebrows though. I hadn’t realized how much of my Brooke Shields eyebrows I had lost until they started to grow back in. The direction of growth was from the center outward, so I have these abbreviated (Spock-like) eyebrows. Although mine don’t point up at the ends quite as much 😀 Neither do my ears.
Other hair growth stories: My facial hair is incredibly fuzzy and long, and it happened all of a sudden. One day I looked in the mirror and bam! this (you’ll need to click on the photo to see it closer-up):
Scary! And at the bottom center of that photo, you can see one very long white hair. That’s my buddy. It grows at abnormal rates and I’ve had it as long as I can remember. And yes, it was one of the first of my hairs to grow back. (oh, yay!).
The last hair growth story involves my nose. Do you remember me sharing that chemo causes you to lose all the hair in your nasal passages so that your nose runs all the time (and suddenly)? Well, I had one hair in my nose that survived. ONE. Which one? Of course, it was the extra long gray one that hangs out of my nose and tickles it, so that I have to “Major Burns” it regularly (M*A*S*H fans, anyone?).
The good news is that my hair has decided to start laying down a little- so not as much sticking straight up, it almost even appears to have parted itself.
The hard part of recovering from my mastectomy has been not feeling like myself. I struggle with anxiety normally (the generalized kind, so don’t ask me why I feel worried or sad, because I can’t pin it down), and recovery from surgery has made it worse. It’s not like I’m sad about losing my breast, although I am still shocked sometimes when I look down and realize it’s not there.
The nerve and incision pain certainly isn’t helping. It’s getting better all the time, but is still constantly there. That can really wear you down, I know. The nerve pain, as I mentioned in one of my previous posts, is the weirdest. I swallow cold water and I can feel it immediately in my chest- it triggers my nerves there and causes great discomfort. 😦 I still have the tingling pain on the back of my arm. And of course the incisions and all the areas underneath hurt with the healing kind of pain – tenderness, aching, etc.
I also have muscle spasms in my chest. Not sure how to explain them other than I get a sudden quivering in my chest muscle. It doesn’t last long, but it is a reminder that things aren’t healed yet. And of course, there’s the stiffness that can only be relieved over time by doing stretching exercises. The exercises are working, but cause my entire shoulder to ache badly for a long time afterward.
When I met with the surgeon a few weeks ago he was happy with how much I’d healed. Unfortunately, part of that healing involved the much complained about drain tube in my chest. Because it had been in there for 15 days after the surgery, it had healed into my chest… To the point where when he pulled it out, which supposedly should only cause a weird sliding feeling, instead it HURT! It took a few days after that to start to feel like I was healing again. But I was so grateful to have that thing removed.
At the time, he discussed reconstruction, and I reminded him again that I wouldn’t be having that done. He then said that the incision would heal nice and flat which would allow me to wear a prosthesis comfortably. It hit me a little while later that in most people’s minds, those are the only two options. Reconstruction or prosthesis. And it also occurred to me that I don’t believe I will want to wear a prosthesis either. I am really okay with my breast missing. If others aren’t, well that’s their problem. Just like I finally concluded with my baldness (with some help from my friend, Ellen Z) – if I have to deal with looking like this, why hide it from others? Maybe it will remind them 1) to do breast self-exams (see what-ifs for my opinion on that), 2) to be more thoughtful and have empathy for others (you never know what someone is going through), 3) there is no normal (accept others for who they are underneath, not what they look like).
Regardless, I know that all of these things – the constant pain, the fatigue, the not being able to do normal things – contribute to my anxiety and sadness. But what heartens me are things like reading my daughter’s letter to Santa, asking for Mom’s cancer to be cured. And like visiting the school with Tim to pick up the kids and having many children call out to me as I stand there slightly self-conscious about my looks – “We’re praying for you!”, “I hope you feel better!” Kids I don’t even recognize. But they all know me 🙂 Because I’m Chris’s mom, Reagan’s mom, Andy’s mom. And every one of those classrooms prays for me in their morning prayers.
Wow! Very powerful to have the beautiful hearts of all these little children, caring about me that much! How can I stay sad for long?