I wanted to be Brave and Bald.
I was 47 years old when I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. How could this be? Breast cancer did not run in my family and I nursed both of my daughters. By the time I was diagnosed, the cancer was Stage 3a and Grade 3, a very aggressive form of cancer. I did not think this would ever happen to me but since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I wanted to be brave and bald, so I thought.
Before you start chemo, you have to attend Chemo Education. I had never heard of Chemo Education. Chemo Education is scheduled with a nurse. My nurse was the sweet nurse from Dr. Wonderful’s office. I am going to refer to the Hematologist-Oncologist/Chemo Doctor as Dr. Wonderful. Doug, my husband, went with me to Chemo Education. The clinic suggests that you bring at least one of your care givers. I had my calendar with note paper in the back and I was ready to take notes.
My Treatment Plan
Four cycles of Adriamycin/Cytoxan (AC) chemo every other week… with this chemo you may experience the following side effects… sores in your mouth, loss of nails, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, body aches and pain and you will lose your hair. This chemo was known as the red devil. After each cycle of this chemo, you will need Neupogen shots. (Neupogen shots stimulate the production of white blood cells. The shots will be needed between 5-7 days after each treatment. It depends on results from lab work.)
Four cycles of Taxol and Herceptin (No extra shots with this chemo. YAY!) With this chemo, you will experience the same side effects as the AC chemo. Your hair will not begin to grow back until this chemo is out of your system.
****Everyone responds differently to chemo.
Second Cycle of Adriamycin/Cytoxan (Red Devil) Treatment
The second Adriamycin/Cytoxan (Red Devil) treatment hit me sooner than the last one. I went to bed about 8:30 PM and stayed there. I only moved to take the anti-nausea medicine and sip my favorite purple Gatorade. I laid very still so as not to get sick. This treatment hit me with extreme nausea and fatigue. I stayed in bed only eating when I had to take meds and got up around noon the next day.
Losing My Hair
I saw all of the brave and bald women who had experienced different forms of cancer and I wanted to be that brave and bald woman. My hair was starting to fall out and I wanted to bond with my girls in a hair cutting celebration but it didn’t really turn out to be a celebration.
It was still too raw for all of us. The girls didn’t really want to cut my hair so Kelsey took the pictures and Paige reluctantly began to cut my hair. All of us had to hold back tears and we tried to smile through the tears. I admire all of the women who journey through this disease and boldly go bald. That just wasn’t me. After my head was completely shaved, I joined my husband in the family room. I was wearing a soft beige turban. Turbans and wigs were part of the new normal.
I just couldn’t do it. I was heartbroken and I just couldn’t be brave and bald. I was brave as I went through my chemotherapy, surgeries and radiation. I worked through the entire treatment plan and drove my self to radiation but I just couldn’t embrace being bald.
I want every woman to know that it is okay to be sad about losing your hair, even grieve the loss of your hair. You do not have to be brave and bald. However, everyday is a new day and God will give you strength. “For I know the plans I have for you…” Jeremiah 29:11
I invite you to read my full story in my newly published book on Amazon, Keeping It Real:Personal Reflections of My Journey Through Breast Cancer.