Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Like Clockwork

Your hair is supposed to fall out between the 10th and 17th day after chemo, with the most common day being the 14th.

That's pretty precise, don't you think?

For the first ten days after chemo, I ran my fingers through my locks every couple of hours, then checked to see if any hairs came off. Nope, not a hair missing. I vainly started to think that since I had an easy time during my first chemo, with relatively few side effects, that my hair wouldn't go either. I would be the one person to have no side effects from chemo. I'm special like that.

And, I have a LOT of hair. Even if some fell out, nobody would ever notice, right?

Today is Day 14. And, right on schedule (how did they know?) I'm shedding like a Labrador Retriever on a hot summer day.

But, precise as the expected hair loss date is - nobody tells you exactly how it happens. I'll bet it's not what you think, and as it turns out, I was running my hands through the wrong place.

Your hair falls out from the bottom up.

So, your friendly breast cancer blogger will describe it - but, as in many things cancer, the following is a TMI alert. Read at your own discretion!

First, you have to know a bit about me. I'm what they call hirsute. You don't have to open, I'll tell you what that means: I'm a hairy monkey-woman. I've always envied you blondies, who can shave your legs once a week and even if you don't, nothing shows. If I skip one day, my legs are like sandpaper, and I have to wear pants. If I miss a week, organ grinders start following me around. They say to wax before you go on vacation and you'll be smooth for the whole trip. Not me. Waxing, shaving - it's all the same. One day later, and I must begin again.

It's the main reason I never applied to go on Survivor - by the end of 40 days without shaving everybody would mistake me for a forest creature.

I'd have won though. Outwit, Outplay, Outlast. That's me.

So, you can only imagine the great pleasure I experienced right after my first chemo when the hair on my legs seemed to stop growing. I actually went five days without shaving and only had a little stubble. When I shaved that away - it never came back.

Smooth at last.

My hair remained firm on my head.

Survivor here I come.

Last night, I went to the bathroom. I did my thing and got up to flush. One of the tricks you learn when on chemo is to close the toilet lid before you flush to prevent germy spray from getting all over your bathroom. The e-coli laden backspray is gross in everyday life, and can make you sick with no white cells. So, as I close the lid, I notice something floating in the toilet.

And, I wasn't there for that.

It was a mess of short and curlies, floating like an armada on the surface of the water.

Shocked, I decide to test it. I reach down and tug, and out comes a pinchful.

I close the toilet, flush, wash my hands and then go back to my TV show.

I ran my hands through my hair, but only got a couple of hairs coming out.

This morning is a different story. I ran my hands through my hair and get ten or twelve hairs each time.

Tomorrow, it will start coming out like snow falling. I'll shake my head and hairs will fly. It started in the south pole and will have moved its way up north, like Santa.

At some point, in the next few days, I'll either have to cut it short or shave it to prevent my Roomba from choking. As my oncologist so delicately put it today - I'll look like I have mange. It doesn't come out all nice and neat, it mostly comes out in clumps with areas that still have long straggles, like a dude with a bad comb-over, or a diseased Wookie. So, most people just shave it off.

Maybe Survivor isn't in my future after all.

Being a Survivor - of course - is.

In either event, I have my buff all ready.



  1. Every hair will come out - no shaving for months! That was great. I just stuck a little hat on for a few days and it would collect most of the hair that was falling out! Enjoy the no shaving, its one of the few upsides to chemo. When I think of any others, I'll let you know.

  2. Mine fell out - but started to grow again! Sat having chemo and suddenly realised in front of a very pleasant (male) nurse that I was sporting a pair of very furry legs! Typical! Px

    PS upsides to chemo ... err ... none!

  3. Ann I enjoy reading your posts, I'm praying that you will feel better and be able to go w your son to SFO. I am about 2 months behind you and 9 days into my first chemo (I'm doing TCH). Like you I was thinking, Hey! No side effects, my hair will stay. I'm not going to waste money on getting a wig. Well, I see that I have a few days to go before I get that cocky! I keep running my fingers through my hair and counting.


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