I started Abraxane in March of this year; my fifth chemo.
Most metastatic patients lose their hair over and over. This is because some chemos cause hair loss and some don't. Your doctor puts you on one that doesn't, your hair grows back and you don't look sick. That chemo eventually fails and he tries a new one that does cause hair loss. And, that's when people think of you as sick - when you are bald. That's when the questions start, and the pity. People are very visual.
For you, out come the scarves, the wigs, the hats.
I know many people who have lost their hair more than four times.
Abraxane causes hair loss in 96% of people so when I started it, I dusted off the scarves and got a new wig. I was ready for my second hair loss. I'd prepared mentally. I was leaving my job, I was going to be home, so who really cares? I could wear a wig for special occasions and be bald at home. There wouldn't be that many stares, that many questions this time as I wouldn't be so public.
And, indeed, my hair began falling out. But slowly. A few hairs at a time. Not in huge clumps like the last time. I'd run my hand through my hair and get one or two hairs each time, not fifty. I was pleased.
As time went by, it got thin enough for me to do some strategic covering. I wore headbands to cover up the balding areas and pull my hair around it so it looked thick in other places. Then my stylist cut it so that you couldn't even tell it was thin. She said she's seen people without cancer who just naturally have hair that thin - because mine is so naturally thick it's new thinness looked odd to me.
I've been wig-less and scarf-less ever since.
After a couple of months on the drug, my hair stopped falling out entirely. I was astonished. I would be one of the 4% who gets to keep their hair on Abraxane.
At least one tiny thing went right.
I did lose my lashes and my eyebrows. The brows are easy to draw in, the lashes - well, I've never mastered false eyelashes. I've worn them to a few parties and they usually end up on my cheeks before the night is over. It also doesn't help that this chemo makes your eyes and nose run. So, I try some waterproof liner or mostly, just leave it alone. If you stood next to me in the grocery story, you would not think, "that lady has cancer."
And, now, I get to take a chemo break. My last chemo was July 25th, and I won't start it up until my next scan in October. Suddenly not tied to weekly doctor's appointments, our family is taking a very small vacation, to Arizona. We were going to pretend cancer is not in our lives, that all was normal, that we were a normal family doing normal things.
Before you tell me, I know it's hot there. It's hot where we are too. It was 111 yesterday, so we are used to it. I like Arizona - my husband and I went there on our tenth anniversary, and I want my son to see it too. Saguaro cacti, red rock formations - it's so beautiful. It was where my husband and I had planned to retire, back when we made plans like that.
Anyway, we are staying in a resort with lots of pools and waterfalls and even a swim-up restaurant. A place a 15 year old will like, and a place mom can rest too, and a place where we don't have to think about this disease that has taken over our lives.
Two days ago, and almost three weeks after my last chemo, my hair has started coming out. This time, it's for real. In big clumps. Hair is everywhere and if I touch my hair, if I wash it, I have in the palm and in my fingers, not four hairs, but fifty.
Hair is all over my keyboard, all over my bathroom floor, all over my couch and pillow. It will be gone in days.
That means, I'll be bald for my trip to Arizona. And, the weather is forecast to be in the hundreds, which is way too hot for a wig, which are not for swimming anyway.
This was supposed to be our "no cancer" vacation, and now I'll be obviously sick to all who see me, or miserably hot if I want to conceal.
I kept my hair for four months on Abraxane, and it falls out after I stop the drug. I'm on a chemo break, yet out come the scarves and the hats.
Life, somehow, is playing a crazy joke on me.
But right now, I'm not laughing.
Anne Wentworth, you won the book in the contest I had recently. Please email me at butdoctorihatepink At gmail DOT com so that I can get your address. If you don't contact me within one month of the contest end, I will have to pull a new winner. Thank you!
PTSD and Cancer
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