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Post Chemo – How Long Do I Have to Look Like This??

Post chemo, how long do I have to look like this?

When I started this blog, I vowed it would not become a place for me to complain or whine about cancer, treatment or recovery. I wanted to write an uplifting, informative and interesting blog that could be a beneficial resource for others.

I intended to accomplish this by honestly sharing my personal experience, but without complaining.  

Recently, I got to thinking about this self-imposed restriction and decided, screw that.

A person needs to process each component of the cancer experience and complaining once in a while is part of this process. Processing is constructive. If  complaining is part of processing, then that is constructive as well, is it not? 

Besides, it’s not really complaining at all, it’s truth telling.

At the risk of sounding vain and superficial, I wanna just say, I am sick of looking like a person with cancer.

I finished chemo at the end of October. I finally shaved my hair off on November 6th. Now, it’s past mid-January and I am still waiting for my hair to grow back. I am still waiting for my eyelashes to reappear. I am still waiting to get a good night’s sleep. I am still waiting for the neuropathy in my feet to dissipate. I am still waiting to walk by a mirror without cringing at the person looking back at me. I am still waiting to look and feel “normal.”

I am still waiting!

Just how long does a person have to wait?

A few weeks after November 6th, Dear Hubby said, “Wow, your hair is really coming back in now.”

Even though we both knew this was not really true, we both played along. It was a coping mechanism of sorts, a way to laugh at the situation.

As the weeks went by, however, I found it to be less and less amusing. Finally, the other day I asked him to stop saying that altogether. I’m sick of hearing it. It’s not true!

I am also pretty sick of wearing a wig whenever I leave the house, not that I would have to of course, but I don’t much like how I look without one. I’m getting pretty tired of covering my head.

Oh, and while I’m at it, I’m not very good at applying eyeliner. (Eyeliner is what they recommended in my Look Good, Feel Better class to give your bare-looking eyes some definition) I prefer mascara, but you need eyelashes for mascara!

Last week, Son #2 invited a few college friends of both sexes for a visit. It was the first visit from “strangers” in a while, the first visit from people not familiar with my “new look.”

I was pretty used to looking at my hairless or covered-up head. My family was as well. My dogs definitely so.

When I realized we were having “unaccustomed-to-cancer company,” I panicked. I worried about how my son’s friends would see his mother. I debated about plopping on my fake hair. Shamefully, I was truly anxious how I looked.

I finally decided to just go with the real me, with a turban that is. I wasn’t being brave or anything. They were going to be overnight guests, so I would not have been able to wear my wig the whole time anyway. I can only stand wearing it for a few hours at a time.

After his friends left a day or so later, I asked Son #2 what his friends had said about me and my hair, or lack thereof.  

He looked at me with one of those, what are you talking about, Mother? expressions on his face, shrugged his shoulders and said, “Nothing, they didn’t care about that.”

I was reminded that we so often burden ourselves with self-imposed feelings and worries, (perhaps sometimes even bordering on self-pity), when it’s not really necessary.

The reality is others don’t care about such matters, not as much as we think they do anyway. Things like no hair, head coverings and outward appearance are not what matter.

Most people really do care more about what kind of person you are and how you treat them. This amazing group of college kids reminded me of this important lesson.

Of course, we all know outside appearances aren’t what matter most, but let’s not kid ourselves, they still matter, and it’s still hard to stop worrying about how we look.

So, a post like this comes in handy once in a while because even though nobody else probably cares all that much, I am STILL sick of this look!

And I still want to know, how long do I have to look like this?

Apparently, a while longer.

Oh well. I’ll keep waiting.

Maybe I’ll even post my bald pictures someday.

Thanks for allowing me this “complaining post.”

It fits into the coping category, right?

Why do we worry so much about our appearance anyway?

What have YOU learned about your appearance, cancer or no cancer?

If you’ve had chemo, how long DOES it take for the hair to come back? Eyelashes? Brows?

 

How long do I have to look like this?

Too much to hope for?? Especially since my eyes are brown!!


Post #chemo, how long do I have to look like this?

These would be nice?? I can dream, can’t I??

 

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Julia

Monday 3rd of May 2021

Once I started carrying wipes when I traveled for work I couldn't stop, which served me well when cancer came along. I was mildly miffed when I couldn't find my favorite brand during the early days of the pandemic. Fortunately, I've learned to make my own - another skill brought to us by Covid-19 ;)

Nancy

Thursday 6th of May 2021

Julia, Carrying wipes is a really good idea regardless of covid or cancer. I keep them in my car. Good for you for figuring out how to make your own. I tried making my own mask early on when they were hard to find and that was a disaster. Now you can get then anywhere. Thanks so much for sharing.

Kimberly

Thursday 29th of April 2021

Oh man I struggled with this SO hard! The hair loss was the worst for me! And being bald just accentuated my moon face from all the steroids & chemo. Missed my eyelashes. Missed my brows. I seriously missed my nose hair. I even posted about that. "Don't know whatcha got till it's gone!" I wore a wig most times when out until I had re-grown a pixie, but yeah... Until my hair was longish again, I felt so self-conscious. It was bad enough to have to feel like I've lost myself, because, let's face it, after the diagnosis, we're never the same again. But to not recognize the person in the mirror for sooooooooo long on top of that? Yeah, just added insult to injury.

And I, too, probably forever, will continue to wear a mask when in public indoors. Especially crowded events. This is one of those new habits that will stick with me, much like the habit of keeping hand sanitizing wipes in my purse to use after handling a menu that I started doing during chemo. It stuck. I never stopped. Masks will likely be the same.

Thanks for re-sharing this one.

Nancy

Monday 3rd of May 2021

Kimberly, OMG yes, those little nose hairs! Missed them quite a lot too. I remember that terrific post you wrote, btw. And yes, the mask wearing will actually be sorta hard to give up in some ways. Interesting how you continued to keep sanitizing wipes in your purse. Makes a lot of sense actually, cancer or no cancer. Thanks so much for sharing!

Julia

Thursday 29th of April 2021

Nancy -

Clearly, not just you! I wonder how many of us there are.... :)

Nancy

Thursday 29th of April 2021

Julia, I wonder too!

Julia

Thursday 29th of April 2021

Donna, it's definitely been a very mixed blessing, in some ways. Certainly a number of my friends and neighbors plan to continue the mask wearing while shopping, etc., beyond the expiration of our state mandates. You stay well, too, Donna.

Julia

Wednesday 28th of April 2021

Six years post-surgery, and after 6.5 years on endocrine therapy, what I can't handle is how cancer and treatment has aged me. Donna F. mentioned above looking back at a photo from five years earlier and being shocked - same here. I'm shocked, depressed and defeated by 5 years on letrozole and now 18 months on tamoxifen. My hair is like straw, loss of elasticity is causing ugly wrinkles around my mouth (unlike some, I truly welcome mask wearing in public) and it's a constant struggle to keep my weight under control. Who knows what the effects on my CV system, etc., have been. I do worry about that.

I appreciate that these drugs did a great job on the cancer but the price has been very, very high. The fact that our MOs don't really acknowledge that these are systemic drugs with heavy-duty and long-lasting (and under-researched) effects doesn't help any. I wouldn't discourage any woman who needed them from taking them but, especially after the first few years, they do take a toll, at least for some of us.

Nancy

Thursday 29th of April 2021

Julia, I hear you. Boy, do I! The collateral damage from cancer treatment is a big deal. I am totally with you on the mask wearing too. I have not minded wearing a mask one bit. I want to do my part, of course. But heck, I sorta like having my face half covered up! lol. I'm in no hurry to stop wearing one when I go out. Sad, but true. Glad it's not just me. :)

Donna Funkhouser

Thursday 29th of April 2021

Julia, I for one, plan on wearing a mask in public FOREVER! I'm not kidding. Not around my family in the house of course, but everywhere else. It's not only prevented colds, allergies, etc., but it's covered up a lot of things I now appreciate having covered up! A mixed blessing!! Keep well, Donna F.

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