I'd also like to remind people that September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Laura has written an inspiring post about it; go check it out!
Did you ever see this picture book as a child? Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina was originally published in 1947, so I'm sure many of us heard the story of the man who wandered the country selling caps that he wore stacked on his head. If I wanted to, I could BE that cap-seller!
Besides dieing, many people newly diagnosed with cancer worry about losing their hair. For men these days, with so many shaving their heads as a style choice, it doesn't seem like such a big deal, but I'm sure it is for some. For many of us it is vanity, for others it is fear of the unknown, and finally, in my mind the biggest reason we don't like losing our hair is that it is one more thing that we can't control. As a newly-diagnosed patient, unless you have lived under a rock all your life, you should already know that 1) you might die, 2) treatments will make you uncomfortable, at the least, really sick at the most, and 3) you most likely will lose your hair. It will fall out differently for everyone, but if you are starting out with thick, shiny really nice long hair like I had, it will be thin, straggly, dry and pathetic by the end of 6 months unless you do something about it. I had seen hair loss on my mom 12 years earlier when she had breast cancer. She waited for it to fall out and then all that was left were wisps of gray on a shiny head. I remember thinking that a big shiny head would look better. However, no one ever saw it because she wore a turban in the house and a wig when she went places. She also told me about the absolute mess with hair all over the house. It doesn't just fall out all at once, it's weeks of small clumps and wisps. I decided to shave my head down as far as it could be taken, and donate my more than 14 inches of hair to Locks of Love. My hairdresser buzzed it down like a little boy's summer haircut. She wouldn't go all the way to bald, she was too upset.I had my BIL buzz the rest down until it was just a stubble. This made me feel in control of at least one part of what was going to happen. As you can see, it was a big show for the kids at the time, too! When I was first diagnosed with cancer in July 2003 I was able to teach and continue treatments when the school year started. (On a side note, I only missed 6 days of work that school year, all for scheduled treatments or appointments. I was never "sick.") I was overwhelmed when I entered my classroom the first day and saw on the desk an enormous Longaberger laundry basket overflowing with gift bags, hats, and scarves! The parents had spread the word that I had cancer and so many families had sent in mani/pedi sets, aromatherapy candles, different headwear, it was amazing! I ended up writing over 60 thank-you notes! I had already purchased 3 wigs, and I had a straw hat and a couple scarves, but now I had so many choices each day! I matched hats and scarves to every outfit! I found that hats and cotton scarves or bandannas were the way to go for comfort. Silky scarves are nice, but they always slid off my head. In the winter, I had a nice kind of velvet bowler type hat and I put different pins on it for Christmas, winter, or what I was wearing. Over the 5 years since being diagnosed, I have lost my hair 3 times. Hats and scarves have trickled in as gifts, giving me a wardrobe that many would envy. I've even weeded through them a few times, getting rid of the ones that are too small because I have a giant head, or uncomfortable, or not my style. I still have 2 giant plastic tubs of hats, and 2 big shoe boxes of scarves!
These drawings were done by students who were learning to create their own computer graphics. The assignment was to draw one of their teachers. I have more that I will share in the future. Aren't they funny?!
I NEVER wore any of my 3 wigs. They've been worn for costumes by my nephews and niece more than I ever wore them! In some ways it's disappointing, because I had bought a blond, a redhead, and a brunette, all in different styles, to make it fun. A nifty thing in MA is that health insurance has to pay up to $150.00 for wigs. So I got 3 synthetic wigs, which I thought looked pretty good. They did, but they are hot and itchy. They float around on your head and look foolish. The netting inside catches on the hair stubble and is uncomfortable. Those wigs have long been donated. Besides pretty hats and scarves, I also received many funny hats, which I would wear to work on appropriate days. It never seemed to disrupt learning, and I think seeing me having fun with something that is so bothersome to many made the students and my co-workers more comfortable. One day during snack, a student decided that everyone should use their brown lunch bags to make themselves hats and have a contest! Another teacher thought this was offensive, but I thought it was funny and let them do it for 15 minutes. I even had some bags for those who needed them! On 2 of our annual 6th grade camping trips I bought bandannas for the whole class and taught them how to tie it into a do-rag. They loved having our signature matching head gear.
[Note: The above picture was taken just this week.]
By the second time I lost my hair, it was again summer and I just went bald most of the time! What I've come to realize is that some people are going to stare no matter what. If your hair is straggly, your wig is crooked, you're a woman wearing a do-rag, or you're bald, you get the same stare. So be comfortable! I also strongly believe that the more the public experiences the sight of a bald or scarf-wearing woman can bring about a greater awareness of how many people out there are living with cancer and doing all the regular things of daily life, as opposed to being shut up in a hospital or lying at home feeling miserable. It's a small way to educate