The past five years I’ve marked the anniversary of my last day of chemo with a Jan 24th picture and post.
This year, the six-year anniversary of my last day of chemo, I pondered about continuing that tradition, or just letting it become part of my history. I reflected on what I was doing with my yearly posts. January 24th after all never marked my anniversary of completing active cancer treatment, I still had surgery and radiation following. I concluded that aside from celebrating the completion of a very difficult stage in my life, Jan 24th marked the start of my body being allowed to return back to normal…or what may masquerade as normal. With chemo over, my body could start to recover from the side-effects of that chemo – the most outwardly noticeable being the return of my hair.
I realized that the annual January 24th picture was a snapshot showing my progression year to year, mostly by capturing my hair growing back to its pre-cancer lengths.
This year would be different, though. You might remember that back in September I finally broke down and had my BFF come over under the guise of giving me a “trim” and had her whack it all off! It’d been getting increasingly difficult to comb through the knots, and my hair had reached sufficient length to be donatable, so I decided to go short and hassle-free.
What then, I mused, might the point of this year’s picture be, if the purpose of the past five was documenting my progress. Then it hit me. Time changes us all, no matter if our hair is longer or shorter. Any series of pictures will show some type of progression of something.
No this year’s pic won’t be another in a series of progression. Instead, just a pic of me, being joyful and appreciative of life and the loves I have in it.
Will I continue this yearly tradition? Only time will tell. Until next year, cheers my friends, and as always, F*cancer!
Since completing chemo and upon my hair growing back, one question has returned to my mind many times. What should I do with the wig?
Donate it? If so, where? Do places take used wig donations? That would be something I’d need to research, in the never-ending-lack of spare time I seem to have.
Sell it? Is there a market for that? Seems like it would be an odd/randomly small market.
Can I sell it back to the place where I bought it? It’s hardly used after all, I hated it so much. I don’t recall there being a “lightly used” wig section when I was wig shopping, or a clearance section for that matter.
I decided to reach out to the Twitterverse and see what others had done, surely I wasn’t the only one with this dilemma. I was certain others had the answers I was seeking.
The question I asked:
What did you do with your wig, post-chemo? Keep? Donate? Sell? Stuff back in the box and put in the back of the closet until you come up with a plan? Was that just me?
Back of the closet
Keeping them to not jinx myself
Only had caps & scarves
In the closet, but use for strength
Burned it!! (or threw it away)
Surprisingly? (maybe, maybe not), keeping far outweighed the other answers. As much as I hated that darn thing, I still haven’t decided what to do with it. Currently for me, I’m in the “Stuffed in the back of the closet” category, but perhaps dual-footed in the “Not to jinx myself” category as well.
My favorite answer was “Burned it!” I’ve always appreciated the finality and the cleansing aspect of moving on from a stage of life by reducing the physical part of the memory you don’t wish to keep to ashes. There may be a bonfire in my future!
When my post-chemo hair started growing back, I searched for “super short hairstyles” and “post chemo hairstyles” and found very few. Today though, there are tons of ladies sporting the super-short styles and doing it fabulously.
I love this, it’s great to see. The more you can see and find badasses rocking those styles, the more it becomes normalized, and it helps those heading out for the first time sporting those ‘dos to feel less conspicuous.
I’ve collected pictures of a bunch of amazing super-short styles, including my own, on More Mighty than Cancer’s Pinterest page to help others who may be starting their own “super short hair” or “post chemo hair” searches. I hope it’s easier for them.
Here is how it goes: More Mighty than Cancer – excerpt from Chemo – Day 1 (Sept 13, 2016)
We arrived at the infusion center and checked in. The front desk lady handed me a bracelet with my name, age, barcode, and some other information on it. A standard-issue bracelet like you would get at any hospital visit. I was a bit confused, as never in my experience had I put one of these on myself; the nurses always did that.
“Am I supposed to put this on?”
“No, just give it to them when they call you back.” Weird, but okay.
After a few minutes, a nurse poked her head into the waiting room and called my name. I got my first view of the infusion center. As I walked through the doorway, I looked around. I saw a bunch of recliners, their backs to me, aimed so they were facing the windows on the opposite side of the room. There were other chairs set up near these recliners, visitor chairs. In front but above the windows there were TVs mounted to the wall, some turned on already, some off. It seemed to me that there was one TV for about every four recliners. Behind the recliners was a shelf that held a woven basket full of knitted caps. A piece of paper affixed to that basked advertised they were donated by someone. Nice, thoughtful.
The nurse led me to a nook off of this main room where they took my vitals — temperature, weight, blood pressure. She scanned the bar code from my bracelet which was still not on my wrist and handed it back to me.
“This way,” she directed me to follow her. “Would you like a warm blanket?” She proceeded to lead me past the recliners and chairs to a private room.
“Yes, please!” I happily replied. Score one for me.
I don’t know if you’ve had the pleasure of covering up with a blanket fresh out of the warmer, but it is a little slice of wonderfulness. After my first week, I always asked for two. I mean, they cool off quickly, they are kind of thin, and I get cold easily.
If only all parts of chemo were this easy. My infusion nurses helped me so much in being comfortable, I adore them to this day.
Those were the words that changed my life forever. Those were the words that I spoke to my husband, as I navigated his fingers to help me identify what I feared could be breast cancer.
On this day, in 2016, I was prepping for an afternoon surgery. A life-saving surgery. Surgery to install a port so that I could more easily receive chemotherapy medications to save my life. To rid my body of breast cancer. Breast cancer which had already spread in an assholey fashion to my lymph nodes, and was trying to reach further. A surgery that began a journey that I would have never chosen for myself.
I am thankful to be alive to celebrate this anniversary, and my reflections back to that day will continue to propel me to be open and honest with my experiences, so that I may help others who unfortunately are pushed down this same path.
Thoughts of that day fill me both with apprehensive dread and with hope, as today, I continue to be as my test results tell me, NED – No Evidence of Disease. That is where I hope to remain.
Be vigilant, do your self breast exams, and I hope one day for a cure.
I had long hair before, and I had long hair after. Everyone asked me if I was going to grow my hair out again, my response was always the same – “We’ll just see what happens.”
I had no plans, I really didn’t care. As I said before, and during, and after, “It’s just hair.”
I went in for a trim once, either in late 2017 or early 2018, because the sides were poufed way out, and looked ridiculous. It wasn’t a great experience, I ended up with a lady that I’d had before, and wasn’t a fan of. Because of her, I decided to go to a different salon. I ended up getting her again. The whole time she muttered about how uneven my hair was. I told her why, that I had gone through chemo, it all fell out, and was growing back. She continued to mutter about its unevenness.
I’m a wash-n-go person, I don’t spend a lot of time on my hair, and when it’s long, it’s super easy to take care of. Until recently, when it got too long. It began taking way too much time for me to wash, condition, and comb out in the the mornings. It was time for a for-real cut.
I called my best friend, and asked if she would come over to cut my hair. She does a fabulous job cutting her own hair, and I trust her. We made plans.
The first morning after, I was able to sleep in an extra 20 minutes thanks to my new coif. It was lovely.
I still need find the right place to send it in for donation, I am hopeful that someplace will be able to make use out of my 20ish inches. Now that I have more time to myself, I should be able to find that place.
Most friends ask these exact questions upon hearing of your cancer diagnosis. It seems like the best thing that a friend can ask. A caring, compassionate sentiment that shows you are there for them. A person newly diagnosed with cancer often doesn’t know how to answer this question. Often this question can actually be a burden to answer, especially since those newly diagnosed truly don’t yet know what can help them the most.
I devote an entire chapter of my book to this exact topic.
Sneak peak though…the short answer is food. Take them food. There are other ways to help too, but food is the top of my list.
More Mighty than Cancer offers advice not just to those who have been diagnosed with cancer, but also how family and friends can help their loved ones during this rough time.
Hair loss is one of the most recognizable, and most known side effects of chemo. As a working mom, I had to make decisions on what to do when my hair started to fall out.
In my book, More Mighty than Cancer (available on Amazon & also currently on Kindle Unlimited) I talk about hair loss prevention techniques (Cold Caps), hair loss hiding techniques (Wigs, caps and scarves) and what worked best for me.
I also share insights on letting my ten-year-old son shave my head, and how that activitiy helps kids cope with their mom dealing with cancer and chemo.