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Bald in the Mirror

jencullenbaldinmirror

I know this may seem hard to believe after four and a half months of this shit but, sometimes, when I see myself in the mirror or in a picture, I am surprised to be reminded that I am fighting cancer.

It’s the bald head that reminds me. That and the thinning eyebrows and eyelashes. And the alien bump located above my beating heart and beneath my left clavicle.

I guess it’s a good thing that I am surprised because it means that I’m able to put cancer out of my head for extended periods of time. It does not define me or my life.

Four and a half months.

And I’m far from being done.

Right now, it’s all about the numbers and dates. I find it comforting to look at my calendar, all marked up for the summer. With appointments, reminders and summer out-of-town plans for my kids.

Like taking Jules to the airport early one morning in July. Me to the breast surgeon for a pre-op appointment late that afternoon. Echocardiogram first thing the next day.

There’s work to be done in between all these to-dos and hopefully an overnight getaway with my husband. We need it.

I have three more Taxols. One more Perjeta. Herceptin until April.

Breast MRI in two weeks. (My first since I was diagnosed.)

Surgery in 6 weeks.

Radiation in 10 weeks. Five days a week for six weeks.

Which takes me somewhere to the middle or end of October.

Sure, my body will start healing sooner than October from the toxicity of the chemo. My blood counts will slowly move closer to normal. The fatigue will decrease. I can start getting back into shape.

(Yesterday, at chemo, my white blood cell count was the lowest it’s been so far. I need to be very, very careful where I go, who I hug and what I eat. But, and this is a very positive but, my hemoglobin is not horrible.)

And then, of course, my hair will start growing back. I won’t be so surprised by my image in the mirror.

But what I’m realizing is that it is going to take a long, long time to get back to normal.

Actually, I don’t even know what “normal” is going to look like. I just know that it’s not going to look like last year or the last four and a half months.

I am forever changed physically and emotionally. Maybe some of it’s for the better. I’m not ready to pass judgement on that part of it yet. But I know for sure that some of that change is not good. Not for me. Not for my kids. And definitely not for my husband.

I have my daily gratitudes. And they are easy to come up with. The rest of my family is healthy and mostly happy. My medical care is phenomenal. I am tolerating my treatments well. I am financially stable thanks to excellent health insurance.

I’m not going to die.

And I won’t be bald forever. Though of everything going on, that is the least of my cares. As I’ve been told, I have a nicely shaped head. But it is what the bald head signifies that bothers me.

So months from now, whether I let my hair grow out to the length it used to be, or keep it short and pixieish, which I’m leaning towards, I’ll be able to look in the mirror and not think “cancer.”

And that will be fine with me.

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