Hair’s the thing…

pixie cuts
via pinterest

So I’ve been thinking a lot about my hair lately.  I think a lot of people have.  You all ask about it– will I let it grow out? Maybe not, not right now, anyway.  According to a post Ashley did, it will take about 4.9 years for my hair to grow out to its former glory.  (I love that she figured that out!) Somehow, I’m not sure a woman over 40 needs hair that long.  Or at least, not this woman.  But mainly, I like it this way.  And not because it’s easy.  Honestly, yes, it is easier than blowing out all that hair before either straightening it or curling it.  Somehow, I’m betting not many people honestly think that I make fashion choices because they’re easy.  If we’ve talked about my hair and you’ve been one of the very many who’ve commented, “Well, at least it’s easy,” that’s ok, please don’t feel bad.  It is easy, and so many people have said it that I don’t have any idea who has.  But I’m realizing that’s not something I’ll say to anyone with really short hair again– whether she has short hair by choice or necessity, to insinuate the best thing about her hair is ease isn’t the biggest compliment.

That being said, I’ve gotten lots of wonderful compliments.  The best compliments come from complete strangers, and they’re my favorite because I know that these people truly like my hair, they’re not just being nice because they figure at least I’m not bald anymore. My most favorite comment? From a man who works in the cosmetic department at Niemann Marcus.  Enough said.

It’s still weird for me.  I catch my reflection in the mirror or see my shadow on the sidewalk and don’t always recognize myself.  I see myself with long hair in my mind, and yet I’m starting to see myself as I look in Sally’s most recent photos, too.  Like maybe it’s fifty-fifty now, sometimes I think of myself with long hair, sometimes short.  I haven’t quite decided how I’d like my hair to look in 4.9 years.  But for now, I think I’m sticking with short.  It tells a story.  When I see my short hair, I am reminded that I am strong, not only that I’ve gotten past cancer, but that I can feel confident with out the long lovely locks that I once considered a major part of my identity.

A special prayer

We had a chance to catch up with some family we hadn’t seen for ages this past week.  Clay’s aunt and uncle have faithfully prayed for me every step of the way in the past year, and I was delighted to be able to thank them in person.  Uncle Bruce really has a way with words, and his are not to be forgotten.

“You’re the only person I ever prayed for who didn’t die.” 

Um, thanks.  Guess y’all aren’t going to be lining up to ask him to pray for you!

Not again…

eyelashes

 

Just did my makeup in preparation for a dinner out with family, and noticed something for the second time.  Have you ever noticed that the first time you see something you don’t love, you try to overlook it– maybe it will go away?  I’m pretty sure I do that.  I seem to remember thinking before when I put on mascara that there was an area of lashes on my left eye that was getting sparse.  I had just been thinking how long my lashes had gotten, that they were better than they ever were pre-chemo.  So the right eye is still pretty great, but there’s that area that’s a little thin on the other side.  I’m still crossing my fingers that it’s completely normal and I’m just being hyper-sensitive, but I’m a little worried that maybe there’s another round to fall out.  Seems unlikely, but the first time they fell out wasn’t until I’d been done with chemo for nearly six weeks, so it’s hard to say.  I’m not looking forward to doing the false eyelashes on a daily basis again, but at least I’ve got some practice, and this pair from Sonia Kashuk did the job without being too spendy.

Here’s hoping I’m just overreacting.  Stay tuned for further updates as events warrant…

Post-surgery Essentials

seat belt cover mastectomy breast cancer

There were a lot of things that I knew I needed to do leading up to my surgery, and I did a pretty good job of getting them taken care of. I came up with a pretty good list of things I thought I’d need at the hospital, and it turned out to be almost perfect. With two glaring omissions.

First of all, percocet is lovely. It really does a good job at knocking out the pain. (And the rest of me, in the process.) But it makes me so itchy. Like all over, can’t make it stop, but only mildly irritating itchy. Not so bad that I wanted to ditch the good drugs, but after a mastectomy, arm motion is pretty limited, so an itchy back is a nightmare. Try though he might, Clay was just too afraid he’d hurt me to scratch hard enough to make the itch go away. I must have mentioned it at some point, so a few days after surgery, a good neighborhood friend showed up at my house with the best gift ever.

back scratcherGlamorous, right? But the simple bamboo back scratcher she picked up at the local hardware store (they have everything!) was exactly what I needed. I wished I’d had it a few days earlier, but it still got loads of use.

The other thing I’d missed I didn’t pick up until a week or so ago. I knew it would probably help, but kept putting it off. After a mastectomy, the last thing you want is a seat belt pressing against your chest. Even though the initial pain is long gone, there’s still a general irritation from the tissue expanders and I hate the way the seat belt feels. Enter: the seat belt cover.

seatbelt coverSeriously, why did I wait so long to get this? I finally picked one up at the automotive store, but for only around six bucks on amazon, it’s ridiculous that I didn’t buy it earlier. It’s not the perfect solution, but for the most part, it lets me drive around with my seat belt where it’s supposed to be instead of me holding it out with my “non-driving” hand.

So while it may be the strangest assortment of gifts ever, I’m thinking that the next friend I know who has a mastectomy will be getting a back scratcher, a seat belt cover, and maybe a can of pringles. Oh, and some lip gloss. Always lip gloss.

Just a conventional girl

run lipstick chemo meds breast cancer northern virginia

For a while, I felt like every other person I spoke with wanted to know when I thought my hair would grow back. I must have answered that question a hundred times. Now I’ve got hair, so that standard question has disappeared. Lately, one question I’m starting to hear more frequently has to do with conventional medicine versus more un-conventional methods of treatment.

I should start with a disclaimer. I’m a scientist. So is my husband. He even did a post-doctoral fellowship with the FDA years ago. We have a pretty healthy respect for “big pharma” and the processes that regulate the development and vetting of drugs. I’ve always worried about herbal and other supplements. While I doubt that they will be as effective as conventional treatment, I don’t worry because I don’t think they couldn’t possibly work. More, I worry that they can work. And they’re not regulated with the same stringency as things that are classified as drugs. Plus, some people feel embarrassed about wanting to use them, or they think their doctor won’t approve of something non-traditional, and so don’t want to tell their doctors. That’s probably my biggest worry—some vitamin and herbal supplements can interact with other drugs, and an oncologist is the best judge of what could put your treatment, or your health, at risk.

I realize it’s easy for me to tout the conventional route. I mean, it worked for me, right? Not only did I make it to my surgery without any hint of remaining tumor, but the chemo didn’t really bother me all that much, either. Would my perspective be different if it hadn’t been so easy and effective? Maybe. I do remember buying a bottle of Evening Primrose Oil to help bring on labor as my due date approached when I was pregnant with Turner. Though I only bought it as the result of an unsolicited suggestion at an OB appointment. (And for the record, it didn’t work.) Desperate times call for desperate measures. I get that.

But still, I have to think that if something considered “non-traditional” was really that effective, the company that makes it would get it into trials so that it could be considered standard of care. That’s how they make money, after all. So for me, I think I’d stick with the traditional, regulated, vetted drugs. At least at first.

Who needs armpits?

 

jamiemay2013-131bw

When we told the kids that I had cancer, they were of course worried that I would die.  Being scientists, we opted not to tell the kids I had cancer because of some “icky yucky germs” like one children’s book we’d been given suggested. (Seriously?) Instead, I explained to them that cancer cells grow out of control, they don’t stop when they’re supposed to like normal cells.  I told them that people can die from cancer, when the cancer cells are in a part of your body that you need to live and the cancer takes over so that part can’t do its job. They didn’t need to worry, though, I didn’t need my breasts to survive, the doctors could do surgery and take the breast tissue out and I’d be fine, no cancer, and it wouldn’t change the way my body worked.

Last night I was wearing a tank top.  When I stretched, the kids noticed the scar that’s in my armpit from where they sampled my lymph nodes.  They asked about it, and I told them that’s where the doctors checked to make sure that there wasn’t any cancer, and reassured them that there wasn’t.

Turner’s response: “Oh, because you don’t need your armpit.”

I guess he thinks the doctors removed my armpit.

Farewell, Google Reader

I’ve been a big fan of Google Reader for years. It has been a great way to keep track of all kinds of blogs– I didn’t have to check daily on all the blogs I enjoyed. Instead, I could scroll through Google Reader see what was new at each of my favorite blogs at a glance. I could read the full article there or quickly skip to the next article. Sadly, Google Reader will be no more as of July 1.

bloglovin

Other bloggers are taking note, and when Ashley mentioned she is using bloglovin‘, I quickly signed up. That was a simple decision, I love nearly every thing she does! It’s easy to transfer all your blogs from Google Reader, and it’s easy to add new blogs. But it only lets you see one picture and read a snippet of each post. To read the whole post, you have to click through to the blog, and let’s face it, that takes extra time. They send a daily digest email, not sure if that’s a plus or not. It’s a lovely format, but I wasn’t 100% sold.

feedlySo today, I saw that Leisl, another blogger I’m just crazy about, is using Feedly, and I thought it was worth looking into. Again, it quickly imported all my blogs from Google Reader, and I really love that it will let me choose if I want just a list of recent posts, a single picture with a little tease, or the full post. Um, full post, please. So far, I haven’t found it quite as easy to add new blogs, though it’s completely manageable, and I can’t find a way to search within my blogs. (It does look like that’s in their future plans, though.) But it does let me group my blogs so that if I can quickly scan my favorites if I don’t have time to look through the new posts on the roughly 150 blogs that I follow.

I’m sure that there a lot of great blog reader services out there, I’d love to know if you’ve found one you like better. But for now, I think I’m sticking with Feedly.