See, by nature I’m a blonde. I am the only blonde in a family of nine Catholics of Scot-Irish-French descent (but that’s another story). That picture there was actually taken in September of 2010 just a couple weeks after having the tumor removed from my colon and a couple weeks before starting chemo. As a matter of fact it was taken at my birthday party. The infamous day that Dr. H. told me I was stage IV. I didn’t tell anyone. Not even Bren (below) who picked me up from that infamous doc’s appointment and drove me to the party. Yes, my love for theatre really payed off that day. It wasn’t all acting though. A big part of me was also thinking “Well, if I am dying then this is a good way and good people to spend whatever time I have left.”
I touch on it in the book, but it seems to stump everyone so I’ll bring it up here too. Not everyone who goes through chemo goes bald. I can’t seem to find a statistic on what percentage of cancer patients don’t go bald, but I know I’m not an anomaly. I also know it has to do with what type of chemo drug you’re given. I was on a combination of 3: 5FU (Fluorouracil), Oxaliplatin (Eloxatin) and Bevacizumab (Avastin). I know a couple common chemo drugs that do cause hair loss are: Adriamycin (doxorubicin) causes hair to thin during the first three weeks of treatment, then all hair falls out and with Taxol (paclitaxel), there is very sudden hair loss, as in you’ll likely wake up one morning with your hair on your pillow. I can’t tell you why one does and another doesn’t. I can only tell you that they do, that there over 200 different kinds of cancer, 60 different organs in the body that can get cancer (mine was in my colon which then spread to my left lung) and that medical science is constantly evolving and developing more targeted therapies which explains why it should no longer just be expected you’ll be bald and thin. I will say that the current chemo meds for treating breast cancer still do make you go bald. It won’t surprise me though if in five years time that’s no longer the case.
Even though I didn’t go bald from my treatments, the steroids plumped me up like a ballpark frank (seriously, one day when I’m brave enough I’ll show you my passport photo) and made my hair coarse like straw. Any attempt at highlighting my dishwater blonde turned into disaster to my hair stylist’s and my dismay. Apparently chemo and hair dye chemicals do not mesh well for whatever reason, as I was sitting with my friends Anne and Bren over coffee at the Kona just after getting the not so welcome news about needing to do a 3rd round I just started brooding. Seriously, dark and stormy brooding. I mean, I kept my chin up for a year and all that went with it thinking just a few more months to go…just a few more weeks to go…just another cycle to go and I’m done done done and what’s more it was around the same time of year so I was thinking this birthday would be all lighthearted and fun for all. Of course I was brooding and I wanted my hair to match my mood. I thought out loud about it and they begged me not to take action. Sarah’s shop was right around the corner, but I knew she wasn’t working that day and her dance card is usually filled for days, so it’s not like you can just waltz in unannounced. Bren was frantically txting our hair dresser friend Tony warning him of my intentions and reiterating her caution (in vain and she knew it) to wait until I could get in to see him at least. I lied and said I would. Cut to an hour later, me in my bathroom, dark hair dye dripping everywhere, my arms, face and neck, the floor, but mostly in my hair (give or take a few strands). My cell phone is ringing and on the screen it says “Tony calling”…well, I couldn’t pick it up if I wanted to and get my phone all messy, so I let it go to voice mail and did my best to squeeze what little was left in the bottle over the spots I’d missed.
Cut to a few days later, walking into Tony’s shop. Tony was just finishing up with Bren’s hair and fingering through my hair trying really hard not to give me grief. He wanted to be there for me you see. When he first saw me after the news broke, everyone wanted to pitch in and he proudly announced he would be hooking me up with a beautiful wig, natural hair and all. I think he was more disappointed than confused over my not going bald. I keep wanting to type “not losing my hair”, but that wouldn’t be accurate. I did lose hair. A little bit came out nearly every time I brushed it, but I have such an extraordinarily thick head of hair (everyone in my family does) that it wasn’t even noticeable (except to the plumber).
By the time I left the shop both were nodding in agreement that the rescue was a smashing success. I must agree I got some pretty serious thumbs up from the men in my life. Who knew? ;) I don’t have any pics of my hair before Tony did his magic fix and don’t have many at all taken during chemo because I didn’t like that I couldn’t recognize the person in mirror, but here is one I found that was after the first cycle (of 6) in the 3rd round. Behind me is Deb (Debalou). She and her mom Karolyn were the ones I wrote the notes for that turned into The C Card and Me. This picture was taken the day after Thanksgiving, 2012 at a gathering of childhood/highschool friends, just a couple months before her mom was diagnosed.
That’s the story of why I have hair (and did throughout chemo) and that though I’m a blonde by nature, the girl on the cover has dark hair.
Now, to answer the question “If you’re in your 40’s and blown up like a balloon, why are you portrayed on the cover of the book as lean and 12ish?”
That, I’ll answer in the next installment of Prelude to a Book: What are you, 12?…