Friday was Buzz Night, and it couldn't have come sooner.
That morning, two strokes (two!) of a wide tooth comb and you’d think I brushed a Newfoundland for 3 hours. I tried not to look at the waste basket and I tried to wipe up the sink without freaking out and I tried to go about the rest of my day normally, but at about 4PM, out came the heaving sobs and the ceaseless weeping. I mean, I couldn’t get myself together for almost an hour.
I made it to 6PM, the time of our makeshift "buzz bash," if you will. This is where a small group of my ferociously loyal and funny friends gathered for apps and a couple drinks and for ultimately what would be the main event, the buzz.
After I finished demolishing my last buffalo chicken dipped chip around 9PM, I sighed and said, "Okay, let’s get this done with."
Maura busted out her clippers, the girls dragged around chairs, and next thing I know we’re discussing Anna’s husband’s hair in relation to my own.
“What Is yours - like a 6? An 8?" Maura asked poor Kris, after he made the mistake of leaving his hiding place (the TV room) for two seconds. While they talked barber shop, I shifted around on the chair avoiding the small mirror beside me on the table. I pictured myself at the hairdresser in my past life (or three months ago, same thing).
“Three inches off - just to clean it up,” I would say to my ever-changing hairdressers in the mirror (I move a lot). Then I'd tell her to watch out for my head mole, a warning she'd promptly forget. I'd grin and bear her nicking her comb on my the head mole but I would not stand for over-snippage. With my hand up in warning I'd say, "You're not cutting more than 3 inches, right?!" as if another inch or two represented some kind of tragic loss.
Anyhooters, we decided on a length, but not before Maura carved out a temporary mohawk. My friends oohed and ahhed and told me I looked great - they’d tell me I looked great if I had an arm growing out of my head - but it helped, and I think I did look pretty badass. I couldn't keep it, much to their dismay because that, too, would fall right out of my damn head.
The end result, something between a pixie and a buzz cut, didn’t look so bad and my head felt free. A few weirdo wigs were passed around afterwards (Lily even tried one on, see above) - and the night, overall, was a success. I'm so thankful for each one of my friends, and especially on this day for Maura. Just two years ago she was styling my wedding hair, and here she was again - in shittier circumstances, sure.
I’ll get weepy again thinking of how kind they all were to do this for me, how kind so many people have been to me throughout this. (Like, how in the middle of my crying fit I had Beth go out and buy me underwear because I told her, wailing, "I for-got- [hiccup] to pack sommmme" - and minutes later she shows up with a three-pack from Marshalls and tosses it to me with a smile like it's a pack of gum.)
Saturday/into Sunday, I had that cute buzz/pixie - until it thinned and got patchy. It went from cute, to 'wonder-whats-wrong-with-that-balding-girl' very fast.
So, today is day 1 with the wig and I’m at work and it looks like my real hair. Well, my hair two months ago. There’s no easy way to explain to Bill in the Buying Department, I guess, how my hair magically grew 10 inches overnight, but what the hell. It's fine. It's not ideal, none of this is. But it's fine, and it will be fine.
As my mother so nicely said in an email the other day, "Now is the time to start being thankful that you don't live in Sub-Saharan African and your meals don't consist partly of mud. Literally. Remember. This too shall pass."
I don't know if there could have been a more miserable confluence of factors. It was Father's Day, my hair is falling out, and (sorry, Mom, for what you call my ‘trucker mouth’ and for TMI) - I had the shits.
I thought that if I hyped up this whole "losing your hair” business, if I built it up to be so horrifying, so horrible, so devastating, that when the time came I'd put my hand on my hip and say, Huh, okay, I can handle this, it’s not so bad.
Another week, another treatment, another grab bag of side effects, though much milder than last week. I mostly just feel ‘off.’ Mentally, especially. One moment I’m elated over something, then suddenly I’m mired in a complete funk, feeling bad for myself. Wahh, I have cancer. Things that have helped: A cathartic Reiki session by the lovely Jenna, a long bike ride with Mike where I got attacked by a million of those hairy caterpillar things dangling from trees, and a couple deep, deep stomach cries.
Mike and I joke that buying a house will just add a boat load of stress to an already stressful time. It probably will, but it will probably also be an enormous joy.
We have been saving like mad and all we’ve wanted is our own home. Even more so now, so that I can have a private oasis, a hiding place. I’m dreading the degradation of my appearance in our impersonal apartment complex. I imagine the tween girls across the hall (okay, they’re like 20, but they act strangely juvenile) growing more and more confused by me looking so different day to day. They’ll wonder, Is that lady’s husband a rampant philanderer?
I’ll find a note under the door one day. “Hi Nikole,” (I imagine they can’t spell, or know what philanderer means), "We saw a blonde lady with bad highlights come out of your apartment yesterday and we’re sorry to tell you this but..."
I was feeling healthy - boisterously, radiantly healthy - in the days leading up to and even beyond my first chemo treatment. I was jogging and working out and even jetted around Chatham in a friend's boat on Memorial Day. I slathered on sunscreen. I sipped (only sipped, as it tastes like pavement) on wine. I stretched and breathed it all in and felt grateful. People asked how I was feeling, and I answered, "Surprisingly, I feel great!" I was being honest. I did feel great. And they were pleased and I was pleased and everything was normal and it was like I didn't even have cancer. Except when the darkness crept in.