I'm mentally preparing for a 3-month checkup at Dana-Farber. No scans are planned; those come in January. That brings some relief, but it's not like I'm lying awake at night fretting over the appointment. I'm not longer constantly awash in the terror that used to douse me each and every day. Thank God.
That's not to say there aren't are some inklings of intrusion. There's the smell of wet leaves as I walk with Lily in the town forest, which offers a quick flash of me huffing up small inclines and adjusting my wig in fall of 2016. There are the Halloween "memories" of me as Eleven from Stranger Things, nose fake-bloodied.
These intrusions sometimes compound themselves. For instance, seeing that fake bloody nose hurtles me even further back to the summer of 2016 when I would get actual nosebleeds, constantly, while on Taxol. (That was the lovely drug that also gifted me mouth sores, fingertip numbness, and sensitivity to light.) The sensation, and then the sound, of blood dripping down ]and plopping onto the table on which I sat was unsettling, to say the least.
One night in particular is singed into my brain. Due to the unpredictability of the burgeoning bleeds, I had to cancel plans last minute and texted my friend something like, "Sorry, can't come out, I just bled all over the table." I threw in a "haha" after. I felt morose: ugly and old and weak and disgusting. The expensive wig on my head was ridiculous. The bandana holding it taut, hiding the "realistic lace front" (designed to resemble a real hairline) was absurd. Who was I fooling?
This is going to sound vain, but up until diagnosis I'd been an attractive 31-year-old female, in good shape with great hair. I was used to eyeliner and a cute top and a good hair day being met with approving eyes at the bar or restaurant with my friends, my youth not yet faded. (How nice for me, I know, I know.) Now I looked off. I knew it. I looked off, even under the wig, my dry eyes bugged and my cheeks puffed. And to be honest with you, I still don't think I've gotten it back and maybe never will. But the difference now? I don't care much. I look fine. I'm here. That's something. It's everything.
But there are small victories that still come. Last week, in the mirror, my ponytail bounced while on the treadmill for the first time. I mean a real flouncy bounce. At my gym you're all lined up facing a mirror. You can't not notice the people beside you on the treadmill, and I couldn't not notice their flouncy ponytails for over a year--Terry B.'s long blonde pony, Brianna C.'s cute low braid. At the sight of my own I was ecstatic, glad for the sweat masking my tears.
(More milestones for anyone reading this going through treatment: Wringing the tips of my wet hair after a shower. Grabbing that fistful of hair, then a long squeeze, is one of the best sensations I've ever experienced. Another: Straightening the top layer of hair (mushroom top) and it laying flat. Another: Using my beloved turby twist to its intended effect...)
As you can see I'm still obsessed with hair and this is not new. Before I was diagnosed, I mourned my mother's hair loss, twice, and now see it was a spooky foreshadowing of my own.
Job updates: All is going well. Trying to be a better teacher every day and learning from my (many) mistakes and miscalculations. Loving the kids (most of them). Trying to make them better writers (and trying to make myself remember how hard it all is. I mean, I'm 33, and it's still hard. I need to give them a break.)
Now please excuse me as I go straighten my hair, readying myself for a Halloween party in which there will be no bloody noses or hairless heads. I'm going as a Christmas Tree. Ho, ho, ho.