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.
The truth is it's as devastating as I thought it would be. Maybe worse. Last week was the tingling and itchiness. Towards the end of this week, a light rake of my fingers would yield an alarming collection of strands in my hand. My solution was not to rock the boat. Don't touch it, I scolded myself when all I wanted was to scratch a nagging itch above my right ear. Don't TOUCH it!
In advance of my friend's wedding on Saturday I also embarked on a 4-day shampoo strike. I feared if I gave in and showered it, it might come out in droves after having been beaten with a shower head.
That morning I tried to be calm. I patched in the oily spots with dry shampoo, having my best friend come over and inspect my greased and flattened helmet head. "It looks totally fine," she said, encouragingly, "just this part needs a littttttle more." And off she'd go. Spritz, TSSSZZZZ.
I attended the wedding dandruffed and cowlicked; though those who knew I had cancer seemed to have expected me to look far worse (understandably, I mean i have had 4 weeks of poison coursing through me), so in their minds, I looked great. I did feel great, health-wise. I danced and shared laughs and assured many caring family friends and old friends that I was feeling healthy and strong. But to a few closer friends, I couldn't fight the compulsion to add under my breath, "My hair is falling out though." They looked at me and said dismissively that I looked fine, they didn't notice. And I immediately felt foolish and attention-seeking for saying anything at all - no one wants to hear the Debbie Downer balding girl talking about her hair falling out at one of the happiest occasions that exists in life.
Same goes with my husband, who I'm sure would just like me to think about something else and be kind to myself and not be so self-conscious. Earlier, in the church, as I sat sweating with nerves and terror in the pews, I calculated who was behind me, how tall they were, were they leaning forward, would he or she be looking at the nape of my neck? My head felt tingly and irritated with the faintest tinge of pain. I whispered to Mike with my eyes wild, "Is there hair on my back?” My hand flung around my shoulder to grasp invisible hairs. He shook his head like I was a crazy person.
He couldn't look at me like I was crazy a few hours later, when I momentarily forgot about the hair situation and snagged my finger, and by snagged I mean just hooked it lightly over a few strands - and out came, in my hands, a huge chunk. I let it float to the ground and looked around in horror. No one seemed to notice. I pushed it between a crack on the parque floor, feeling badly for whoever had to pack that bad boy away that night.
I checked the bathroom mirror in misery between cocktails that were neither giving me a pleasant buzz nor an unpleasant buzz; I was stuck in a sober funk. I tilted my head forward in the mirror, eyes up, and saw the grease had multiplied and the hair, in my mind, had thinned significantly. Then it was 10 o'clock and there was a post-wedding bonfire with pizza and beers and all I wanted was to go home and wallow. I love bonfires and pizza and beer and I wanted to be with my friends. But I just couldn't.
The next day, it was time. I couldn't hold off any longer. I had to wash my hair. I had to. I got in the shower, and down the clumps fell, in my hands, in the natural stream of water, pooling in the drain. It was like a horror movie. Forget the loose, silky coils on my pillow - disconcerting enough and multiplying every day - those were child's play compared to this. Speaking of a child, it looked like a small Asian kid child had a haircut and it had somehow found its way to my shower drain.
This morning there was so much hair on the bathroom floor just from me walking back and forth a couple times that I resorted to using the Bissel Pet Hair handheld vaccum we use for Lily’s never-ending shedding dog hair. I’m literally on the floor vacuuming up my hair with a pet vac.
I wish I could spin this positively but I’m at a loss. I always knew my mother struggled with this, and I wish I’d listened to her more, or asked to understand exactly how it felt. But as a daughter you resist adopting the pain of your parents and revert to being the child, and though our parents suffer in myriad ways we still try to convince ourselves they’ll be fine, and we are the ones who need to be taken care of in the end. It’s a selfish, and I think natural reaction, but not the most helpful. Took me far too long to figure that out.
I suppose the only upside is that Friday is the day I get buzzed. While looking at myself in that new way it will be initially alarming, anything beats this rainfall of hair. Anything.