My first chemo treatment is on Wednesday. Two days. People have been asking me if I'm nervous or scared--and yes, I'm both, in a floaty, that's happening to someone else kind of way.
But the truth is, after the fertility business wrapped up the other day (resulting in 8 fertilized & frozen eggs and a very bloated stomach), I've been spending most of my time obsessing over the inevitable, and more tangible, loss of my hair. Picturing myself as a gaunt, jaundiced little alien has by far been one of the most traumatic aspects of this whole experience. I hate that I'm being so vain and spending precious, healthy days grieving something that hasn't even happened yet. But it's how I feel. I'm 31 and I'm losing my beautiful hair and I'm mourning it before it's gone. It represents my youth and my confidence and my pride. The color, which I stopped dyeing a couple years ago, I inherited from my father. The thickness comes from my mother.
The woman at the wig store this week, who is a middle-aged cancer survivor, was direct and no-nonsense and spoke to me like this was any other problem, like psoriasis or pink eye. "What drugs will you be on?" She was wearing a t-shirt with words on it, and she was gearing up to go to Nantucket that weekend with her girlfriends for wine fest.
"Taxol, with Herceptin and Perjeta," I answered. "Then surgery. Then the bad stuff, AC, after that."
She nodded knowingly. "You'll lose it in about...let's see. The second week on Taxol. I do GI Jane cuts complimentary when that happens." She was fumbling around what looked like shoe boxes, labeled "Elvira" and "Sharon" and "Jessica."
I went along with it all, as if we were talking about pedicures or the weather or how soon I'd need an oil change. I didn't have much time to process - everything went so fast. The wig shop owner talked at length and minced no words: a wig is a wig and you'll lose your hair and it will be devastating so do you want bangs or not? I stared in the mirror at her and tried to smile and nod and act nonchalant. She picked out colors through a hair swatch, like when you're choosing color at the hair salon. Except that fake hair attached to that color ring? That will more or less will be affixed to my bald-ass head.
I ended up trying on only about three wigs.
One didn't look terrible. "This one's not so bad?" I asked, and my friends nodded encouragingly. "Nikki, it looks great."
"Alright then," the lady said, scooping it up like a limp cat. "I'll order it. She comes in on Tuesday."
(Wigs, I've learned, are referred to as "shes" and "hers.")
The SURVIVORS and THRIVERS who leave raving online reviews for this wig shop appreciate this woman's bold, I-am-woman-hear-me-roar-attitude. But I'm not there yet. I think I needed some pity. Just a little. I think I needed some acknowledgement that my hair was long and thick and nice and I'm pretty fucking young and how much of a shame it was I'd be losing it.
But you can't dictate how someone will treat you and you can't be disappointed when they leave you feeling a little empty and more alone than when you walked in.
You can just smile at the friends who drove 1.5 hours in the middle of a weekday to go with you and laugh at a couple mullet-like numbers. You can lean on them for their support and thank God for them and all they have and will do for you. That's all you can do, and for now, that has to be enough.
Here is one of the rare - maybe only - times you'll see me taking a lonely. Big thank you to my dear Maura for the transitional cut before I say sayonara in a couple weeks to the rest.