Recently, on New Year's Day, I got out of bed with just a trace of a hangover, ran my fingers through my hair, and took a bunch of strands with me to the bathroom. What a way to start 2016, right? It got worse from there.
If I have learned anything from all of this it is patience and to live in the present. As it is, my hair will grow back and I will look differently to others. Appearances aside, I do know I am a woman who is stronger and more beautiful than I was before I was diagnosed a year and half ago.
But how could I have known that in fact my head is well-shaped, not too big, not too small, no distracting lumps or bumps, scars or curious protuberances. How could I have known how delightful the buzz was to touch?
Waiting for each hair to go was like death by a thousand cuts. So on the fifth day of the exodus my husband Harlan got the buzzer and the razor, and I was G.I. Jen. Up to this point I hadn't felt like a sick person. Now I looked in the mirror and saw Cancer Girl.
I paid as much mind to my hair and face as I had to the wounds I had been dressing, performing rituals of grooming I had nearly forgotten. My heart swelled, and after a year of cellular and spiritual purging, I suddenly felt full.
While individual health care decisions in the wake of a cancer diagnosis belong to the patient, there are some questions that my mother asked -- or didn't know to ask until things went awry -- that may be helpful for others to keep in mind when chemotherapy is presented as an option.