Flushing My Hair Down the Toilet

There is a difference between intellectual knowledge and emotional reaction!

I knew from the beginning of my chemotherapy treatment that hair loss was probably inevitable. Oh sure, the medical professionals said many people only experience thinning of their hair not actual complete loss but that comment struck me as part of the this-isn’t-so-bad, wishful thinking school of a prepping the patient drill. All of the patient descriptions covered the hair loss phenomenon in detail. Engaging the best of my intellect, I listened to the people who had actually experienced chemo and prepared appropriately.

(Interestingly the medical professionals spoke consistently about the nausea effects I should expect; assuring me that they’d give me anti-nausea medications by IV before the chemo and provide pills to use at home. Either the pre-chemo meds are TERRIFIC or my stomach is lined with stern stuff. I didn’t even experience a moment of queasiness.)

Back to hair. In anticipation, I had my longish, curly hair cut short to accustom myself, and others to seeing me with less on top. Given my amazing hair stylist Steven’s skill, my new punky hairstyle got rave reviews. Those who knew about the cancer figured out my strategy; those who didn’t, thought I was simply making a change. Either way, I felt like I was doing a great job getting prepared for the next step. First my scalp started to itch and hurt. Scratching the itch, even gently, ended in fingers covered in hair. Here we go I thought. I got in the habit of bending over the toilet and scubbing my head to remove loose hair there rather than sprinkling it behind me as I walked though the house. Not too bad, I thought. Two days later my over the toilet riffing became bowl filling and with a great deal of trepidation, I grabbed a bunch of hair and pulled gently and realized that my hair was coming out by the handful. There was a moment of fascination followed almost immediately with overwhelming feelings of grief. The last opportunity for denial—this cancer thing can’t be real or it isn’t going to hit me like other people was GONE!

Steven had vowed to re-visit my haircut with his clippers when I was ready. A call elicited his promise to come over to our house with his partner, Rob, Friday night to finish my shearing with the promise of pizza to end the event. Sheet on the kitchen floor. Stool in the center. Steven’s gentle hands on my shoulder. The unfamiliar buzz of the clippers. Clumps of my remaining hair falling softly to the floor. The end of the hair chapter.
As I viewed my new self in the bathroom mirror, the clippers started up again. Back in the kitchen, Frank had taken my place. Bald in solidarity, he explained; my dear husband finding a way to join me on this strange journey.

He’ll need a haircut in a month. I won’t.

10 thoughts on “Flushing My Hair Down the Toilet

  1. I read this, and I felt as if I was there – watching the flush, catching the hair, scratching your skull. Thanks for sharing from a patient perspective. As a nurse for over 35 years, I taught, mixed, and administered chemo. I offered the same expectations to my patients, some of whom shared their stories, and none of whom shared it your way! Hugs.

  2. I will look forward to reading every post you make. Not because it is fun to read but because you are a joy to know. For each of us who promises to read it I see it as a promise of support. It gives you “someone to write for” beyond yourself and of course that is the small joy I think you can find in this difficult journey. Your ability to experience, observe, ponder, report, and amaze us with with your words and wit. And on days when you don’t feel witty, we will carry it for you.

  3. Chris, we don’t know eachother, but are NSA sisters in heart. Your post moved me and while I haven’t been down the journey of beating cancer (just as you will), I have faced health crisis. Know that I’m happy to have conversations on the tough days, celebrate wins with you, and provide insight in any way possible if you ever want to reach out. Much love to you and many blessings in this journey.

  4. Oh Chris, I am so sorry you are going through this. My prayers and thoughts are with you, and I know that is not nearly enough. Please know you are loved and cherished by so many people. Huge hugs! Mary

  5. Chris, I have recently had a health issue, not cancer, but it required major surgery. I remained positive and was fortunate to be surrounded by supportive family and friends. Your writings are so impactful , beautiful, and represent the strong women you are. My prayers are with you. Kathy

  6. Chris, I read your post this morning and I want to tell you that you have been an inspiration to me from the start of my speaking career. Now lean on us- we are here , if not in person, in spirit . You are loved by so many and we are here to support you. Sending love and payers!

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