It feels good to know that Herceptin is such a promising drug. Just today, after receiving my fifth dose of this treatment, I heard on ABC news that Herceptin is simply a wonder potion. In fact, the drug was taken out of clinical trials early so doctors could start putting it to use. The results were that good.
It also feels good to know that through other people’s eyes, my hair looks good. Today while at the Cancer Center, a physician assistant said it was “gorgeous.” Another woman admired my hair while we stood in the infusion center. A 36-year-old lymphoma patient whose hair was just beginning to grow back, she was speculating about how her hair would look once it was as long as mine. As long as mine. It does seem long compared to the days when all I saw was a shiny scalp. But when I consider that it’s been eight whole months since my hair started growing, my dark locks don’t seem that long at all. It doesn’t seem that gorgeous to me either. Some days I do like it. I like that it’s easy. I like that it looks stylish on a good day. I like the dark color sometimes too. But mostly, I am struggling to accept my new look. It’s strange to look in the mirror and recall the blond, straight hair I had for 34 years. I never would have cut my hair this short, or added so much dark curl, so to look at this extreme makeover is still startling. It’s minor really. I am alive and would give up all my hair forever if staying alive was guaranteed for a really long time. But in the here and now, it’s an adjustment. The compliments help, though. It’s flattering to know others like my hair. One day I may really like it too.
Despite the promise of Herceptin and my still overall feeling that I am going to survive my cancer battle, there are moments when I feel so unlike I once felt. Maybe it’s the hair that changes my whole appearance. Or the port that sticks out of my chest and today shows where a needle stuck me twice — once so painfully I wanted to scream. Maybe it’s the thought every time I wash myself in the shower that I might find another lump. Or that chemo is not preventing cancer cells from traveling through my body. Maybe it’s the mammogram I will receive in November — the first one since my breast cancer diagnosis. It could be anything — and it’s probably everything — that has changed my life, my perspective, my hopes and fears.
These chemo days bring everything to the forefront. They remind me of what I’m fighting for — my life. And that is daunting. But also a reality check. And now I can proceed with the next three weeks, thankful that I am right now a healthy and productive recipient of the life-saving Herceptin — with a head full of thick, dark, curly hair.