100th Post

This is an exciting and special day not only because it marks one year since my liver resection surgery, but also because this post number 100 on my blog! Double yippee!

What started out as a way to keep in touch when my husband and I moved to China has turned into a resource for cancer survivors and illness sufferers. Oh and in-between, I chronicled six months of living in France. What a ride!

To commemorate the moment, I wanted to share a few of my favorite and most popular posts. It was really fun to look back. I love how this blog has served as a history of my life.

Thank you for reading.  Here’s to the next 100!

Most popular posts:
Waiting for Hair: The Toll of Chemotherapy and Cancer
For me, losing my hair wasn’t hard — it was the waiting for it to grow back that has been the most challenging.  And for the hair update, click here.

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2014, 2015 & 2016

Living Universal Truths on My Cancerversy
September 1st is my cancerversy and the universe conspired for some incredible things to happen.

Testing My Confidence
My terrifying debut to the french language.

Belgium: More Than Beer and Chocolate
Christmas in Brussels, Bruges and Ghent.

My Night in a Brothel
Spending the night in a 24-hour Asian spa – sketchy or awesome? Both.

 

Favorite posts:

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At the End of the World on Cancer Survivor’s Day

The Ordinary World
My journey through cancer and to the Camino de Santiago.

Lessons Learned in Advocating
Your life depends on not letting your guard down for a moment. Here are some of the important advocating lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Why I’m Kicking Italy to the Curb
Where my obsession with the Camino de Santiago all began.  To read all my Camino posts, click here.

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Holly visits China

Hol(l)y Crap
When one of my best friends visited me in China.

The Adventures of Henri & Moi
Driving a manual car in a foreign country is terrifying.

 

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One Year of Hair After Cancer

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As featured on curetoday.com

August marked one year since I shaved my head just two weeks after my first round of chemotherapy. I knew the hair loss was coming and decided ahead of time to shave at the first signs of clumps on my pillow. As I wrote in Waiting for Hair: The Toll of Chemotherapy, “Losing my hair wasn’t hard – waiting for it to grow back has been the most challenging.” I still stand by this statement.

When treatment ended, I became obsessed with taking a daily photo so I could see the progress. A watched pot never boils; this saying applies to hair growth, too. It seemed the day I stopped taking regular photos, it started growing like a weed.

Another daily task was scouring Pinterest for secret solutions. I put castor and peppermint oils in my shampoo. I massaged my head to wake up the hair growth follicles. I took biotin. The result: a freakish amount of blond hair on my earlobes that was never there before. Once a friend commented on my unusual amount of ear hair, I stopped and deleted this Pinterest board.

I’m happy to be past the point where unusually short hair prompts a conversation. I loved when other survivors approached me with their words of wisdom and encouragement, but there were also those who opened their mouths without thinking. For instance, there was the TSA official who asked, “What did you cut your hair for?”

With a sarcastic smile, I replied, “It wasn’t voluntary.”

I’m not sure he ever got it, but I questioned his intelligence for commenting on a woman’s hair in the first place.

I shared this story with a fellow survivor who advised me to respond to this question by saying, “I survived cancer!” This prompts celebration and not pity or surprise or embarrassment for asking. Great advice.

After about two months of growth, I looked in the mirror and saw a mullet staring back at me. Initially, I planned to tough it out as I grew it out. My philosophy was, why would I cut off perfectly good hair? However, the mullet lead to a change in strategy. If my hair was going to be short, it might as well be cute and short. Now I go for haircuts every month and only during the last week do I look like Joe Dirt.

For a while, I threatened my husband to dye it purple or pink or that wonderful grey that is so in style. I was in the, “I just survived cancer and I’ll do as I darn well please,” phase. But the reality is, I’m too chicken, which I find funny considering a year ago I was walking around with a bald head and couldn’t care less. Oh, how cancer changes perspectives constantly.

Whenever I’m frustrated with the current status of my hair, I stop myself and say a prayer of gratitude that I have any hair at all, because not so long ago I didn’t. I also think about those in the place where I was a year ago. Like everything in life and in cancer, it is a journey. And as the saying goes, it’s the journey and not the destination.

However, my next destination might be extensions. Stay tuned.

Read this on curetoday.com: One Year of Hair After Cancer

Read all my articles with Cure.

And here’s a photo summary of my hair re-growth:

Waiting for Hair: The Toll of Chemotherapy and Cancer

87WSyMSm

As featured on curetoday.com

My impatient husband is waiting for me to finish doing my hair. We’re meeting friends for dinner and already running late. This used to be a regular scene at my house on any given weekend night.

Now, I’m bald. I think about this as I sit at a coffee shop and look around at all the healthy people flaunting their hair — mocking me with curls, highlights, ponytails, bobby pins and headbands — while they run their fingers through their locks with no thought. I am green with envy and feel guilty for taking my beautiful hair for granted.

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Free at last from the heat of a Nashville summer.

I acknowledge hair loss is a difficult and traumatic event for many during cancer treatment. For me, losing my hair wasn’t hard — it was the waiting for it to grow back that has been the most challenging. I finished my last chemotherapy treatment on Christmas Day and was irritated not to wake up December 26 with a full head of hair.

When I started chemotherapy, my doctor gave me three options of cocktails and explained the potential side effects. I asked her which one she thought would be best.

She gave her opinion and followed it up with, “It’ll give you crazy diarrhea and it’s the most toxic but you won’t lose your hair.”

Really? I was shocked my doctor thought I would rather endure weeks of diarrhea just for hair. On my first day of chemo, the pharmacist and I reviewed the side effects again. I decided to go with a less toxic cocktail at the expense of my hair. Up to that point, I only thought “hair” only meant was on my head. It was then that I learned I could lose everything. Yes, everything. 

Two weeks after my first treatment, I ran my fingers through my hair and out came a handful. Within the hour, I called some friends to come over to shave my head. We made a celebration out of the event and created many styles. I had a mohawk over salad, a side shave over pizza and a nice patch in the front with a curl over dessert. No tears were shed, but there were a lot of laughs. Eventually, we shaved it down to a nice stubble and it felt great during that Nashville summer.

Even though I bought a wig and countless people sent me scarfs, I decided to be out and proud with my bald head. As if it were any consolation, I have a nicely shaped head without any Gorbachev birthmarks or funky lumps. I often forgot I was bald and people are pretty cool these days about not staring too much. A fellow survivor even bought me lunch once.

Much to my surprise, the stubble stayed and I never got Mr. Clean bald. Angry, I wondered if my shave was premature. Remembering everything, I stopped shaving my legs, until my husband said the hair was braidable. And even more annoying — that one hair growing from my chin. You ladies know what I’m talking about. I welcomed the loss of that little sucker. Nope, it never happened and I’m still plucking that rebel. Eyebrows, eyelashes and everything else remained in tact.

Halfway through my six rounds of chemotherapy, I got a two month break from chemotherapy for surgery. I was ecstatic when my hair started to grow back and continued to do so even after I resumed treatment. I thought that maybe I wouldn’t lose my hair this time. Sure enough, the day after the thought existed in my brain, I woke up to a softball-sized bald spot on the back of my head. I resolved not to do a complete shave and just let it be.

Today, I’m almost a couple months from the end of treatment and my hair is the definition of a hot mess. Picture a combination of cradle cap, a modest mullet and that terrible men’s hairstyle that looks like a wall at the front hairline. I’ve been wearing hats and oozing with jealousy at everyone and anything who has hair. This includes my German Shepherd and cat who just shed it throughout the house. I take a picture of my head every day and even though I feel my hair growing back, it doesn’t look like it in the photos. A watched pot never boils.

Having a buzzcut for the last six months is starting to take it’s toll. I am so ready to run my fingers through my hair again. No matter how many times my husband tells me I’m pretty, I still do a double take when I pass a mirror. I feel less feminine and despise how my bald head screams cancer patient. I’m ready to move on.

Who knows when my hair will grow back to what I consider a respectable length. But what I do know is that I can’t wait for one of those weekend nights, when we’re already late and my husband’s waiting for me to finish doing my hair.

Read on curetoday.com: Waiting for Hair: The Toll of Chemotherapy and Cancer

Read all my cure today.com articles.

A Chronology of Hair Loss

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February 10, 2016