Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Courage on a Wednesday

My day started with my first visit with an oncologist. It was pouring rain and I was anticipating a long day that wasn't conducive to wearing rain boots so I skipped them and then remembered why rain in the summer is so gross - rain grit always makes its way into your shoes somehow. Nasty.

Anyway, I arrived at my appointment armed with a friend with good listening and note taking skills and a list of 52 typed questions. That's right, 52. Typed. This woman is now responsible for curing me. I need to know a bit more about her, her plan for me and she might as well know up front what she is dealing with: a type A, overly analytical control freak. The appointment went very well and despite the fact that the doctor answered a good portion of my questions before I pulled out my sheet, she patiently repeated herself as I asked about 38 of the 52 and then asked her to repeat a few things just so I was clear. And my friend chimed in with a few good ones of her own.

I just listened and jotted down the names of the medications as best as I could and an outline of my treatment and left the detailed notes to JooYun. Good thing I'm not the one taking notes for her, my handwriting is terrible, hers is organized and neat. And oh, so helpful.

In sum, chemotherapy will take four months. It will suck. I will lose my hair, throw up and feel weak and tired. I can start as early as a couple of weeks.

However,

[big deep breath for the scary part]

There are fertility issues to be considered. This is the part that overwhelms me. Scares me. Makes me sad. Makes me mad. Makes me cry.

The oncologist gave me the names of a couple of fertility doctors specializing in preserving fertility for cancer patients and leveled with me. She would do everything she could to preserve her fertility if she were in my position.

So I made an appointment for Friday with a reproductive endocrinologist. I will work on my 52 questions for him tomorrow. I've already booked JooYun for support and notes.

I have also lined up a PET/CT scan for Monday and my preparation sheet contains this scary line: "Stay AWAY From CHILDREN FOR 24 HOURS" (emphasis theirs!). The verbal instruction also warned against pregnant women and I presume breast feeding women as well. But with no questions to ask, just a three hour test looking for more suspicious masses and lumps, I think this is one I will just take on myself. And Wednesday will be the MUGA scan which is, I guess, just a fancy word for an echocardiogram to test my heart's strength. I've had an echo before so that doesn't sound so bad.

I am also in the process of scheduling genetic testing. If I have the breast cancer gene, I will need to decide whether to get a double mastectomy as opposed to the lumpectomy anticipated. I feel progress has been made. Although whether we move forward with chemotherapy first or surgery now depends on what happens on the fertility front on Friday.

More waiting and anticipating. But at least I have appointments and procedures to focus on so it doesn't feel so much like waiting.

Also today, I pulled all my resolve together and decided to take action in the one area where I don't need a doctor's appointment to prepare: I cut my hair.

More accurately, my stylist of five years cut my hair and my friend Julia came with me for moral support so I made her take photos.

I was so nervous to tell my stylist about the cancer. It just feels like this leaden weight I pass along. It is tough enough to tell people I know well but those second and third layers of people outside the inner circle are the question marks.

Lately I feel every day, normal conversations are taking place under this giant bubble hanging between us that reads: "I have breast cancer." For example, monthly firm lunch today, I sit with a random assortment of people and exchange pleasantries. The innocent question of "what's new with you" is posed. The bubble swells and grows to fill the space between us as I chatter on and on about an approaching half-marathon I may not have the opportunity to run. I tell another co-worker "yes, I have been just taking some time to catch up on personal items now that my large case has mostly wrapped up" because how can I just blurt out "no, actually I have cancer" when he inquires about my frequent absences lately. I'll tell him when he gets back from vacation, I decided as the I-have-breast-cancer bubble squeezes me awkwardly out of the room.

But my stylist handled it gracefully and told me she has been through this with clients before. We made it fun. I gave her permission to do whatever she wants with my hair.



After she exclaimed what good fortune it was her next appointment was canceled so she could take her time, she put me in two braids and prepared to chop them off.



In no time at all, there my braid was sitting creepily on its own on the vanity.



There was something so liberating about just lopping all the length off at once in such a seemingly haphazard manner.



You see, I've never been very brave with my hair. I never went through any rebellious experimentalism in high school or college. Unless you count the part where I died my hair so that it had the ever so slight tinge of magenta in the sunlight and I panicked and thought it was purple and made my mom help me die it back to normal. I don't.



So lopping off two mis-matched braids at once felt rebellious and liberating all at once. Plus, I get to ship them off to Locks of Love to help kids with cancer.

I then had the best shampoo head massage I have ever had. Ever. The shampoo person is different every time I visit and often they are so tentative about barely rubbing your head but this guy - he was amazing. Plus, he called me sunshine and said I brought sunshine inside on a dreary rainy day. Cheesy? Yes. But I will take it.

Then I was in Jenny's chair sitting still and chit chatting about cancer and hair styles and dancing and other odds and ends.



I think my stylist loved the whole thing because she really got to put all her amazing skills to work.





I got more and more excited as it progressed, not quite knowing how it would all turn out because I gave her free license to do whatever she wanted.



Jenny was a blur of activity as she snipped and cut and combed and measured to get everything just so.



And I tried to be patient with all that hair in my eyes . . . my least favorite thing about getting my hair cut.



My patience was happily rewarded in the big reveal.



And after some more careful disheveling and tweaking and several big hugs, I thanked Jenny and promised I would be back when my hair came back so she could make my hair amazing again.



Since I was suddenly feeling so chic and somehow French, Julia and I had dinner at Le Pain Quotidien while I adjusted to the breeze on my neck.



Cancer is good for something - giving me the courage to chop off all my hair so I could text a photo to friends who uniformly approved of my sexy new look.

11 comments:

mickey said...

alyssa u look amazing! i loved this post. i am amazed that we both sat in the chair today and got our cuts. i cut my hair from my longer length when we sat together last. then today i went into kim and told her i wanted a pixie and to do whatever she wanted. i still need to snap a picture and email ya. your post and photos are so great!

thanks for sharing, i love your hair, it is so chic. u r amazing, did i already mention that?

lemoniepants said...

100% completely totally in love with your new hair. and that is NOT a 'nice cause you have cancer' comment. i seriously love it. really. truly.

Emily said...

What a fantastic cut! You ROCK the short hair!

meg said...

I LOVE that hair style you!! It is so absolutely perfect for you.

Tiffany said...

I started to leave a comment earlier this week, and then stopped. I'm way out here in the 26th layer of people in your world. Because I'm just part of the blurkers-interested-in-the-rest-of-your-divorce-story circle. Although, I have to say, I truly ADMIRE you. Not because you're standing up to cancer and fighting back (although that it super awesome). No, I admire you because you're one of those people that does all the things other people just talk about. Like becoming a lawyer in NYC, or travelling to places with giant mosquitoes. You pretty much rock, and that is why I'm still following you years after your last divorce post. =)

All that being said, I couldn't help but comment today and say you look amazing. That haircut was created just for you. You're sassy, sexy, and ready for anything!

If you need someone in the 26th layer to vent to, I don't mind being that person.
tiff1209@yahoo.com

autumn said...

Okay. So cute. I mean really. Now you've got me thinking about cutting my hair and I don't look good with short hair, but you've convinced me that I might....

Tiffany said...

Am I somehow your vicarious crier? Because I just cried and cried, mostly because you are so freaking amazing and also because that haircut is so gorgeous it makes grown women weep.

(I will totally be your crier if you want me to.)

lizzie said...

tiffany is not the only crier...here i sit blubbering. amazed at your strength. amazed at your beauty. i love you, alyssa.

critts said...

Bravo! I LOVE the new hair. You look sophisticated and sassy and I love it. And your strength amazes me, but then again, it always has.

Annie said...

seriously, you look amazing! i love your new cut. thanks for giving me strength today. i needed it. and, i will be praying for you. everyday.

Jen said...

You look so, so beautiful! I love the look on you, it just suits you.

If I were cancer, I wouldn't want to be up against YOU. I have a feeling you are going to kick. cancer's. butt.

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