Happiness is a School Vacation Week and Growing Hair

April vacation is here and I couldn’t be happier. No alarm clock. No rush to get ready. Time for two cups of frothee coffee on the couch. Knitting in my lap (finished another MDK dishcloth). Knitting blogs on the laptop screen in front of me (MDK and Yarn Harlot – reading all the archives). Mindless television programs flickering across the room. (Too embarrassed to name the all-day rerun of an entire season of a reality show that I’m not really watching. Really. I’m not.) My son upstairs playing a computer game, occasionally coming by on his way to the kitchen. Cat curled up next to me. My own curls growing longer. This is happiness for me. I could do this every day. I’m a world class homebody.

This is a good time in my life, and not just because of a school vacation. I’m coming up on the end of roughly 18 months of dealing with breast cancer and its treatment. I was diagnosed in October 2005 after my first mammogram ever. Only went for the mammogram to make my mother happy – had to go before I turned 40. Didn’t go so that they could find a suspicious little cluster of nasty stuff. It was earthshattering, terrifying. Aside from being afraid for me, I was worried about my son, M. I’m a single mom and I’m M’s ONLY. Nothing could happen to me.

A lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation, followed by a year of weekly Herceptin IV treatments. 48 treatments down and only 4 to go. It’s been a long road, but I’m feeling great and I’m healthy. I’m a lucky girl. (I know, I know, but I can’t call myself “woman” or “lady.” Makes me feel older than I want to feel. I’m a girl.) The doctors, nurses, assistants and technicians who’ve cared for me have been wonderful. I remember my mom telling me a story about something my father, who is so not a mushball, said to someone in the waiting area at the radiologists office: “They must be the angels you always hear people talk about.” So true. The other angels are M, my parents, my 2 sisters, and all of my wonderful friends. Oh, can’t forget my students and their families. Wow. People are good.

Now let’s talk hair. I think one of the hardest parts of going through chemo is losing one’s hair. It was really tough for me. At my first treatment, the nurse told me I should cut my hair short, so that it would ease the devastation I’d feel at seeing long pieces of hair fall out of my scalp. Wouldn’t do it. I figured that, with my luck, I’d be the one person whose hair didn’t fall out from the chemo drug I was getting. After big clumps fell onto the floor of a dressing room at TJ Maxx, I went home, grabbed the scissors and asked my son to help me hack it all off. I cut the front; he cut the back. We cried and we laughed.

My months without hair were hard for me. I dreamed about hair. Dreamed that I had long, flowing, shiny waves. I’d wake up and my hand would fly to my head. Still bald. I’d catch my reflection in a mirror or window and feel a little zap. Shocked me to see myself. I wore a wig for a short time. Looked like a helmet. My own hair was fine and flat. The wig was full and thick. I was a wrecking ball head. I could have knocked down brick walls by head-butting them. Switched to hats. Much better. Some were hats I had knit or crocheted, but my favorite was a big denim hat. But hats stink when you’re having chemo hot flashes. I’d feel the heat coming up, yank off the hat and fan myself. My son would ask, “Flashing?” I wore my soft, knitted caps to sleep in because my head would get chilly, but I’d always end up pulling it off several times during the night. I’ll probably never knit another hat for myself, but I love making them for babies. They don’t flash. No worries.

As soon a I had what could be considered a centimeter of hair covering my shiny scalp, I flipped my lid. I sucked it up, and went out without a hat. So freeing. I wore big earrings so people would know I was female (forgetting that I still had boobs that would tip everyone off.) What is the thing with earrings and women with short post-chemo hair? We all do it. Do we think that the dangling flashes of silver and gold will distract people from our lack of hair?

Now that my hair has had nearly a year of growing time, I’m finally feeling like I look almost normal again. My hair is darker and much curlier that it was before, but it’s the most beautiful hair ever. It is. Wouldn’t care if it was purple and frizzy. Green and stick straight. Doesn’t matter. It’s hair. Hair. I love my hair. Love playing with it. Putting goop in it. Twirling it. Feeling good and even willing to have my picture taken. Then . . .

Yesterday, one of my very beautiful third grade girls said to me, “When your hair gets long, you’re going to be beautiful.” Fizzle fizzle. Deflate. Pfft. Ouch. So I look like crap now? Whatamigonnado? It’s my hair. And I love it.

Happy vacation to me. Casting on . . . Life is good.

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