Over the hill: Chemo #4

I’m now 4/6 (that’s 2/3, for you math whizzes out there) of the way done with chemotherapy!

Y’all know the drill by now, so instead of blathering on about my uncontrollable drooling, nausea and food aversions (why do all of these have to do with my mouth?), I’m going to talk about something a little more fun: the upsides!

It may seem odd to say, but there are certainly some upsides to the whole chemotherapy process. I already documented all the perks of going bald in an earlier post, but there are even more things I can find to be thankful for when I really search for them, not just the ability to take a shower 5 minutes before I need to leave the house. (But let’s not lie, that ish the JAM. I can’t believe men have been getting away with that forever.)

For example, I have never had better skin in my life. I haven’t been able to figure out the exact reason for this, but it seems to be a well-documented side effect amongst young cancer survivors – acne is banished FOREVER. Normally I’d hate to admit this anywhere, but we’ve gotten to know each other pretty well, internet slash blog followers, so I guess I’ll just go ahead and tell you that I used to have some pretty intense zit biz going on up in this face. Back in middle school, I not only had braces, frizzy hair (R.I.P., hair) and absolutely no sense of style behind oversized summer camp t-shirts, I also had a nice smattering of red pimples across my forehead and cheeks. Since then, the whole deal has calmed down, but like most other twentysomethings I would still find myself with a blemish here and there, and usually only at the most inopportune times. But no more, my friends!

Thanks to chemotherapy, I now have the complexion of a marble bust. If this were the 19th century, crows would alight upon my bald, ivory scalp and quoth, “Nevermore!” I get compliments on my glowing skin virtually every day, so now my secret is out. I wasn’t born with it, it’s carboplatin, taxotere and herceptin. I wouldn’t really recommend that regimen for any but the most severe cases of lingering adult acne, however.

My parents are gonna straight up die of happiness when they read this since I’m generally being super grumpy at them most of the time, but another perk of cancer is the ability to spend more time with my family. My mom, dad and brother all live out here in Los Angeles and I’ve spent the last seven years on the East Coast gettin’ schooled and/or paid, so it has been nice to come home for a bit – even if it wasn’t under the best of circumstances. Just chillin’ with my mom and dad in the chemo ward for like six or seven hours at a time is the kind of personalized one-on-one time you don’t even realize you miss when you’re all grown up and away. I bet I haven’t had this much attention since my little brother was born.

Honestly, my parents and I have had our fair share of squabbles since I was forced to move back home – and I think that’d be pretty standard for any 25-year-old ripped from a life of independence and thrust into a world of needles, drugs, fear and confusion, all while having her parents burst into her room every ten seconds to check on her like it’s ninth grade again – but I’m still incredibly thankful that they’re here for me. I can’t imagine doing this without having my mom and dad handy to shove water in my face three times an hour even when I’m not thirsty, or listen to me bitch about everything, or not rip my head off when I’m a super-rude chemo brat. Love you, mom and dad (and Ryan!). Can someone check and make sure my mom didn’t pass out from joy?

I also completely forgot to mention two other Important Moments in Hairlessness that occurred while I was in Richmond, but that deserve some time in the spotlight on this blog.

IMiH #1: The career fair at school was understandably stressful for all of us, so some of the recruiters and school officials were kind enough to get a few masseuses to come out and give us backrubs to help us calm down. I literally thought I had died and gone to heaven – you can ask Gordie; backrubs are my absolute favorite thing on earth. So without a moment’s hesitation I leapt up onto this lady’s chair, so, so, so ready to get my rub down. And then she started with neck. And then I remembered I was wearing a wig.

At first I was all blissed out on the idea of a backrub so like, whatever. This can’t be the weirdest thing this lady has ever seen, right? But then I start feeling her fingers going sort of under the wig and touching all of my bald, stubbly bits, and I can feel the hesitation in her hands, you know? It’s like her hands are saying, “WTF IS GOING ON HERE? THIS GIRL HAS NO HAIR?”

And I’m sitting there panicking like, Do I tell her it’s a wig? It’s too late now. She’s just going to wonder. Obviously it’s a wig. I can’t explain why I’m wearing a wig without playing the cancer card, and I don’t even KNOW this woman, so like, why should I give her my medical history? But is this weird? IT’S SO WEIRD I’VE WAITED TOO LONG OH GOD SHE THINKS I’M A FREAK!

I almost ruined my whole massage by panicking like that, but thankfully it’s a massage, so it literally can’t be ruined because it’s the best thing in the world.

IMiH #2: One of the recruiters who came to the career fair was wearing a hat with some fake hair attached to it, which was pretty cool since it’s always fun to see anyone – student, recruiter, professor, whoever – let loose a little bit. I had seen him walking around a bit and didn’t realize the hair was fake since I hadn’t looked closely, but then he walked right by me and sort of tipped his hat to me and of course THE HAIR CAME WITH IT and it was hilarious.

So then I’m feeling disarmed and sharing a chuckle with this guy over his shaved head so I’m like, “Hey, me too!” And then I LIFTED UP MY WIG SO HE COULD SEE THAT I WAS BALD UNDERNEATH.

Instantly his expression changed to one of total confusion. And who can blame him? I’m sure he was like, “WTF IS GOING ON HERE? THIS GIRL HAS NO HAIR?” He probably had to get a drink with the masseuse later to talk it out and figure out what was going on. I’m sorry, dude. If you’re reading this, you actually handled it super well, and I’m sorry I gave you absolutely zero explanation as to my hairlessness. Your fake hair rocked, and I’m pretty sure you gave me a thumbs up once you processed the fact that I was actually lifting up a wig, so that makes you a totally awesome guy.

All in all, each go ’round of this chemo business gets easier. I find that with every treatment, my drugs get adjusted more perfectly, I recover more quickly and I experience fewer side effects, so if you’re on this blog because you’re going through or are going to go through chemotherapy, I really hope that give you some hope and make it easier for you. I feel like I just got started, and OH SNAP! I’m 4/6 of the way done.

In case you forgot, that’s 2/3 for all you math whizzes out there.

13 thoughts on “Over the hill: Chemo #4

  1. robyn says:

    Brilliant.You crack me up. Great skin…horraay! Two thirds.two thirds.

  2. I’m loving two things about chemo. 1. The ability to shower 3 minutes before jumping into bed. 2. I will not be shaving my legs all summer.
    I would also like to add that assuming your aftermath is like mine, you have only 2 weeks more of sick and you are so back. Get ready to celebrate because you are just weeks away from DONE with this!

  3. Aisha Borno says:

    You are absolutely amazing and I love your blog to bits!

  4. Ann says:

    I had the same skin-rejuvenating thing going on when I had chemo (taxol/herceptin). And I was 57. My oncologist kept asking me my secret. I told her it was Bobbi Brown. Who knew?

    So glad you’re tripping over so many silver linings. But I think you’d find them in whatever situation life threw your way. Glad you’re nearly there.

  5. Caroline says:

    Love your blog and optimism. So glad to hear that your chemo experience has some up sides. Keep on keeping on the road to recovery!

  6. Are you going to be writing a book about all this one day? Or just publish all the blog posts in booklet form? Because one day I’d love to be able to say to my patients, “I know I don’t understand everything you’re going through, but THIS GIRL DOES, and she’ll make you laugh, so read it. Docs orders.” Anyway, I guess I could just give them your blog url 🙂

  7. Maria Cerchiai says:

    I had the same Chemo you did and also experienced glowing skin! Love your blog!

  8. Barbara says:

    Wow. 2/3 done is excellent. And you are lucky to have a mother, father, and brother who love you and are with you.

  9. You go girl! 2/3- sounds like it’s going to finish soon! I’m so pleased and keep all my 10 fingers for you! Thumbs up to you and your family- you are all dealing with this so exceptionally well!

  10. Vanessa says:

    Your blog is amassing! Im from Venezuela South América, Im 28 years old cáncer surviver too, my last chemo is tomorrow, Im so happy, i’ve never have a moment like… Now radiotherapy

  11. Bayly says:

    Hi Michelle,

    I went to UVa too (graduated in 2011) and heard about your blog from a friend. You are a beautiful writer and I am so glad I discovered your blog. I work with children who have cancer and have shared this with some of them–we are all inspired. Thank you!

  12. Gertrude says:

    Oh ypu’re so lucky to hav all that support I wish I only had one third of it….

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