Bye bye eyebrows: Look Good, Feel Better brush-up needed, fast!

 

She has a strong face, and can carry this off. I cannot. I'll be looking for a lighter presentation. Thank you to http://affordablebeautiful.blogspot.ca/2012/12/how-i-do-my-eyebrows.html

She has a strong face, and can carry this off. I cannot. I’ll be looking for a lighter presentation. Thank you to http://affordablebeautiful.blogspot.ca/2012/12/how-i-do-my-eyebrows.html

Back on Feb 1 or 2, when I first warily then enthusiastically attended a Look Good, Feel Better seminar at Princess Margaret Hospital, I had full eyebrows. I don’t pluck them, because I am a-scared of the pain and a-scared of the responsibility of making them the same on each side, seeing a “Oh, a little more off here. No, now wait, then three more from this side. Now that looks odd. Maybe a few from under this side…” scenario, so I never went there. I’ve had my eyebrows tweezed once by Paul Venoit (a god in makeup artistry) and twice by a lovely Scandinavian woman on Bloor Street, and that’s it. I’ve always let Nature take its course, but now cancer is taking its course, and it isn’t pretty.

 

If I had these brows, it would be Botox next to keep my forehead in line! Thank you Alphablonde, but I need a less incredulous look: http://www.lovelyish.com/2009/09/09/how-to-cover-your-eyebrows-and-draw-on-dramatic-ones/

If I had these brows, it would be Botox next to keep my forehead in line! Thank you Alphablonde, but I need a less incredulous look: http://www.lovelyish.com/2009/09/09/how-to-cover-your-eyebrows-and-draw-on-dramatic-ones/

Brows were covered in the Look Better, Feel Better seminar. It had to do with lining up the corner of your eye with where your brow should start, then establishing another sight line to do the arch, etc. At the seminar, and I now quote myself from the February 2 post: “After putting the eyebrow pencil dots at the right co-ordinates, using the inside of my eye and the outside of the iris to line it all up, the seminar leader came over and told me I had lovely eyebrows and we had to get rid of the dots. But what do I do when the eyebrows go the way of the rest of the hair on my head? Then I’ll be making strategic dots and filling in the rest. Ugh.”

 

Then I thought this decent-looking young guy might have the answer—eyebrows with a message. I counted out the letters of my message, and I'll have 10 letters and 10 letters—perfectly symmetrical.. Right eye: CHEMO STOLE    Left eye: MY EYEBROWS. Thank you to http://gothorsomething.blogspot.ca/2013/11/crazy-eyebrows.html for the idea!

Then I thought this decent-looking young guy might have the answer—eyebrows with a message. I counted out the letters of my message, and I’ll have 10 letters and 10 letters—perfectly symmetrical.. Right eye: CHEMO STOLE Left eye: MY EYEBROWS.
Thank you to http://gothorsomething.blogspot.ca/2013/11/crazy-eyebrows.html for the idea!

Well, that time has come. I now really look like a chemo patient, with blond eyebrows in the first place, and now not too many of them left.

 

Now, these are the brows I'm shooting for nothing shocking, nothing too wild, just beautiful. Thank you Zinnia at http://www.stylecraze.com/articles/how-to-get-perfect-arched-eyebrows/

Now, these are the brows I’m shooting for nothing shocking, nothing too wild, just beautiful. Thank you Zinnia at http://www.stylecraze.com/articles/how-to-get-perfect-arched-eyebrows/

Graydon’s girlfriend has a girlfriend who is a professional makeup artist, and she is doing makeovers at a Shoppers Drug Mart, so maybe, if I have the energy, we’ll head on over and I will get some eyebrows added… I might take a couple of fine Sharpies from Curry’s the art store, in my shade, and see if I can talk her into that. Then I won’t have to recreate them for a while…

 

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Since the final chemo: Graydon’s birthday, more appointments, feeling low

CAM00171 three cats on daybed

More and more time spent sleeping, but I never sleep alone: three bed buddies on the daybed, from left, Angel, Dixie and Princess.

I’ve hit a low spot in my cancer side trip, which I think is directly linked with the end of chemo. No matter how lousy the poison makes you feel, at least you know cells are being killed (the good with the bad, but the bad are what counts). I think I’ve sustained my fighting spirit because I felt I was fighting. Now I feel like I’m waiting for cancer to come creeping back.

The whole mood thing started on the last day. My last chemo coincided with Graydon’s birthday, and my sister Heidi’s. Graydon came to the hospital to meet me for the end of my infusion. Then I got up from the bed, gathered my things, put on my sweater and went to get my jacket. I realized I didn’t have my toque, my favourite—a soft sand-coloured organic alpaca cap hand knit by my friend Annie—so I went back to my room. It wasn’t there, and with incredible speed and efficiency, the bed had already been stripped. I was confused. I wore it there, I wore it throughout the infusion, yet it wasn’t there. I emptied my bag and my purse, I looked in my pockets (knowing full well it wasn’t there), under the bed. The nurses and Graydon looked between the mattress and the bed frame, and we all went through the laundry hamper. I checked the lost and found box, ridiculous since it had only been missing 20 minutes. No cap. I was almost in tears as the nurses said they would keep looking and call me when they found it. They said to pick out one of the donated caps to wear home. Graydon was meeting me so that I could take him shopping for his birthday gift, and that was going to be a fun time—losing my cap and having to wear a red and blue and beige one that didn’t fit was effectively putting a damper on the shopping trip. We shopped, picked out a chain befitting a 21st birthday, and were walking down Queen Street to the car when Graydon looked behind me and said, “Mum, what’s this?” and reached down to the back hem of my coat and pulled up my alpaca cap! I could not believe it! We figured out that the cap must have been on top of my sweater on the bed and I picked up the sweater and put it on with the cap inside. I felt elated. We went out for birthday dinner (which we never do, for financial and immuno-supressed reasons) and the rest of the night went smoothly.

The next day I saw the surgeon and the reconstructive surgeon, and that’s when emotional overload began..

Since last chemo on April 8, I have:

  • Seen Drs. Simpson and Musgrave, and I am definitely more confused than ever about surgery.
  • Had my MRI on the 12th, to check on how good my response to chemo was.
  • Seen Dr. Zirckle re: laryngeal spasms and vocal cords, prescribed Losec, pharmacist says contraindicated with my other meds, I need an ECG, so will followup later.
  • Seen Dr. Fyles at PMH, told me about additional enlarged node not in the axilla, and has requested a pelvic ultrasound before mastectomy. He has also referred me to Psychiatry at PMH.
  • Had my genetic counselling at Mount Sinai, and blood taken for analysis. They are expediting the results so I should have them in two weeks to aid in my final decision about surgery (and if it’s positive for BRCA1 or BRCA2, I’ll have my ovaries removed as well).

So, that’s it for now. I have tried a few things to lift my mood, which I’ll write on later.

Eighth chemo—the last

Well, the eighth chemo came and went with little fanfare. I know a lot of women paint their nails pink with the pink ribbon drawn on them, wear a pink wig and their best “I’m kicking cancer’s ass” T-shirt to their last chemo. They take smiling pics with their favourite nurses, get balloons and have little “No More Chemo” parties. When I started my chemo December 30, I figured I too would do something neat on my last day—which seemed forever and a day away at that time—definitely do a fab manicure, bring my best baking, maybe even give a little gift to my nurses to show my appreciation.

And what did I do on April 8th? Nothing. 

Tessa came to meet me and spend part of the day, and Kelly came for a couple of hours with her signature gift bag of Real Simple and Martha Stewart magazines, chocolate-covered almonds and Lays potato chips, which I really appreciated. And ate. And read.

But the end of chemo made me feel exactly the way I did when Graydon finished his treatment for childhood leukaemia: we’ve lost our weapons. When you are on chemo, you are fighting the cancer. It may be poison, but it’s cancer’s poison too. Take away the chemo, and you’re not fighting anymore. You’re a sitting duck.

And that’s still how I feel. The side effects of the paxitaxel are worse this round, as they should be, since its effects are cumulative: six fingernails and lots of toenails look like they are rotting from underneath, the bone pain is excruciating between doses of dilaudid, nausea still requires pills, I am getting stupider and more forgetful and sadder, I sleep more and more. But as I clear the chemo from my body, those side effects should clear up too. And hopefully I’ve had a complete pathologic response to my neoadjuvant chemotherapy, and there isn’t much cancer left there to start the party up again as the chemo leaves.

Fingers crossed, St. Peregrine medal around my neck, red thread tied on my bra, I wait for my surgery.

 

Seventh chemo: my dad is the patient this time

Illustrators can make even chemo look good: Using gold nanoparticles, Rice University chemists have created tiny spheres that literally bristle with molecules of the anti-cancer drug Taxol. Credit: Eugene Zubarev/Rice University

Illustrators can make even chemo look good: Using gold nanoparticles, Rice University chemists have created tiny spheres that literally bristle with molecules of the anti-cancer drug Taxol. Credit: Eugene Zubarev/Rice University

I have been fairly absent from my little blog lately—thinking, dwelling, dealing, bargaining, spinning—none of it too productive.The seventh chemotherapy, of my beloved paclitaxel, came and went with the same old complaints of bone pain, tingling fingers and toes now, nails getting yucky underneath, oily-tasting food (the post about my tongue no longer being coated in Vaseline was jumping the gun, or I didn’t knock enough wood, pr something, because everything is back to tasting like oil, or fire or acid, or all three in the worst cases.

I worked in my biweekly pizza lunch volunteer gig at Luka’s school, some little grade-parent duties, bowling night for Graydon (we make it a family affair), appointments for Graydon, and got my big sleeps in before Luka and I went to London to be with my dad immediately following a big surgery: a below-the-knee amputation. I am a firm believer and practiser of having an advocate/companion at the side of the sick person in the hospital. That person has to be ready to be a personal support worker, gofer, quality control supervisor, record keeper, social convenor, you name it. Luka and I stayed in London two nights, staying at the hospital over three days (only three hours on the day of the operation), and brought my homemade almond roca in boxes so that four different shifts of nursing staff got the goodies—everyone likes a treat during their workday, and nurses moreso than many workers because their compassion is tested every minute. My dad’s nurses were excellent and super-super smart, assessing my dad’s pain, which was considerable and complex, and calling his team for different meds. That’s a team approach!

Dad came through his surgery with flying colours and is now back in Stratford, and I’m planning to get down there again as soon as possible.

Bald me

Image

Graydon and I were coming back from an appointment Monday morning when we decided to use our Timmy’s rims to get coffees (large latte, yay!). I had taken my cap off while driving, and because we’d been at a meeting, I had used some of my “Look good, feel better” mad makeup skills and looked more presentable than usual. We were discussing my eyebrows and how I know they have thinned considerably, Graydon saying they haven’t thinned, and that all of us have weird eyebrows, when I pulled up to the window.

The woman there looked at me and said, “I love your look!” My look. Waaa? I do not have a look. I touched my hair, oops, no hair! and realized what she meant. No hat, I’m bald. “Ha! Really? I was just saying to my son, I think my eyebrows are falling out too.” “Falling out?,” she asks? “Oh, I’m sorry, I’m on chemotherapy—my hair came out.” “Oh my, I see, well I love your look! You are beautiful! You don’t need hair, girl!” I laughed, said thank you, she said again I was beautiful, and that I was laughing and must be beautiful inside too, and I should love and love every day because every day was a gift.

All of this at a Tim’s drive through.

I thanked her for the kind words, told her she was beautiful, and off we went.

In honour of her, here’s a second bald photo, finally. Can’t say I love it, but at least I can accept it now.

 

Guest blogger: Tessa

mom hair
tumblr_bald shot
Seriously, how does my mom rock being bald like this? I think that before she started chemo we were just scared. We didn’t know how she would be and of course we assumed the worst because with cancer everything seems to be the worst. So we imagined how bad it could get, how different she would look, how we would totally lose the mom we were used to… But now that she’s almost finished chemo she’s still mom. Look at her, she’s gorgeous. Yes, she was sleepy but not every day. She felt sick, her hands and feet were awful and red burning and uncomfortable, and it was bad, but not the worst. I guess most things in life are luck-of-the-draw. We got unlucky with cancer but we could have had it way worse, and a lot of people do. I know that a big part of why cancer seems so much less scary now is because of how strong my mom is. Everyone says it but I don’t think a lot of people understand that strong isn’t having something bad happen and saying “it’ll all be good”. It’s waking up at three in the morning when your daughter sleepwalks to invite her to sleep in your bed in case she ends up sleeping through her alarm the next day. It’s making dinner, it’s telling your kids that you will really be okay and live til you’re eighty, and it’s taking off your hat in the movie theatre when you have no hair, because it doesn’t matter.
If I had any other mother I wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning, but her strength is contagious. It’s there every day, just look at her.