Monday, February 27, 2012

The Moment of Truth

I recall an incident during my high school years when one of my older sisters agreed to "trim" my hair. I should mention that in the '70s, it was thick, straight and hung down to the middle of my back. By the time I realized her idea of a trim was different from mine it was several inches too late.

I cried for days, but eventually got over it when the layered look came into style. :)

Little did I know at sweet 16 that 41 years later I would face a challenge worth a few tears. However, to prove that I'm tougher than the affliction, I want to share a series of photos taken of me since last Friday, February 24.

Let's begin with one taken of me on February 2, days after my last hair cut.  According to my daughter, I had a nice salt and pepper thing going there. One friend even called is a sassy cut.  :) The point, however, behind getting the pixie cut was that I knew it would soon begin to fall out and thought it would be a less drastic change if it were short to begin with.

The information I received from the Cancer Center indicated that I could expect the hair loss between three and six weeks after the first treatment. Last Friday, February 24, was exactly three week and the first day I noticed the clumps of hair on the shower floor. I won't lie, I said something like, "Oh crap." I don't know, I might have used a few stronger words. At any rate by Saturday morning the situation got worse.  I showered again, lost more hair, and when I blew it dry, I had to vacuum every surface in the bathroom; sink, floor, window sills, tub.  It was truly hideous.

This is what I looked like by Saturday evening (24 hours later).

Impressive, huh? Oh, it gets better. This is when I started to get a bit desperate. I knew two agencies in town provided services to cancer patients, but I had no idea how much red tape would be involved in getting a wig and/or how quickly I could get one. That's when my thoughts wandered off to Monday morning, going to work, and how I'd deal with it. 

Sunday I decided to wear a scarf around the house for no other reason than it was really getting disgusting. One sweep of a comb produced a handful of hair. My shoulders were constantly cover with it, and the prospect of going out on that windy day made me feel like a dandelion seed head fearing the slightest breeze.

This morning I showered as usual, blew dry my hair, then proceeded to vacuum the bathroom. By this time, I had some patches of beautiful scalp starting to show. Naturally, I didn't dare comb it. Instead, I gave my new do and extra bit of hair spray and went to work.

I decided to lay low at work and stay in my office as much as possible. If any of my co-workers noticed my bald spots the few times I ventured into the copy room or down the hall for something, they didn't mention it. Thanks guys! :)

I took the afternoon off to see about getting a wig  so after lunch, Jessica and I went to the Little Red Door.  This organization has been in town for as long as I can remember and depends on donations.  To my relief, I was only asked to fill out a short form after which a very nice lady led us into a room full of wigs that were nicely displayed.  Okay, I have to say, it was a blast trying them on.  I'm a sucker for trying on hats too. LOL  Anyway, I was thrilled to find two that seemed as if they would work. In fact, Jessica and I were both impressed at how great they looked.

When we got home, I was more than ready for the next step.  Jessica hadn't seen me in about a week so imagine her shock when I started to comb it out one clump at a time. This next photograph was taken late this afternoon. Lovely, huh?  Only one thing to do...



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So is bald really beautiful?  It is when you feel this good inside. To be honest, it felt great to get what little was left  buzzed off.  Jessica was the designated beautician who kept saying, "On mom, I'm so sorry." but never stopped cutting. Tracy, on the other hand, chuckled in the background while he took some of these photographs.  Did I mention laughter is the best medicine?  Believe me, there is always a bright side no matter how horrible the situation may appear to be and today was certainly one of the brightest!

So much has happened since mid November when I first learned of the stage 2 breast cancer. Decisions had to be made quickly and no matter how right I knew those choices were, they didn't come without the fear of the unknown.  The next chemo treatment is this Friday, March 2, with two more to follow and although I know I'll have some rough days, I'm thankful the worst is behind me. No fear, no pain, no doubt.

But wait, that's not the end of my story. After all I did mention I walked out of The Little Red Doors with two wigs, right?   So...what do you think?

By the way, I was warned that my lashes and eyebrows might be next to go and if they do, so be it.  Hmmm, never wore false lashes before. ;)  2012 is certainly a year of firsts!

My deepest gratitude to the great team of doctors on my side and the wonderful folks at The Little Red Door!

27 comments:

Ron Adams said...

Someone a whole lot smarter than me once listed all the things cancer cannot take from you. It was a wonderful thought, and I wish I could recall all the things on the list, but I know several things that remain through the radiation and the chemo and the surgeries. The love and support of friends and family, the faith in your God and your heart, and the hope that keeps us all strong. and I have it on good authority...HAIR GROWS BACK! May the Good Lord bless and keep you and yours, and know you have my thoughts and prayers to add to all the others pulling for you.

J D Webb said...

I love your new look. Also sassy and perky. There's too much worry about hair anyway. I remember as a desperate teenager I had to treat my hair with foul smelling goo that tried to corral my cowlick on both sides and double crown in the back. My hair looked okay (in a ducktail) but I think I smelled so bad none of the girls at school would even talk to me. I'm so glad you're taking this in stride. Shows the kind of character I know you possess. I'll now stop praying about the hair and concentrate on your triumph over this thing. Many blessings to you and Rick. My phone is just a short reach from my computer. Would love to talk to a sassy girl. I'll not even comb my hair.
Hugs.
Dave

Kim Smith said...

You are truly beautiful from top to bottom and all the way through. You are an inspiration to me for your strength and humor. Love ya M!

Marta Stephens said...

Ron,it would be interesting to read that list--see if there's anything I could add to it. For me, each step was terrifying until I understood the demon I had to face. My faith won't be shaken, my family has been amazing, and and I'm grateful every day for dear friends like you! If I were asked for advice, I'd say hold on to your sense of humor. It's the biggest weapon we have. Thank you!!

Dave ... why, I bet you looked dashing in a ducktail! LOL Yup the hair is gone and I have to tell you, showering this morning was a breeze! I texted you the other day, did you receive it?

Hey Kim! Thanks so much for always being there.

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

I think you look cool in all those pix. As hard as it is to go through these changes, you have the best attitude possible! I loved your article - your beautiful soul shines through. And that wig rocks! Keep up the sassy approach to life and you'll lead the way for those to come. ;o)

Marta Stephens said...

Hey Aaron! Every time I clear a new hurdle, my mind clears and I'm ready to move on. Heaven forbid I ever get back to writing!!

Thanks so much for your continued encouragement. :)

Laine said...

You are truly an inspiration my dear friend!! So many face much less and fall apart. With your kind of resolve, as I told you before, this ugly disease has met its match! And YES bald IS beautiful!! Especially on a gorgeous soul like yours! BIG HUGS!!
Laine

Susan Whitfield said...

What an inspiring story, Marta. Although we've never met in person, we're dear cyber pals, and you know how much I care about you. This post displays your strength, your humor, and faith in God. I'm so glad you have a wonderful supportive family around you. Sending you hugs through cyberspace and wish I lived close enough to spend some time with you. May each day be better. And yes, hair grows back. Like the wig.

Anonymous said...

You are a warrior!

Jennifer said...

Marta,
Fight like a girl!!
God Bless you as you continue this journey.
Jennifer Ruble-Wall

Anonymous said...

Marta I love the without hair. My friend Robin had cancer and was bald and proud the whole time of one and half year. You are beautiful in all ways. Laughter is the best medicine and you have a great laugh. Keep the faith and it will carry you threw. Love, Betty H.

Anonymous said...

You are the most courageous person I know Marta. To share your experience with others in the way you do makes you a pure gift to us all especially me. The challenges you’ve faced and are facing is more than some of us can comprehend, yet you had me smiling about what you’re going through now. You’re absolutely right about “there’s a book” here! I just saw you late last week and you still had your hair; I can’t believe how you lost it all at once or seems to me in a matter of hours. You look great in your wig—I couldn’t tell it wasn’t your own hair!


Take care—you’re in my prayers!

Marsha

Teresa Banter said...

You are an amazing woman! I admire that you are just so matter of fact about this whole process. I honestly don't think I could be as accepting.

You look good with or without the hair...

Keep us all updated!

Teresa Walter said...

Marta,

Thank you for having the courage and faith to include your friends on this journey!

After watching other friends battle breast cancer over the past couple of years had made me realize that the person(s) has a lot of power over this battle by the fortitude they show and the determination they have to win!

God Bless you and your family and please know that all your friends are continuing to keep the Stephens clan in their prayers.

And, by the way...the wig is great (how about a blond one, though)?

In His Name,

Teresa

Marta Stephens said...

This is the first time I've had to get online this evening. I'm sorry for the length of this comment, but I want to thank you all so much for stopping by my blog. :)

Laine, you’re a sweetie. Always enjoy our cyber chats and sharing a laugh or two. I may have lost the hair, but the humor is unstoppable. Thanks for being there when I’ve needed one! A big hug right back at ya!

Susan, one of these days we WILL meet. Take it as a threat or a promise! LOL Oh, my husband and children … I never could have gotten through this without them. They keep me honest and down to earth at all time. Thanks so much for all the prayers and good wishes! Big hug to you too. 

Thank you Jennifer! I do feel very blessed and nothing but thankful that I was diagnosed at such an early stage!

Betty—sweet neighbor and friend! Shaving my head isn’t something I ever thought I would do, but there really wasn’t any other choice and I’m thrilled to get that bit over with!

Marsha, I don’t know if it’s as much courage as it is pure anger at the thought of something like this taking control of my life. You know it could have happened so very easily. Had I waited until this month or next to get my mammogram (like I normally do), the cancer would have already spread throughout my body and I'd be singing a different tune. I shudder at the thought and know every day is a gift. Thanks for being there!

Teresa, funny you should say, “…matter of fact…” because at first, I did worry that some might think I was making light of this. The truth is, I don’t know how else to handle it. The only time I cried was when I had to come home and tell Rick and the kids about the mastectomy. But Rick’s reaction was classic. He said, “Well, if you had a bad appendix, you wouldn’t think twice about having it removed,would you? This is no different and it won’t change who you are after it’s done.” God I love him. And our two little apples didn’t fall far from the tree either. ;)

Teresa W. You know, I did try on a red wig, but I looked like Tina Turner! LOL Many thanks for stopping by and for your many continued kind words of encouragement.

Anonymous said...

Marta,

No worries about your "state of mind"!! Your positive and upbeat spirit comes thru loud a strong!

I like your new look!! (Wolf whistle!!!!)

Love the way you tell the story - bet you could write a novel.:) :)

God Bless!

Neil

Carol Kosisko said...

You may bald beautiful because beauty comes from within. You are my inspiration! Remember - your friends and family are going to love you through it!

Carol Kosisko said...

Found a typo in my original post as soon as I hit "publish." Oh well, you know I meant "You make bald beautiful." And yes, your wig looks so natural I would have just thought you got a sassy new hairstyle. Hugs!

Rhonda said...

You look FABULOUS darling!
As always, you have the most positive attitude! That along with family, friends and faith will help you through it all.

Andie said...

You look great aunt Marta! I love you! You are a huge inspiration and one of the strongest people I know. I know you are going to get through this and with humor as you always do because you are awesome like that :) I am so glad you went for a check up when you did and took care of this before it got worse. Hugs and kisses :)

Marta Stephens said...

Thanks, Neil. I'm especially thrilled to get a wolf whistle LOL Thanks for changing my security light too! You're the best!

Marta Stephens said...

Ha! I knew what you meant girlfriend. Hugs right back at ya. :)

Marta Stephens said...

Andie!!! Thanks sweetie. Well, you know me and how many times have I said, "There's a reason for everything." ;)

cplatter said...

You did what I would probably do too - just shave it off and move on! While terrifying, it's good to know you can find things to laugh about, too. Good luck on round 2 tomorrow. Hope the kids are taking good care of you!
XOXO
Cheryl

Marta Stephens said...

Hey Cheryl! :) Yes, the kids are fantastic as always.

We never know how we'll respond to a situation until faced with it. Getting ready for the mastectomy was scary and one of the most stressful times I've experienced, but the operation went so well, after it was over I felt great. The hair thing was just another bump in the road. Over, done, feeling good about it now.

Thanks for stopping by!
Hope to see you soon.

Joylene said...

You look so beautiful, Marta. I like the bald look, as long as it's not cold. My SIL's hair grew back curly. My sister's grew back straight. Let me know if yours changes. Thanks for sharing these pics. It's more important than I can say.

Marta Stephens said...

Hey Joylene!! Yes, it's unbelievably cold without hair. I'm wearing scarfs and small caps on my head around the house. The wig keeps it warm at work.

I'm curious too about what the hair will look like when it grows back. I'm shooting for blond and silky but suspect I'll end up with curly salt and pepper. And ... that's okay too!