Things are changing. And surprisingly enough, I’m okay with it.
Those who know me can testify that I am an organizer. Not only did I have to search for years to find the perfect planner, but now that I have, I write absolutely everything in it. Everything. Seriously. Since I’ve started my weight loss regimen, I even include what I eat every single day. I plan weeks and sometimes even months in advance. I take my planner seriously. I carry it with me everywhere. I jot down thoughts, brainstorms, grocery lists, workouts, and of course, the vast list of tasks I need to complete. I have several friends who are free birds, who go with the flow and don’t need to write anything on their calendars. That’s simply not me. I’m afraid that if I tried that, I would most likely forget to do anything. In other words, I’m a planaholic.
I’ve learned quite a lot this past year. One of the more obvious being, planning and cancer don’t always mix. I laugh looking through the months that I was going through treatment, because the only things I ever wrote were “surgery,” “radiation,” “chemotherapy,” “blood draw,” and “doctor’s appointment.” Grocery lists, workouts, weekly meal plans, and errands no longer mattered. Fact is, my only plan was to fight and beat cancer. In fact, in the “to-do” section of each month I wrote, “fight cancer.” In the “goals” section I wrote, “cancer-free.” I laugh because I like to organize every step of my life. Prior to my diagnosis, my husband and I had the following few years set in stone. Well, at least in our minds. We had plans to move, have children, and buy a home. Exactly eight months ago everything changed.
God’s plans don’t always align with ours. While at first I was shocked that our designs for the future might come crashing down, I now understand that God has bigger and better plans for us. Our dreams remain, but the timing is no longer ours. We will definitely move. We will definitely have children. And we will definitely buy a home. I believe that God still has those in mind for us, however they just won’t happen when or how we originally thought they would. Although it’s taken me a while to come to grips with that, I am extremely thankful that we are walking the path that is paved by Him and not by us. His plan is perfect. Ours is not. And being flexible allows you to genuinely live a life for Him.
Besides the obvious changes, other facts are changing as well. I’m no longer bald… anywhere. I am currently sporting a very short buzz-cut. My hair is coming in splotchy and irregular, but it’s there nonetheless. Once my camera can capture my G.I. Jane style, I’ll post pictures. As for now, you’ll just have to imagine it. Unfortunately, the hair on my head isn’t the only thing coming back. I forgot how much I had to shave my legs. I also forgot how annoying it would be to leave the house forgetting to shave my underarms. My showers are significantly longer nowadays. Whereas before I could get away with five minutes, it’s now doubled, if not tripled. I definitely got used to the jump-in-and-out method.
I’m also going back to work. Due to the rigid schedule of treatment, and my lack of health and energy, I haven’t been able to work. However, now that I have received my first clean bill of health and have regained a lot of my strength, I have chosen to start my job again. To say I am excited is an understatement. Once we get back from our cancer-free celebration in California, I will return to the family I was nannying prior to diagnosis.
My body changed drastically over the course of treatment. Like I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I gained about twenty-five to thirty pounds. Thankfully, that is changing as well. In fact, since I began working out five days a week and eating super clean, I have lost a total of fifteen pounds. Fifteen in thirty-five days. I’m pretty proud of myself. To say it’s easy would be laughable. I’ve been kicking my own ass for some time now, and it doesn’t get easier. What keeps me going is seeing my body change and the numbers on the scale continue to drop. My face is starting to look like my own again, and not that of a blown up character in the Macy’s Day Parade.
I always used to think that I embraced change. After all, I did like to rearrange the furniture in our house every now and then. I used to think that I was flexible; I wouldn’t mind if plans with friends got rescheduled. But change and flexibility have taken on new meanings for me. While I was flexible with details changing in the past, I never considered the whole picture changing. I’m talking about LIFE changes… Big, scary, unknown, and unplanned modifications. Shifts to the entire picture my husband and I had painted for ourselves. Our life canvas has been completely erased, and now we are looking forward to what God wants to create for us. Our life has been directed down a different road. One that we couldn’t see with a telescope. But, you know what? I’m grateful. Now that I get a glimpse into what His plans are, our previous plans seem so minuscule and boring. We can try our hardest to plan out every area of our lives, but if it’s not what He wants, it simply won’t happen.
I can and will continue to plan my life. I will continue to jot down every last bit of information in my brain, in hopes that I won’t forget it. I’ll continue to make plans with friends. My husband and I will continue to plan our future. But now, we have a much larger perspective on embracing change and being flexible. Just as often as we make plans, God will readjust them.
If God wants to change your plans, will you be flexible?
Proverbs 16:9 (ESV)
“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
It’s official. I’m in a magazine. And it’s exciting, weird, mind-blowing, and purely awesome.
With every blog I post, and every email I receive from readers who have been touched by my story, the more I want to share it. Thanks to a great friend of mine who works at the hospital I frequent, my story has been publicized. I can’t help but feel proud and happy that my battle has not gone unnoticed. That may sound boastful, but I truly mean it without any ego. It touches my heart to know that God didn’t just get bored one day and think, “I think I’ll spice up their lives by allowing her to get cancer!” (although, sometimes it does feel like the divine version of Emeril Legasse just went “BAM” with my life’s recipe). On the contrary, He allowed this diagnosis as a way of not only helping me grow and learn new perspectives, but to help others through their life’s diagnosis’. For those who have written me with similar stories of cancer, inability to carry your own child, and the many other struggles, I want you to know that I deeply appreciate it. It encourages me to know that through my story, you are receiving hope as well. If that’s all I gain through this adventure, I am satisfied.
I want to share my journey. I know I already have and will continue to through this blog, however, I feel called to something bigger than this. The fire is burning inside of me and my passion for helping others find hope and strength in their journeys is reaching new heights. I’ve mentioned it to a few close friends and family recently, and now seems like the right time to share it with the rest of you. Truth is, I feel called to speak. At small and/or big events and one on one settings- regardless, I feel like God has given me this story for a reason. I have said that since the beginning, and I still strongly believe it. God has given me this story to share, and my job is to read the pages.
Little tid-bit: I’m frightened of public speaking. I speak in public daily and I definitely can talk a lot (my husband will nod his head in agreement while reading this). Yet, standing alone in front of a group of people with all eyes on me is slightly intimidating. Granted, I haven’t spoken in front of a large group of people since high school. And, it’s not as if I’m sharing a story I know nothing about. This speech I know. This journey I’ve walked. This book I’ve read. There is no memorizing the dates and events that happened. It’s written in my brain permanently. And lately, when I think I can’t possibly do something, I always remind myself, “Chick, you freakin’ beat cancer. Of course you can do ____!” When it comes down to it, yes I CAN share the good news with people. Yes I CAN spread hope and shine light in the darkness. Yes I CAN tell people that no matter how shitty (no better word, folks) things get, you WILL fight your hardest and you are stronger and braver than you think. At the end of the day, it’s not about public speaking. It’s about sharing hope, spreading strength, and inspiring courage. Now, that I can do.
When everything is stripped away, it’s not about me, it’s about Him.
John 15:16-17 (ESV)
“‘You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.’”
Tonight, instead of watching the Broncos game (shame on me), I find myself obsessing over my hair. Let’s rephrase…my lack of hair. To be honest, it started coming back a few days ago. For those who are unfamiliar with hair re-growth after chemotherapy, let me use this time to inform you. When I say “it’s growing back”, in no way do I mean, “I have a full head of hair”. I’m not even sure I can legitimately call it “hair”, as it resembles peach fuzz more or less. When hair grows back after falling out from chemo, it comes in very soft and thin. Think: newborn hair. And although mine has started coming in, which I am grateful for, it’s still so very soft and fine. I really miss having a full head of thick, beautiful, long locks.
I realize I haven’t done a detailed post about hair, and haven’t shared many (if any) pictures about my hair loss process. To give you a better idea about my journey losing, regrowing, losing again, and now regrowing my mane, I’ll need to start at the beginning. For those who love pictures: buckle up, you’re in for a full-on illustrated story.
My locks in February 2012
Prior to my chemotherapy treatments, I had been growing my hair out. It was actually the longest it has ever been in my life. Ha! Kind of funny that when it was at it’s longest, it fell out. Let’s just say, I was totally diggin’ my hair seven months ago.
Volume…Glorious! February 2012
And then, two weeks to the day of starting chemotherapy treatments, my mop began to drop…literally. To the floor, and all over my pillow, and somehow my strands even found their way into my socks. True story. Hair loss from chemo doesn’t hurt. In fact, when it first happened, it was comical. I could run my hands through my hair, and chunks of it would come out. I even asked my husband to take a turn and pull some out. He was shocked that he could literally rip a fist-full of blonde right out of my head. Hilarious! (I guess you had to be there.) Washing my hair became pointless. In the midst of shampooing, the strands that fell out would mix themselves up in the suds and “left-behinds”, and turn into a knotted, gnarly mess. Check out how much hair I would lose in the shower…
No, that’s not a joke. Hair loss from ONE shower. March 2012
People who lose their locks due to chemotherapy deal with the loss differently. Some shave it off before it begins to fall out, while others wait until they only have a few strands on their head. As for me, I waited until I could no longer deal with having hair all over everything. It became so annoying. Hair on my clothes, in the sheets, on my pillow, in the car, and on my husband. I was very ready to just get rid of it. However, strange as it may sound, I saved all of it. Well, all the strands I could find. Yes, that means I went through the sheets, pillow, and clothes on a daily basis and picked all the hair off to place them into ziploc bags. That sounds so weird, but I really did it. And just to creep you out a little more… I have four bags full of my hair in one of my dresser drawers. Check out Exhibit A-
Smallest bag o’ hair. March 2012
When I had finally had enough, my husband and I had a head-shaving party. He shaved mine, I shaved his. It was one of the most intimate parties I have ever been to. Besides our dear friend (and photographer), it was just the two of us. I was scared, excited, sad, and nervous. Scared, because shaving my head forced me to have a visual reminder every day that I was fighting cancer. Excited, because I couldn’t wait to get rid of my worthless mane. Sad, because deep inside, I really didn’t want to give up my locks. And nervous, because I had never been bald before.
Sadness and grief. March 2012
Shaving my head symbolized me taking control over my situation. I was not going to let cancer continue to take pieces away from me daily. I would grab this ruthless monster by the throat and do things on my terms. When I passed the grief and tears, I became elated. I had conquered my hair loss by taking matters into my own hands, and I would conquer cancer.
Take that, cancer. March 2012
Pretty soon, I was baldalicious. And, frankly, I didn’t mind it. Having no hair meant that many minutes were knocked off my morning regimen. No hair to blow dry, flat iron, or curl. There is a bright side! Plus, I’m sure my husband appreciated that I was spending less time in front of the mirror each day.
First time seeing myself bald. March 2012
Once I completed my first three rounds of chemo and began my radiation adventure, I was put on a different type of chemotherapy. This specific type of chemo didn’t promote hair loss, so during the six-plus weeks of my radiation/chemo regimen, I actually grew hair back. Many of my family and friends were excited for me, however, I knew it wouldn’t be there to stay. As odd as it may sound, I would have preferred to have no hair throughout the entirety of treatment, as opposed to losing it, regaining it, and losing it once more. It sucked seeing my hair grow back, only to know that it would fall out again in a matter of weeks. I did enjoy being able to run my hands through my hair again, though.
Hair regrowth during radiation. July 2012
Again, after ending radiation and beginning my last three rounds of (hair loss inducing) chemotherapy, it was time to shave my head. My husband viewed himself as a head-shaving professional at this point. And I must admit, I agreed with him.
Head shaving party #2. July 2012
Since I ended my treatment last month in August, I have been extremely excited for my hair to come back. This time, I know it’s for real. This time, I know I’ll be able to keep it and not have to give it up again. Compared to how quickly my hair grew back in May, April, and June, it seems to be coming back slower this time around. Maybe I’m wrong. I could just be overly anxious to start growing my locks again. Let’s see. I’ve gotta do some math…It took thirteen weeks for my hair to get to the length it was in the above pictures. I am currently at almost five weeks since my last treatment. Damn. I guess it’s not coming in slower, I am just overly anxious. Can you blame me, though?! Although many would still view me as bald, I know my hair is growing back. Like I said, it’s not much hair right now, more so just peach fuzz, but it still counts. This gorgeous mane has to start somewhere!
The truth is, tonight I’ve been obsessing over my do, or lack thereof. I’m tired of being bald. I’ve spent the majority of my life obsessing over my hair, making sure it was just the right style and color. Now, I’m just obsessing over the fact that there is no do. I even searched “hair growth after chemo” to get some insight as to what my various “hairstyles” will look like as my mane grows out. I’ve watched time-lapse YouTube videos of hair growth. I’ve read other women’s blogs. But, the more I obsess, the more I realize I need to be patient. Not only patient, but proud. I am cancer-free, and my lack of hair is a visual reminder of the battle I have fought to rid my body of the monster. I am proud. Very proud. Just not so patient. Shoot.
It comes down to this: I’d much rather be alive and bald, than dead with a lot of hair. I’m so ready for what He has planned for me next.
Isaiah 43:18-19 (MSG version)
“’Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.’”