Tidbits from December

From a journal entry in late December:

I washed my wig today. That was weird. Only two cups of cool water in a bowl with my wig cleaner. Jeepers... pulling it out of the bowl I had to convince myself that it was a useful prosthesis and not just a big old hairball! After a quick rinse and a gentle towel blotting, I gave it a little shake. The style bounced back immediately. It dries on the wig stand for 24 hours and will then be ready to go.

My best Christmas chemo fog moment: We had friends over on Christmas Eve, and they brought a rib roast. Cara had it in the oven at her house, and we were just going to finish it off here. So I turned the oven on and then when the oven came up to temperature, Cara asked me to put the roast in the oven. “Sure.” I replied. I finished what I was doing then set the timer for 30 minutes, knowing I would forget to watch the clock while the roast was in the oven. Twenty minutes later Cara said, “Is this the roast that’s supposed to be in the oven?” pointing at the roast sitting on the stovetop. “Yes, but I did remember to set the timer!!” (My sister-in-law did this yesterday with a frozen pizza… and she’s not on chemo! Perhaps it’s busy-mom fog.)

Having donned my wig one morning, I knelt down to wash Cocoa Krispies from Will’s lips. “Mom, does it hurt when you take your wig off?” “No, watch…” and I took it off. Then he wanted to try, so I put it back on and he took it off. Then it landed on his head for a quick laugh. As I replaced it on my head, I reminded him, “Never take it off in public, outside of our house.” With that grin, he summed up the lesson. “So Mom, never pull off a bald woman’s hair!” On his way to becoming a true gentlemen.

We had a big gift in our house for Christmas: the Wii. The day after Christmas we set up each of our Wii characters with physical attributes. Bill, Will and Liam were first. Then it was my turn. My heart skipped a beat: What will my character look like? What will the boys want her to look like? We selected female and numerous hair options appeared – including bald! Kudos to Wii designers. We all had a laugh over my little character, especially when I was boxing. Completely bald, she has big eyes and red lips. She looks like her wig fell off getting into the boxing ring.

Staying strong,


Hodge Podge

Bill and Liam made it home last Tuesday from snowy England. They brought back English colds, but Will and I managed to avoid them. Leave the Purell Institute and that’s what happens. :) Will and I played a week-long game of Monopoly. It ended after seven days: I was bankrupt and Will owned nine hotels and three houses. I’ve never played a whole game of Monopoly; it’s not too fun when you realize you’re past the point of no return. I encouraged Will to load up on the hotels so we could finish the game in less than two weeks.

Our friends Tasha and Peter and their two boys flew in late Thursday night from Chicago for the long weekend. We had four stair-stepped boys – ages 4, 6, 8, and 10 – under one roof. Ours had a great time following the older guys. They looked like mountain goats playing in the snow on our hill. They thoroughly tromped around, bringing the bare dirt through the snow. Six inches of new snow yesterday has created a brand new boot canvas. Bill and Peter took the four boys to Boston on Saturday. They had a tour of Fenway Park and also visited the Aquarium. Meanwhile Tasha and I sorted four suitcases of clothes that she had brought out for Will and Liam. She got them into tubs and hauled them to the loft for me. It was nice to catch up and we got a few other projects accomplished as well.

On Sunday Bill flew to Costa Rica for business. Yesterday he visited a coffee farm: picked coffee beans or “cherries” and met two or three coffee farmers. He’s fascinated. They’re going “under the canopy” into the rain forest tomorrow. He returns Thursday evening, in time to go with me to my last chemo session this Friday.

It’s been just over a week since my last chemo session. Day 4 found me in a bit of an ornery state, not too willing to take pain meds and spend an afternoon in bed. I put on my big girl pants, my wig, and my lipstick. I packed 12 pairs of white cotton gloves in the van and ran some errands after dropping the boys off in the morning. Before going into the cleaners or making a return at Target, I put on a pair of these gloves. Then when I get back to the van, I take them off, dump them on the floor, and Purell. Even with those on, I try not to touch carts. After running two or three errands, I came home and kept moving in the house. Although I was achy when I finally went to bed, I was so tired I went to sleep pretty quickly. In the end, I took no pain pills this time around, not even ibuprofen. Moving and doing seems to help.

Staying strong,


The Wig and the Real Hair

I nearly did her in a week ago! Last Saturday I put my wig on in the morning and wore it all day. With fewer cactus needles, it’s much more comfortable and it keeps heat in -- although I prefer not wearing it in the house. Anyway, Liam and I started preparing the rice. He is all about cooking right now. Loves it! I put the rice on the stove, washed the asparagus—basically the normal supper time groove. Then it happened: I took the lid off the rice and my glasses fogged up. I sprung back away from the stove. The tenderness of the situation hitting me full force. I may very well have singed my $400 wig on the very first day I wore it for any length of time. I zipped to the bathroom. My bangs were intact. Whew!

My college friend and her daughter were here last week while Bill was working in China. The first night they arrived I put a casserole in the oven for dinner. I opened the oven door and it happened again. Whoosh! Hot steamy air heading straight for my hair! I leaned back to let the steam escape in front of me. Closing the door, I zipped to the bathroom again. My bangs were still intact. I went downstairs where our guests were unpacking. “Guys, I need to take my wig off to cook, and I want you to know that so you aren’t shocked to come upstairs and see me bald in the kitchen. OK?” So I did a private reveal and they were both OK with it.

A few nights ago I thought I should do a “check” with Will. We’ve started playing a game of “you ask me any two questions and I ask you any two questions.” They are usually questions of favorites, but I make it clear that any topic is fair game. The question I needed answered, “Will, do you like my wig or my bald head better?” His immediate reply, “Hmm, I like them both,” sounding a bit disappointed at the lack of complexity of the question. Whew! I know where Liam stands. Often when I have the wig on, he’ll point to it and say, “I want spiky hair!” We’ve talked about the fact that when it’s on my head it’s mine and only I can take it off. Finally after many checks with Bill, he says he doesn’t mind one way or another. I love him.

I had cupboards installed in the basement and it took a day to install them, so I went down in the morning and had a chat with the two guys, then said, “By the way I’m on chemo and I don’t always wear my wig in the house. So you will probably see me bald.” “No problem!”

A good friend stopped by one day and I answered the door wigless. She didn’t faint and seemed to feel comfortable. So... I have established my home as wig-free territory, at least until the snow flies. If you stop by, don’t be surprised if I answer the door as Baldy. I’m OK with it. But if you really aren’t, I understand completely. I would rather dress for your visit than not have your visit. :)

If you’re curious…
The wig is washable. If I wear it daily, I need to wash it once a month in cool water, then hang it on a wig stand to dry. As it dries, it bounces back into style. An easy shake and quick comb should bring it back to its original look.

I know where to place it because the front of the wig should be set the width of four fingers, laid horizontally, above my eyebrows. It’s amazing how accurate that is. By the way, if you are a true friend, you will tell me if something is a little askew. I would tell you if you had a bugger. That’s normal conversation in our house.

Most of the dark hair on my head is gone, but I still see and feel a lot of hair. What’s left is blonde – or gray from the week of expereementing. If I’m really this gray, I’m putting Katie, my hair dresser, on alert now to restore my “true” color in the spring the minute I’m released from chemo life and have put the wig in long-term storage. I’ve heard I may have to wait a while before going back to my color. The hair now is softer than the original full-head-of-hair crew cut of Halloween. A friend of mine said it feels like chick fuzz. And that’s what it feels like when I walk: The relative wind I create moves it. It reminds me of walking through of a roomful of cobwebs gently brushing my scalp. I get the same sensation on my legs, but that’s a different story.

Staying strong and not quite hairless,