I hate my hair.
That had been my constant complaint since teenage.
I had curly hair. I could never understand why people with straight hair wanted curly hair. They got it permed: that was a process of taking a handful of innocent straight hair, putting scorching texturizing agents strong enough to melt an army tank. It left behind a crop of mangled tangles.
With my curls, I was hailed as the Jennifer Beals of the neighbourhood when Flash Dance was released. Personally, I felt like a kid who had strayed into a chicken coop with feed on her head. I hated my hair.
Much later, I found out that hair could be straightened. There was a God! I went for a back-breaking day-long session that resulted in poker-straight hair and spondylitis. I was over the moon. I looked awesome. It did not feel like hair though – more like poly-fibre bristles used for sweeping large debris. The hair stylist told me not to fret and prescribed hair-softening agents, the bill for which sent the spondylitis branching out from my toes.
The softeners tamed the hair. In fact, made it so docile and compliant that it meekly surrendered in loose clumps on my palms. Looking at the bright side, I need only half the quantity of hair products than earlier!! I researched on hair-fall control products.
I ordered some hair-rescuing potions last year. And then, I got diagnosed with cancer. Before I could use them, chemotherapy began. I was warned I’d lose my hair.
“Hair loss occurs because chemotherapy targets all rapidly dividing cells—healthy cells as well as cancer cells. Hair follicles, the structures in the skin filled with tiny blood vessels that make hair, are some of the fastest-growing cells in the body. If you’re not in cancer treatment, your hair follicles divide every 23 to 72 hours. But as the chemo does its work against cancer cells, it also destroys hair cells. Within a few weeks of starting chemo, you may lose some or all of your hair.”
Three weeks after Dose #1, while sitting with friends over a pre-dinner chit chat, I run my fingers through my hair. A handful of it comes off into my palms.
‘It’s going to fall now’, I mutter to no one in particular.
Over the next few days, I have extreme discomfort all over my scalp – pain, soreness, tenderness. I try to oil it. It does not help. I try to pat my head with a cold towel. No respite.
I tell my Alok – ‘Just cut my hair real short’.
He looks a little alarmed at this request. My daughter looks uncomfortable, and goes to her room with misty eyes. I find one willing in-house barber: my son.
Mother and son have a fun chop-session. I now have hair only about an inch long. I put almond oil to soothe my scalp. I also cover my pillow with a satin cloth.
But, the soreness is still there the next morning.
I go to the bathroom and stare at my reflection. A pale face crowned with a neurotic hair-cut. The scalp shows in places. A ‘pineapple’ haircut as my sister calls it. It still hurts.
Damn! I don’t care whether I have hair or not. I just want my head to stop hurting.
I hold a clump of hair. I tug at it. It comes off easily, painlessly in my hand.
Clump-by-clump, I pull all my hair out. I grin at my reflection. I am enjoying it. I dump the hair in the commode and flush it.
A cold shower and a dab of oil on the head. The soreness has gone.
People had warned me that I might get depressed with the hair-loss. Surprisingly, I am not. Not even a bit. Maybe I have never defined myself by what I look like. And, people have loved me for what I am, not what I looked like. I guess.
Of course, some folks make sad, contorted faces seeing me bald. But, it does not bother me at all. I am a happy baldy.
Dose #2 is administered three weeks after Dose#1. My left arm is has blue-and-black patches all over from the previous time. The entire arm pains.
They struggle to find a vein. Like the last time.
Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.
The doctor shakes her head.
‘We were trying to avoid it. But, I guess we have no options – you will have to get another small surgery done to insert a chemo-port. All the remaining doses will be administered through that.’
Another surgery? Aaaargghhh!
Next: Dose#2 and the loneliness