Saturday, October 31, 2009

My Bravest Blog Yet

I started losing my hair a couple of days ago, the result of an aggressive form of treatment for an aggressive form of breast cancer.

As a result of that significant amount of hair loss, I decided to shave the rest. Hair cascading down my back and legs felt like a bunch of wet chinchillas racing for the drain. Scary feeling, even though I knew what it was. I had to shave, because I didn't want that experience anymore every time I showered.

As far as this blog is concerned, I'll be honest – I hesitate posting it – partially because I feel embarrassed by the way I look. But I am only one of an enormous number of women who are experiencing the same problem, and I thought – why should I hide in shame?

Through it all, I try to write, but my writing has slowed significantly. I used to say that my 11-hour a day daycare was the reason I couldn't devote much time to writing. But now I have another reason – the chemo completely drains me and makes me feel as if I'm carrying a thousand pounds uphill through quicksand.

I lie in bed and rest. A lot. I can do almost nothing else. I try to drink lots of fluids too.

I'm probably losing weight, because eating is no longer enjoyable. My tongue feels as if it has sores covering the surface (it doesn't), and my lips feel as if they are on fire – always.

Added to that problem is a respiratory infection I developed, something that usually accompanies me every October with the high mold count and my asthmatic allergy to mold. But, because my resistance is low due to the chemo, cancer took advantage of my weakness and quickly turned what could have been just a cold into a full-blown infection. My breathing is now labored and I have difficulty carrying on a conversation. I am taking medication to fight the respiratory infection and hope to be rid of it by early next week.

And so, with some trepidation, I am showing you just how the chemo has affected my looks. I saw no point in putting makeup on myself in the bald photo. Nor did I see any reason for getting out of bed. Even a trip to the shower exhausts me. I do practically everything from my bed now, at least for the first week after chemo, and my last infusion was delivered on Tuesday.

For comparison, I've included a photo of the me that I was (the day just prior to my first chemo treatment) next to the me that I am (three and a half weeks later). What a difference, huh?

My fight has just begun. I am a worthy opponent to this cancerous invader. What was a 4 cm. wide tumor before my first treatment was not even detectable by my oncologist just before my last treatment. The tumor had shrunk that much!

Today, on Halloween, I received a shipment of hats and scarves from one of my dearest friends, Denise (thank you, Denise). I have a wig on hand and a wig on order. I can now change my looks every day, and as soon as I feel up to going anywhere, I will put on some makeup, walk out of my house with my head held high, and nobody who sees me will know that I have cancer.

At least until the hat or wig blows off. Midwestern winds are fierce! My second oldest daughter, Lindsey, told me the story of a woman (wife of her boss) whose sister had cancer and made the mistake of crossing a bridge when the wind picked up her wig and blew it into the Chicago River. I used to work just across the bridge on North Michigan Avenue (Michigan and Wacker) and I can attest to the wildly windy conditions. I will not be making any trips there any time soon.

One positive – I may look younger with my new wigs (I decided to get them without any white or silver at all). I haven't been without white hair in ten years!

So while you congratulate me on winning this fight, as I continue to write and hope that people will read what I write, I invite you to read some of the things I have been able to post (see below), and I wholeheartedly accept every prayer you send my way.

For more about my breast cancer journey, read Diagnosis: Breast Cancer – Part I.

(I wonder if, after I post this blog, I'll see hair replacement ads accompanying it.)


  1. Ohmygod, Theresa, you are so BEAUTIFUL! I say that with my mouth agog. You're even more gorgeous in this close-up than I realized from your sultry AC photo. I'm totally serious. Now, I realize you feel like dog doo, and the woman inside that head wasn't feeling like a glamour model, but honey, you just can't seem to help it. As Jessica Rabbit said in Who Killed Roger Rabbit, "I'm just drawn that way". I'm not trying to be insensitive. Yes, I see the fatigue behind your eyes. But I'm just so blown away, forgive my rant for a moment.

    Your features are so photogenic & those eyes are knock-em-dead stunning . You have a beeeeeyoutifullly shaped noggin. Simple perfection. The top, if you cover from the forehead down, is the absolute perfect sphere of the full-term pregnant belly. Minus the "outy" belly-button! ; D That’s not a bad analogy, when I think your head is full and growing with intelligence, awareness & creativity. Pregnant with possibilities. And now the world can see it.

    HOW old did you say you were, woman?! Geez, that photo that shows your trim body & full hair looks waaaaaay younger than you have any right to! When you feel up to parading your hot self out in those new wigs, do not be surprised if you get hit on!

    Please don’t think I’m being obnoxious by focusing on the external when your spirit is struggling to crawl through each day. I wish there was more I could do from afar… besides those “pink blankets”, but since you bravely put your photos out there, I can’t help responding to the visual. And compared to what I expected, I’m just so surprised. We should all look so good w/ bald heads! (Did you see my comment to you on Han Van “Meercat’s” article abt Sexy Women of AC in response to your remark about being bald?)

    Obviously you ARE a worthy opponent, Ms Wiza Women, and you have the cancer on the run at this point. You know my prayers and love are with you for the duration & beyond. Thank you so much for sharing yourself, your challenges & your victories with us. This could be an inspiration & a guide to coping for so many. I’m looking forward to whatever you’re able to share with us next.

    Love in a healing pink blanket,


  2. I've never seen such an enduring, brave spirit, and you totally move me to tears with this very honest essay about what you went through. I'll agree, 2009 was a bad year, but you took lemons and made lemonade. I don't now another person like you, tremendously talented and just plain incredible. You approach this topic with such courage and humor, so many would tremble and panic, and rightly so, cancer is scary stuff. And as for the photos? You are blessed to be so beautiful both with and without hair as you are on the inside. I am so glad to know you, now I have to cut this short because I can't see through the tears girlfriend! Thanks for all you share, I adore you!

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