marking off the days

calendar with days crossed off

On Tuesday I took a cheap, dollar store calendar and marked off my chemos on it. The 1’s, 2’s and 3’s are the week numbers after each treatment, so I know where I am with my immunity.

(Week 3’s are the awesomest – so far all my blood levels have bounced back fully by the end of week three, right before the next treatment.)

I’m crossing of each day as it goes.

I’m losing my eyelashes now. Before my chemo started, I thought the side effects would be textbook. Vomiting. Hair loss. Fatigue. I had perfect little mental diagrams of each, like Barbie doll cancer outfits.

“This is Cancer Clinic waiting room Barbie. Notice the soft felted merino hat keeping her bald head cosy, and her colour coordinated Kindle, lovingly open to inspirational words on the places that scare us, from Pema Chödrön.”

(Just for the record, the cancer clinic is definitely a place that scares me, if only because the waits are endless, and the volume of patients ginormous.)

Instead, I’m finding that my chemo side effects are incredibly messy, and incomplete, and unexpected.

I don’t know how I thought my hair would fall out, but certainly not like it did – in a constant, subtle snowfall of strawberry blonde, cat-hair-length pieces. For days.

(I think I expected it to be gone all at once. Instead it whimpered its way of my head in a really unattractive mottle.)

After my hair fell out I thought my head would be bald like a bald man’s pate – absolutely no hair left behind, smooth as a baby’s bottom.

Instead, I still have some peach fuzz, stubbled by the barber’s clippers that keep it close to my scalp. I rub my head often because I like the feeling. I notice how the stubble points in different directions, in different places on my head.

I was warned I might lose all my body hair. Well that didn’t happen, at least not at first. It was only yesterday that I noticed the eyelashes thing. And, weirdly, my armpit hair is completely gone. But not my leg hair. (I have stubble on my lower legs from the last time I shaved, before my last chemo.)

So far my eyebrows are still whole, although when I went to pluck stray hairs yesterday there weren’t any new ones to pluck.

I still have nose hairs. And pubic hair. Weird, right?

The eyelashes thing is bothersome, both because the lashes falling out get in my eyes, and because my tears are diminished from the chemo too, so my eyes constantly feel irritated. I use eyedrops to help with that.

At least my mouth sores have been better this time around.