Penny’s Blog

“What’s happening to my body?”

Posted on: November 7, 2008

“Wow, you’ve got a lot of hair,” hairdressers have been telling me my whole life. And seeing all the hair I shed—on the floor, on my clothes, in the trash, on the couch, in the bathtub drain—I’m amazed there’s still any on my head. The slightest tug on a lock of hair and it comes out. I “trimmed” the hair at the back of my neck yesterday simply by pulling it out, tuft by tuft. I brushed and brushed my hair before showering this morning, but handfuls more came out during the shampooing. There’s always more hair coming loose. It’s like Bartholomew Cubbins’ hats.

And I realize I’m harping on the hair thing, and that most of you probably don’t find this half as fascinating as I do. It’s just so very odd. And I’ve been thinking lately that going through chemotherapy has some things in common with being pregnant:

  • Your body changes in weird ways. Even if you’ve been told what to expect, it can still freak you out when the changes happen to you. You’re wary and curious before you even get out of bed in the morning, wondering what today’s symptoms will be.
  • Your condition is constantly on your mind. Riding on the bus, or walking down the street, you’re thinking, “I’ve got cancer [I’m pregnant].” Having a conversation with someone, you’re thinking, “cancer cancer cancer”; when a cashier is nice to you, you think, “Oh, I’m touched at her kindness to me while I’ve got cancer”; if someone tailgates you, you think, “You idiot, don’t you know I’ve got cancer?”
  • You lose that sense of your body as your own private property. Medical professionals are scanning and sticking and examining you on a regular basis to see what’s going on inside. People who know you are constantly checking you out to see what’s new (bigger belly? bald head?), and when you start to “show” (bigger belly or bald head), it’s impossible to blend into the background, even among strangers.
  • People offer sympathy and advice, and share their own experiences and war stories. You learn to appreciate the sympathy, take the advice with a grain of salt, and not let the scarier war stories upset you.
  • And your friends go out of their way to do nice things for you. Thank you, everyone, for your e-mails, comments, links, cards, music, and other generosities. They brighten my mood in a big way.

5 Responses to "“What’s happening to my body?”"

So, what was that address of yours? Apparently I made a timely small purchase today.

Okay, now I’m starting to think more and more about “The Witches.” The wigs, the mouse factor, scary stuff and challenges ahead, but ultimately a happy ending.

You are wise and wonderful.

Hi Penny,
Geez….You sure have a poetic way of saying things. Hair is a very personal thing and you don’t realize it until it starts changing or falling out. I am amazed by your strength and courage. You are the Woman!

Hey Penny,
I love this pregnancy analogy and think it is right on– as someone who has experienced both pregnancy and cancer….You are wise and wonderful and it is just fun to read your blog and get to learn what you are musing about.
Hope to see you soon.

The analogy thing sound pretty good to me. Hang in there — thinking about you. Rebecca

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  • dswope: I just happened by after my I received an email from a close colegue that he was headig for IVPalooza. All I knew was that it was a form of chemo.
  • Brian: Hi Penny; When I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma I found your site. Reading about what you went through was incredibly helpful to me. Tha
  • Tricia: Still here; still caring; still rooting you on!


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