Penny’s Blog

Hormones and Hair

Posted on: August 25, 2009

Here it is, a sample of the curly, grey/blonde/colorless crop of hair that has appeared in the past couple of months. On an average day I will receive 5-10 comments-compliments about my hair, and .5 people will ask to touch it.

It's a-growin'

photo by HRH Amy K. King

There are a lot of happy, perky feelings these days. It’s good to have hair, and to have energy to participate in daily life. The hospital bills arrive less frequently.  It’s been months since I smelled rubbing alcohol or heard the click of a chemo pump. The scars are flattening and fading.

But—please don’t hate me for this—adjusting to post-treatment life brings a lot of challenges.

For example, there’s the freakin’ menopause, one of chemotherapy’s “gifts that keep on giving.” Its effects are inescapable and annoying. Hot flashes. Moodiness. Insomnia. More and more moments when the mind goes blank and words evaporate. And a lack of confidence in myself, wondering: “Do I sound as stupid as I feel right now?” My skin is weird, and my body shape is changing. It’s like adolescence, but with hot flashes instead of horniness.

Then there’s the continuing struggle to remember what “normal” felt like B.C. (Before Cancer), and to discern which unusual physical/emotional happenings are worth noticing and where they originate.

Example: My joints have been hurting for months. Sore ankles, knees, hips… Is it because I’m getting old? Exercising too much? Exercising too little? Was I this achy B.C.? Is this just my imagination? After a few months I decide it’s not my imagination and I didn’t feel this way B.C. So now I start Googling “joint pain chemotherapy” and “joint pain menopause,” and before long I’m obsessing about omega-3 supplements. Then the next day my joints don’t hurt, and I think, “Maybe it was just a passing thing.”

And I find myself probing for “brush with death”-induced insights, which (1) I decided months ago I wasn’t gonna have, and (2) is a pretty risky pursuit when one’s hormones are in flux. It’s tempting to draw mistaken conclusions.

  • I’m edgy and stressed at work today:  Maybe this a sign that I need to quit my job and move to a farm in Iowa!
  • I don’t feel like going out this weekend: I’m spiraling into a depression from which I’ll never recover!
  • I had a pretty good day today: I’ve settled into a comfortably numb post-cancer routine and will never do anything exciting with my life!

Come to think of it, such mistaken “insights” were pretty much par for the course B.C.  So maybe life is more normal than I realize.

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1 Response to "Hormones and Hair"

Menopause is a motherf*cker.

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  • None
  • 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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