A Good Haircut is a Good Haircut: Thursday, April 29, 2010

I loved that Hair Cuttery ad campaign so it seemed appropriate for this blog entry. There were several other titles I debated giving this blog post, which included:

How Stella Got Her Groove Back,
Back in the Saddle Again,
I Get Knocked Down But Get Up Again,
Here Comes the Sun

But the Hair Cuttery slogan won out for a number of reasons.

What's been going on, you ask? Here it is: Q1 2010 was not the best for the Jennster (or J-Woww, as I prefer to be called in 2010). I had been warned by many a cancer survivor and counselor that I should prepare myself to have a post-treatment crash but I was convinced I wouldn’t have one since I had weathered my treatment so well. Well, I was wrong. Big time. Following the holidays and my sailing trip to the BVIs over New Years, I settled back into full-time work – really, full-time life – and did so in the midst of record snow fall in the D.C. area. To say this winter was miserable for this summer-lovin' gal would be an understatement. But there were many other complicating factors to add to my misery than the two to three feet of snow (and ice) that was on the ground from mid-January through the end of February. What's so upsetting is that I think my crash made some doubt who I was and whether I would rebound. Shame on them.

Let’s see. Where to begin? Well, first there was my heel. Remember my decision to have a colony of planter’s warts removed from the bottom of my heel? Dumb move. Real dumb. Our first heavy snow fall happened within a couple of days of that procedure so there I was hobbling around with a Safeway bag wrapped around my surgical boot so foot didn’t get wet. To make matters worse, I couldn’t work out due to the wound so there I was trapped inside and unable to escape even for an hour of cardiovascular exercise, which I’m sort of addicted to. I didn’t believe my podiatrist when he warned me that the healing process would be slow – perhaps even two to three months. Well folks, I'm here to tell you that it really took a full three months.

What else? Oh, yes. So, unfortunately, it seems that the antibiotics I was on for most of the month of January for a couple of infections (don't worry, they're not important...) led to a chronic yeast infection, which then led to “atrophic vaginitis.” Consider yourself lucky if you don’t know what “atrophic vaginitis” means. The bottom line is this: Basically, this winter my worst fears of my post-surgical menopause life came true. I was in and out of various doctors' offices searching for a cure – anything really – to help my you-know-what feel better. The search took about three months. No joke. And all I have to say is thank God for the geek (or, more likely, the team of geeks) who developed Premarin. Bless you!

Moving right along...oh, yes, then there was full-time work and my personal finances. It seems that both had me equally overwhelmed and depressed by the middle of February. So much so, in fact, that in order to function and deal with both better, I got back on my happy pills. Lexapro to the rescue! But the most amazing thing occurred once I started taking the happy pills again: Not only did my debilitating anxiety disappear but so did my almost equally debilitating HOT FLASHES (well, disappear might be an overstatement but they almost disappeared...). I went from having a dozen or so hot flashes a day to having maybe one or two a day? You can't imagine what a relief that's been. As I would later learn from Dr. E, whose own wife also takes Lexapro, it's known to be a balancer -- and I guess it balances body temperature and mood equally well. Amen!

(An aside: In case you're wondering, yes, between last year and this winter I have become BFFs with my local CVS pharmacist. John is his name. I love him. He knows my name and asks me about how I'm doing everytime I'm in. In fact, sometimes I daydream about starring in a CVS commercial -- you know, like in one of the spots where the pharmacist is instructing the patient in how to take a new drug and the smiling patient is nodding their head that, yes, they understand how to take the new drug. That's John and me.)

And then there was the hair. Oh boy, did the hair get me. I'm sure many of you reading this have known other cancer patients who've lost their hair and then it's grown back funky -- whether in color and/or texture. Well, mine grew back funky in texture. Simply put: I looked like a poodle and it didn't make me happy. In fact, it didn't make people who are close to me happy because I bitched about it so much. I felt as though the poodle perm that chemo had blessed me with was frumpy and just another injustice of my cancer sentence. But, you know what? I think that my hatred of the poodle perm look I was sporting was about a lot more than just the poodle perm. I'm pretty sure it had more to do with a sense of loss -- loss of control, loss of my fertility, etc., etc. But then it dawned on me: God invented relaxers for a reason...and I should have one. And I did! And now, I'm happy to say, I'm in love. I really love my new hair. It's not perfect but you know what, it's pretty damn close. I finally look like my old self again after nearly a year and it feels good. I finally have a hairstyle that does not give away that I had cancer (...or just an unfortunate choice in hair stylist) last year and it feels good. And it has made a world of difference in my outlook.

So, that pretty much sums up the misery of Q1 and why you haven't heard very much from me lately. As for Q2, it's looking much, much better:

I've already covered the hair. I'll post a picture soon.

Thanks to a healed heel, I'm working out again regularly, which is both good for my mood and my waistline. I'm re-committed to the goal of completing the sprint triathlon in San Diego in October to celebrate my one-year wellness anniversary.

Work is more manageable these days and so are my personal finances, thanks to the super cool Excel budget spreadsheet that my favorite Excel geek made for me.

Oh, and I had my six month check-up with Dr. E and I'm pleased to report that I got another clean bill of health. My CA 125 is 12.4, which, while not my lowest level ever, is still really good.

Tomorrow afternoon I'm giving my first "patients teaching students" lecture to med students at Georgetown University. I'm doing it through the local chapter of the NOCC. The program is designed to help med students learn to listen to symptoms better and deliver bad news more effectively (er, sensitively?). I'm looking forward to that and will let you know how it goes.

In addition to all of that, I'm slowly but surely learning how to juggle everything again, which also feels great. This past weekend my mother and I co-hosted a shower for Ansley, my brother's fiance, which was a lot of fun. It felt great to entertain again.

So, that's how things are looking at just over six months post-treatment. Thank you to all of you who supported me during the winter of my discontent. You know who you are. Once again, I have the best family and friends.