Thursday, November 5

Not by the Hair

Most of the time, I'm proud that I've processed the whole cancer caregiver experience pretty well.  I can totally go to hospitals without trauma, talk reasonably and positively about my experiences and be truly happy for other people who stay in remission.  But I've realized I do have a small but brightly colored and oddly shaped piece of baggage.  It's when some cancer patients talk about how they lost their hair in a similar tone to a former POW alluding to torture.  Then, my mind blows up.

I want to say: wouldn't you rather lose your hair than have to give up driving because your reaction times are too slow?

Wouldn't you rather lose hair than be hospitalized every 1/4 of the time because your immune system has stopped working, and you even miss your brother's wedding as you lie in a hospital bed?

Wouldn't you rather that hair loss thing than be nauseous constantly, or lose your taste for food, or have sores in your mouth to the point that even swallowing water is painful?  And you lose so much weight that everyone jokes about your great weight loss program but really you are malnourished, weak and terrified of what will happen if you can't consume more calories?

Wouldn't you rather lose all your hair than have to chose only one thing to do each day because you have almost no energy?

Wouldn't you take hair loss over being in constant pain?  And you have some pills that help somewhat but if you take them your mind loses focus and all you can do is lay on the couch watching TV, watching the hours tick by and your life passing.

Wouldn't you rather lose your hair than watch your spouse give up their home and goals?  And you feel guilty that their life revolves around taking care of you but there's not much you can do about it?  And you must watch your friend's sorrow and your parent's worry and grief which you caused but can't relieve.

Ben would have.

By now, gentle reader, you may have have noticed a false dicotomy and unfairness on my part.  Ben both lost hair off and on and also had all the other experiences listed above (though he would put them more graciously than I did).  Most people don't even know for certain what their side effects will be, much less have a choice in them.

I only wish that some cancer patients did not present hair loss as the pinnacle of suffering.  It seems to invalidate what patients like Ben endure.  But shouldn't I just be thankful on behalf of these patients, that they haven't had to suffer worse?  Shouldn't I be sympathetic, as hair is strongly tied to identity and beauty (and perhaps even value) especially with women and hair loss is perhaps symbolic of a greater loss?  It's all very well for me to be pragmatic when I've never lost my hair.

Shouldn't I, too, take hold of this lesson that I wish others would learn and keep learning it myself - being thankful for my present clarity of mind, physical strength and emotional stability, and the overall functionality that keeps me useful and able to connect to people I care about?  Like many healthy people, I usually take these things for granted.

Thanks for enduring this rant!  It seems it was time for another theraputic writing session and that I'm still processing and healing. I'm also curious about your thoughts on this subject.  

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