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Drugs, Hugs, and Losing My Jugs: A Breast Cancer Journal - June 7, 2015 - Hold On

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This is the nineteenth entry in a 31-day Breast Cancer Awareness Month exclusive series featuring the real journal entries of breast cancer survivor, Jessica Sliwerski. Read the previous entry here.

I slept poorly last night, fretfully dreaming about more hair falling out and waking to feel my head. I did this repeatedly.

I awoke this morning and immediately felt my head. My hair was still there. I checked my pillow and was relieved to see it wasn’t completely covered in hair. I was less relieved to see several tiny dark hairs scattered across the pillow, evidence that whether I like it or not, the hair is falling out.

In the shower this morning my bar soap was covered in hair. Pubic hair and armpit hair. It’s not all falling out, but enough of it is. I watched it wash down the drain, unsure of how I felt.

Relieved? Saddened? I don’t know.

Sometimes it’s all so overwhelming and weird and upsetting that it’s like it isn’t even happening to me. I just cannot believe this is my life right now.

I didn’t wash my hair. I wanted to so badly. But I couldn’t. I’m afraid to touch it. I’m trying to preserve it. Same with my eyebrows and eyelashes.

“Hold on, hair,” I think. “Just hold on.”

I am willing my hair to stay through Thursday. We are going to dinner that night to celebrate Kyle’s birthday. I’m not ready to be bald. To wear a nice dress, to ride the subway, to go to a crowded chic restaurant bald.

Jessica Sliwerski and Kyle at dinner
Kyle and Me: My hair lasted just long enough for dinner at Gramercy Tavern with Kyle. Certainly not the most glamorous I’ve ever felt, but at least there was still a little bit of hair on my head.

Please hold on, hair,” I think.

As I was getting dressed today I pulled a sweater out of my closet. I haven’t worn this sweater since I had long blonde hair. Caught on the elbow was an old hair. I pulled it off and stared at it. It seems like just yesterday everything was normal.

Everything changed so quickly. I flicked the hair onto the floor and pushed it out of my mind.

Today we walked to brunch. It was a beautiful day and the sunshine felt so wonderful. But every time the wind blew, I could feel my hair follicles tingle. I could feel my hair moving with the breeze, loosening and falling.

On Penelope’s white baby blanket I saw little hairs. Mine. Not Kyle’s or Rusty’s or anyone else’s. I was lying on the floor playing with her and when I lifted my head, there they were. On my white t-shirt, I saw little hairs.

On my towel.

On Penelope.

Tonight I will sleep in a chemo cap. I don’t want to see more hairs on my pillow. I’m willing the cap to keep the hairs on my head, but I know this isn’t the case. It’s not possible. The drugs are too strong and the outcome too inevitable. They are just falling, like pine needles off a Christmas tree in January.

My Aunt Kristie said, “Think of it this way: every big bad step gets you closer to being well.”

I know she’s right and I tell myself this over and over and over, but it is so difficult to reconcile with the trauma of losing my hair. I tell myself it’s just hair. I tell myself it will grow back. I tell myself this could be so much worse. I tell myself I am lucky to be alive; it was just stage 1.

I get mad at myself for being so vain. It doesn’t matter what I look like. I am smart. I am kind. I am funny. I have other qualities that make me beautiful, so fuck the hair.

Jessica Sliwerski Kyle and Poppy at lunch
Kyle, Penelope, and me: I wore my vintage Hermes scarf to brunch today, trying to feel more feminine. I feel incredibly self conscious about my new haircut, but am doing my best to embrace it.

But I still obsess about it falling out. It is such a source of angst and I feel hot tears in the back of my throat as I watch the hairs fall uncontrollably.

“Please just hold on a little bit longer,” I beg them.

All photos courtesy of Jessica Sliwerski

Originally published: October 19, 2017
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