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Archive for the ‘Cancer Products’ Category

So I have to admit that because of my history I’ve got a pretty lengthy medical file that probably weighs more in pounds than it measures in thickness.  So it’s always been in my best interest to actually purchase some sort of medical ID bracelet or dog tags to give people a heads up in case something goes wrong and I’m unable to communicate.  I am, unfortunately, a true procrastinator at heart.  What makes matters worse is that, when I’m faced with a lot of decisions before reaching an end goal, I tend to drag my feet like an overweight dachshund being forced on a walk around the block.

Case in point: I probably should have had a medical ID bracelet the moment I discovered I had an allergy that led to anaphylactic shock.  That’s basically when your body reacts so severely to something that it starts shutting down.  Eyes, throat, mouth…everything swells and cuts off the necessities.  You know…like air.  It’s not a super common allergic reaction, but most that deal with it frequently tend to carry an epi-pen or other life-saving medications around for this very reason.

Of course, the trigger for that severe reaction in me only comes from one source and it’s only maintained in one environment that I’m aware of.  Medicating myself ahead of time tends to curb the reaction to the bare minimum or down to nothing at all.  While great, it may or may not have given me a reason to procrastinate on a medical ID bracelet for just that much longer.

Jump ahead several years and we’ve got Breast Cancer breathing down my neck, a full on radical mastectomy complete with lymph node removal.  Anybody who has been through this or is even remotely familiar to this procedure knows that most nurses, phlebotomists and the like tend to frown on using the arm on the side your lymph nodes have been removed.  Not only does this include drawing blood and IVs, but they also strongly advise not using blood pressure cuffs and lifting anything over a certain weight due to the strong risk of developing lymphedema.  Lymphedema, in short, is pretty much a chronic and painful swelling in the arm.  It’s an unfortunate and pretty common side effect of losing your lymph nodes, as those are what pull water and fluids from any sort of injury through to your body’s waste system (liver and kidneys, naturally).  Without them, the fluid tends to pool and collect right where it forms, causing painful swelling.  In order to control it you’re pretty much stuck with the equivalent of compression socks on your arms for life.  There’s at least some solace knowing that people do make some pretty fancy and fashionable lymphedema wraps. But, once you have it, it can flare up or calm a bit, so you’re pretty much looking at a permanent condition.  Thus far it’s one I’ve managed to avoid.  Probably in my best interest to keep it that way.

You would think that this would get me off my rear, right?  A severe allergy, risk of a painful chronic condition if somebody pokes or squeezes the wrong arm…?  Well … sort of.  It did push me to start looking around.  My major roadblock, however, was that I was also on a plethora of medications, had several doctors…had emergency numbers that should be placed on such a thing…

But when you look at most websites offering these bracelets, you’re given 4-5 lines of space to put the most important things down.  How do you prioritize?  What do you tell people if you’re found unconscious and in need of medical help?

Like…how if you’re found unconscious in a parking lot, slumped over your steering wheel…?  Stop looking at me like that.  I can feel the disapproval through your screen.

I still didn’t have a bracelet made yet when I had my adventure during that chaos.  If you consider I could open my own pharmacy with all the medications they have me on,  knowing that info in the ER would have been mighty helpful.  I lucked out in that my husband is pretty well-informed with my health, but the wrong medication, the wrong dosage, mixed with another…?  There’s no way to pretty up the fact that it could kill you or severely hamper your recovery.

So I finally did some research.  Google can be such a marvelous thing for the prepetual procrastinator.

Turns out that if you have a novel of information you want EMTs, Nurses, ER staff, doctors or even perfect strangers to know if you’re out cold…can be put onto a simple medical ID card.  Tuck it away in your wallet, call it good.  I was hesitant at first, though, knowing that most of my medications and dosages, times, etc., are prone to changing.

Turns out people have thought of that, too.

If you go here you can find a form online that you can fill out with all the information that will be needed.  Blood type, emergency numbers, allergies, address, name, conditions, medications and dosages and times …

All the stuff to make your nurse proud.

So what does that leave to put on your medical ID bracelet or dog tags?  Anything you think would be needed immediately.   For me?  My name, two emergency numbers, and a line that simply reads “SEE MEDICAL ID CARD”.

Best part?  While the medical bracelet doesn’t come free (or cheap in a lot of cases), you don’t feel so bad buying a nice one that will last knowing that there will be little cause to have to replace the actual tag in the future.  Every time something changes?   Go back, fill it out again, print it for free in any of the available card sizes, tuck it in your wallet and go on with your day.  Considering how everything else in life is far from simple, it’s nice to see at least one thing is.

 

Med ID Bracelet

I went for the functional, but I’ve got a fancy one, too. I snagged mine from Lauren’s Hope … ended up arriving super early and in great condition.

 

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Every cancer patient (and many more patients of other sorts, rest assured) are all too familiar with prescription drugs.  Not just the stuff we get intravenously, but also the stuff we have to take by mouth.  Pills in particular.  These pills run in all sorts of sizes and arrangements, from tiny to horse-sized, from basic to sugar-coated, chewable to grab a cup of water you’ll need it to swig this sucker down.  There is one pill, I’ve discovered, that is the universal wonder-pill that just about everybody has had to take at one time or another.  This pill is called prednisone.  

There is a good reason why doctors seem to use this as a fall back.  I alone have used it to coincide with my chemotherapy at age sixteen, and it has been a blessing when pre-medicating myself for CT scans so I don’t go into anaphylactic shock due to the contrast dye.  But this little miracle pill does much, much more.  Prednisone is a corticosteroid, and is used in a wide array of treatments from arthritis to asthma, from lupus (yes, lupus) to allergies.  It’s not always in pill form for all of these, but the pill form is what I’m here to talk about.  To sum it up, Prednisone is a miracle pill.

It’s also a bit of a bad pill, too.  See, prednisone is one of those medications that has equal benefits to its horrible side effects.  In my personal experience it’s caused some rather crazy mood swings (giving a speech about your summer vacation to a class and then randomly breaking down crying when you announce…”England was so fun..but now I have cancer!” is one of many examples I can think of), all sorts of fun water-retention that leads to some rather awkward weight gain.  It also gave me a horrible craving for eggs.  But the list goes much, much beyond that.  Depending on your dosage it can also cause glaucoma and increased blood pressure.  It gets even better if you take it over a long period of time, like a few people I know do.  Cataracts, high blood sugar that can lead to diabetes, increased risk of infections, osteoporosis, and thinning skin leading to easier bruising.  Those, my friend, are the common side-effects.

But let me tell you, when you discuss prednisone with somebody else who’s experienced this wonder drug as well, none of these are the first thing that comes to a prednisone-victim’s mind.  Not the benefits, not the harmful effects.  No, the first thing they think of is the taste. 

That’s right, the taste.  Prednisone by far is the worst tasting pill there is and in no situation have I ever seen it sugar-coated.  It is likely one of the medications that I would not object to having a nice sugar-coating to spare my tongue.  It’s almost like walking into a room where somebody’s been sanding and burning plastic and walking around with your tongue out to taste the fine particles, which leave an acrid burnt taste in your mouth that no less that five pieces of the strongest mint gum will get rid of.  Many suggest, who have never had it, to wash it down as quickly as possible and to not let it sit on your tongue.  Yes, because I let it settle and let it melt on my tongue, clearly I am not swallowing it fast enough.  I love the offer of advice, but really, would I be complaining if I didn’t swallow it as fast as humanly possible?

As I sat in the chemo chair yesterday talking with my mother prednisone came up.  I don’t recall the entire conversation, but the minute I said that magic word, ‘prednisone’, I watched the lady in the chair next to me cringe and stick her tongue out as if she could taste it simply by mentioning it.  For me, and for her I later discovered, we were only subjected to the tiny pills.  Did I mention that for some people, like a lot of liver transplant patients, these pills come in a glorious horse-pill or enema size, too.  Count your blessings if you only have to take it once or twice in a nice tiny size, because these patients take those horse pills daily.

 

It should really come as no surprise that when you do a Google image search for ‘taking prednisone’ this image popped up for me. Remember that weight gain? It can be a real PITA.

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Yesterday I had the chance to guest blog over at 4women.com run by the lovely Susan Beausang.  The topic is hair loss, so if it interests you, go check it out!

Recently I did a bit of a chop to my hair in anticipation of it falling out due to chemotherapy.  I went in to my stylist and told her, “Have fun, but make it short.”  I was half expecting to come out with zebra stripes and a mohawk, but she kept it pretty safe.  There’s still a little temptation to go buy some blue dye and play a bit myself, though.

This is about as long as the hair got in two years since my last chemotherapy. The curls are something that came with it as well, as my hair never used to be quite this wavy.

This is about as long as the hair got in two years since my last chemotherapy. The curls are something that came with it as well, as my hair never used to be quite this wavy.

I ended up coming out of the salon with a rather short and still curly bob that I wasn’t sure I could pull off.  For me, short hair with curls always leaned a bit towards the overly fluffy and frizzy side.  It’s one of those things that happens in the Pacific Northwest with all of our rain.  Hair without frizz…well, needless to say it doesn’t really happen except for our driest months of the summer.

Not bad, I confess I was a bit surprised how well it turned out.

Not bad, I confess I was a bit surprised how well it turned out.

The next morning I played a little more with it.  I think I prefer it blow-dried.

Yes, that is indeed how big my coffee cup is. I live in the Northwest. Coffee flows through our veins.

Yes, that is indeed how big my coffee cup is. I live in the Northwest. Coffee flows through our veins.

Of course, the next morning my scarves, or ‘beaubeaus’ as they’re officially called, came in from 4women.com.   Back in 2010, about six to seven weeks after my mastectomy, I found myself out shopping for a mastectomy bra and orpemborp so I could balance out my new-found lopsidedness.  This entailed a lot of sitting in the dressing room waiting for the attendant (who I believe was also a RN) to run back and forth, grabbing different bras and orpemborps until we found the right fit.  I have to complement the ladies down at Saffron’s, they take a lot of care to making sure you walk out of there satisfied and not feeling completely awkward.  As I sat there waiting I began to thumb through the magazines, looking for something to occupy my time.  I came across a small article, about a half a page, about Susan Beausang and her story about why she created the beaubeau and started 4women.com.  I sat there staring at the beautiful scarf she was wearing with a hair touch of envy (see what I did there? Of course you did.), as I had already resigned myself to wearing wigs once more, even though I’m a bit disdainful of them.  The website seemed easy enough to remember, though, so I ordered one for myself when I got home.  Long story short, my relations also purchased scarves for me after I raved a bit on Facebook how wonderful they are.  I’ll never go back to a wig, that’s for certain.

They're even fun to wear with hair. This one is the "Bohemmian Vintage". A bit bluer than what's pictured here though, since I was playing with filters.

They’re even fun to wear with hair. This one is the “Bohemmian Vintage”. A bit bluer than what’s pictured here though, since I was playing with filters.

"Rhythm and Blues" has a bit of purple, green, and blue to it that I tend to favor.

“Rhythm and Blues” has a bit of purple, green, and blue to it that I tend to favor.

After a while my daughter decided to play along with me. So I took out the two remaining scarves and put one on each of our respective heads. She's wearing "Tangerine Tango" and I'm wearing one that I believe might no longer be in stock. The pose idea is completely her idea, the little ham.

After a while my daughter decided to play along with me. So I took out the two remaining scarves and put one on each of our respective heads. She’s wearing “Tangerine Tango” and I’m wearing one that I believe might no longer be in stock. The pose idea is completely her idea, the little ham.

I did, however, save the chopped hair for a viking funeral that…well it didn’t exactly turn out.  Let’s just say that next time (should there be one) I need to actually make a boat that floats with more than thirty minutes of thought put into it.  We got it to burn, but it didn’t exactly leave the shore.  But that’s a story for another time, naturally.

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While I’m sitting here doing my best to wait patiently for news on when I’ll be starting chemotherapy I’m finding that I do a horrible job of not looking online for information regarding my upcoming procedures.  A few weeks back I found out that my chemotherapy will likely be a short one; once a week for four weeks.  This is a new experience for me, shockingly enough, and it seems so blessedly short in comparison to the other types of chemo treatments I’ve done in the past.  Now, I haven’t the foggiest as to how long these individual treatments will be … could be an hour, could be up to six.  Either way it’s only once a week, which leads me to wonder…will it be a strong chemotherapy?  Or will it be a relatively weak one?  In my unique situation I find that my doctors like to take two approaches.  The first is “You’re so young!  You can survive a massive barrage and be able to bounce back!”.  The second being a more cautious approach of “You’ve been through so much, we have to be careful to give you something that won’t make the long-term side effects for you go horribly!”.  My current oncologist leans a bit towards the second, which I admit I’m appreciative of since a harsh chemo makes it a bit difficult to raise and take care of my two crazy children.

Still don’t know if I’ll be losing my hair, though I have to remind people that the types of chemo where you don’t lose your hair are few and far between.  By those odds I should be narrowing it down so that it’s my turn for one of those, right?  Yeah, I’m not holding my breath either.  None of my cancers are slow-moving, which those types of treatments are typically reserved for, so the chance of getting a therapy that spares my hair and nails and white blood cells is pretty much not in the cards for me.

As per my last conversation with my oncologist there are a few other things that aren’t in the cards for me as well.  For one I won’t be using a port this time through, which I’m a bit sad about.  I’ve never had a chemo go more smoothly than when I had a port.  The first two times I was treated I used an IV.  This was well and great the first few times when I was sixteen, but a little known fact by those who haven’t gone through chemo is that it makes your veins shrink.  Having great circulation is not something that frequents chemo patients, and for me it was typically only reserved for when I was pregnant.  My blood pressure is naturally low…approximately 90/59 is on the norm for me, so you can imagine my veins are near invisible.  Top that off with a little chemo and they shrivel up and hibernate.  After my first chemotherapy a few of my toes were numb for several months until the veins healed.  It was a bit odd to discover, when the feeling came back, that the shoes I’d been wearing were a lot tighter than I realized!

So, you can imagine, trying to get an IV line in for each chemotherapy is a bit of a hassle.  But back then I was terrified of the idea of a line going straight into my heart.  In fact, I was afraid of surgeries in general, so knowing I’d have to go through one just to get the port in garnished an immediate “NO!” from my teenage and early twenties lips.  After my mastectomy, however, I finally budged, figuring that if I could handle a mastectomy putting a port in should be a cinch.  One of those few times I ended up right, thank goodness.  It made chemo easier and less stressful.  I’m not typically needle shy, but when you have a nurse poking your arm several times (and only having the option of one arm to poke) it begins to really affect you.  Not only does your arm end up bruising, but the more times you’re poked the more chances of hitting a nerve and causing a reaction that isn’t far from passing out cold in the chair.  Nerve reactions are things I dread…the heat flushing to your head, a sudden onset of nausea, and watching your vision slowly go black from the corners of your eyes moving inwards.  It ends up passing after a bit, but it’s a feeling I wouldn’t readily repeat.

You can guess that this makes me wary of using an IV for my approaching chemo treatment.  I relayed this bit of hesitation to my oncologist and was told that I would instead be using a tunneled line.  Despite my knowledge of the patient experience there are still things that pop up to surprise me.  I’d never heard of a tunneled line, and for some reason all I could picture was a tube forced under my skin.  No matter how I tried to imagine it I couldn’t exactly fathom how this would be pleasant or painless.  Finally, after a few weeks of an overactive imagination, I popped open Google and looked it up.

To my relief it’s very similar to a port–I won’t have some random tube tunneling under my skin.  However, it also includes the tubes sticking out of my skin.  This is something I have experience with after both my mastectomy and my lobectomy left me with drainage tubes out of my side for weeks following both surgeries.  It’s a feeling I can’t stand, knowing that if I move just wrong or if my kids bump into the wrong spot they might accidentally tug…yeah.  That.  I won’t explain any further.  It also means tape holding it in place.  Sensitive skin and tape don’t really get along much, as I’ve discovered over the years.

But, to be on the positive side … it’s only four weeks.  It’s not five months of chemo or a few years of it.  Only. Four. Weeks.  And that  is something that I can handle.

IVs, Tunneled Lines, and Ports. I do apologize for those who might cringe to this, I promise I found the least-er-grotesque image of these things that I could! (As Jenn said, “EEuuugh! Why did you show me that?!”)

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Maybe I should start a glossary of terms, because I’m sure you’re scratching your head going, “What the heck is an ‘orpemborp’?”.  Well, while I can attribute calling tongs “G’nip-G’nops” to my grandmother on my father’s side and calling something slightly askew or lopsided ‘Sigoggilywompus’ to my aunt Sharon, calling breast forms Orpemborps I can completely blame on my grandmother on my mom’s side.  While on my dad’s side these little words we like to call Branumisms are nothing but quaint and cute little things that come up (likely from our lack of recalling the real word for five seconds, pointing, snapping our fingers and going “Uh, the..well you know! The g’nip-g’nop things!”), my grandma Doreena had a reason for calling breast forms orpemborps.

While I’m sure that breast forms have been around for a lot longer, there really wasn’t a consumer option for one until the 1940’s.  Other things could substitute before then, but there wasn’t a steady option for women to hide their mastectomies until around WWII.  Now, I don’t know exactly when my grandmother worked at a store that provided these breast forms, but the family story goes that whenever they were asked at the front desk for a certain item, often they’d have to call over the loud-speaker to the person in the back to go get it.  Imagine you’re a woman who’s just undergone a mastectomy in the 1940s or even the 1950s.  As it is we seem to feel, collectively, like we’ve lost a bit of our femininity to the surgical knife, though acceptance and our overall health is finally taking front seat to a lot of our more cosmetic needs now.  Now…just imagine you’re asking some lady at a front desk for your very first breast form.  It’s embarrassing as is, but now she’s going to announce over the loudspeaker so that the entire store can know just what you’re there to get.  Instead, my grandmother used a code word that only she and the people in the back knew what it stood for.  Orpemborp.  To be honest I have no idea how they came up with that word, but I imagine they saved the dignity of a lot of women who came in to their store.  Even to this day I think I’d prefer somebody hollering “Oi! Can we get an orpemborp up here for the lady!?” over asking publicly for some guy in the back to go get me a breast form.  If anything it’d certainly make me giggle.

For me, picking out an orpemborp was a much more private and delicately handled matter.  There are specialty stores and clinics that cater to your post-mastectomy needs all over the place.  They have specialty bras, shirts, swimsuits, and more.  Lacy little bras that have a bit of fabric to cover up your lack of cleavage and tight bras that won’t gap when you bend over.  Insurance, for those who have it, even covers the cost of these bras and orpemborps.  Needless to say, compared to sixty years ago, I’d say we’ve got it pretty good.

How do you select the orpemborp that’s right for you?  They have prosthesis that  can cover partial mastectomies and others that take on several shapes if you’re trying to match up to a remaining breast.  There are different sizes and different weights, and also those made specifically for exercise and swimming.  My best advice is to do a little research.  There’s very little that a good google search won’t show you in the world of breast forms.  Amoena is a good company to start with.

I can’t tell you what you’ll prefer, as every person is different and there are so many choices out there that it’s almost impossible to not find the right fit for you.  You may even prefer to do reconstructive surgery.  My children, however, were very young when I came out of the operating room, and I couldn’t quite fathom being close to useless after another surgery while I had a 1 and a 3-year-old running amuck in the house.  So instead I purchased an orpemborp.  Mine is rather realistic feeling and isn’t lightweight by any means.  Since they only took one I didn’t want to be any more lopsided than I was, so I balanced it out.  I do, however, have a backup one that’s light weight.  These things crack me up, because it’s like they took a cut of a tempurpedic mattress and shoved it into the form of a prosthetic.  Have you ever retained water somewhere, likely your ankles, and poked the skin only to watch it retain the shape of your finger for a few seconds before finally resuming it’s normal form?  Lightweight breast forms are like that.  If you’re not worried about how it’ll feel if somebody gropes your prosthetic, though, then there’s nothing to worry about!  Go for that larger size you’ve always wanted, without the risk of the added weight to cause back problems.  You’ll never sag!

Mastectomy Bras: Allowing me to keep my v-neck shirts since 2009.

Mastectomy Bras: Allowing me to keep my v-neck shirts since 2009.

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So one of the most common questions I get asked often relates to how I deal with hair loss.  The cancer is, obviously, a more pressing matter, but it seems that we always seem to associate cancer = chemotherapy = hair loss.  That’s because it seems to be the one side effect that is pretty dominant among all the different types of chemotherapy treatments.  It’s also a side effect of radiation to the head.  For the most part it’s women who tend to worry about it more-so, regardless of whether they have long locks or a nice short do, losing that hair seems to send a lot of them into panic mode.  I hate to break it to you, guys, but for some silly reason a lot of guys don’t seem to realize that they won’t just lose the hair on the top of their heads during chemo.  Have a fu manchu?  You can pretty much kiss it goodbye.

What options are out there?  You’d be surprised.  See, not only do cancer patients go through hair loss.  A lot of people go through it via some other disease, some through the bad luck of genetics.  Fact is, hair loss has been around for centuries, which means there’s a lot of ways to cope.  Cure for hair loss? Ehh, depends?  Not when it comes to chemo at least, but you usually have the satisfaction of knowing that once you’re done with chemotherapy it’ll at least come back — albeit not always in the same form it left in.  I’ve noticed that most people I meet have stories about how they know one person or another who had straight hair going in and came out with curly hair.  I’d never seen this myself the first two times I went through chemotherapy, so I wondered if it wasn’t nearly so commonplace.  However, I started meeting more who went through the same thing and ended up losing my wavy locks for ringlets when I was treated for breast cancer.  I’ve also met those who went in with a full head of one color to come out with another–sometimes that new color being a full coat of grey.

Wigs

When I was sixteen I had absolutely no inclination to run around without my head covered, and even less inclined to let somebody know that my hair was falling out unless directly asked.  In other words, I didn’t want to advertise.  So that meant finding something that made me look like I had hair.  Yep, wigs.  Before my hair even started to come out my mother and I went to a salon to pick out a wig, a short  brown pixie styled wig that I thought would be the epitome of style and would fool anybody.   I soon discovered that I have absolutely no knack for styling wigs.  It always looked very obviously like a wig and I couldn’t seem to get it to look right.  When it comes down to it : if you’re bad at doing your own hair beyond a pony tail or something simple, wigs are probably not right for you, at least not your typical wigs.  There are some fantastic wigs out there, you just have to know where to look.

My super comfy TLC wig. I just wish I could say the same about the choir dresses.

My super comfy TLC wig. I just wish I could say the same about the choir dresses.

http://www.tlcdirect.org/

What I discovered, at first, was a site that centers mainly on women dealing with cancer.   TLC is a great site that caters mainly to those who are going through hair loss due to cancer.    I had two wigs from there that required nothing more than a quick brush and were extremely comfortable.  If you want a comfortable wig that won’t hurt your inflamed hair follicles (yeah, another glorious side effect of chemotherapy), I cannot recommend a better wig site than TLC.  They also have comfortable hats, wigs specifically meant to go with hats, and other products to help deal with hair loss (this includes eyebrow stencils and little swatches of fake hair that you put in front of your ear).  The only drawback to TLC that I’ve noticed is that they tend to cater more to an older crowd, so as a teenager going through chemotherapy, I found a lot of their wigs to be a bit too old for me at the time.  They’re very comfortable, however, and run by the American Cancer Society.  In short:

Pros:

  • Relatively inexpensive wigs, scarves, hats, and accessories.
  • Comfort is the main seller.
  • Large selection, including wigs for women of color.
  • Customer service tends to be easy to deal with and wigs can be returned if they just don’t work out.

Cons:

  • While the comfort is amazing, the styles are really more fit for women 30 plus.  Some of the styles haven’t changed since the 90s.

http://www.naaf.org/site/PageServer?pagename=products_wigs

Now if you want to really delve into nice wigs for any sort of hair loss, the best suggestion I can give you is to look to people who deal with the lack of hair on a more permanent basis.  I’ve not tried any of these products, as I didn’t opt for wigs my second and third times dealing with cancer, but I can say that the recommendations here are probably a lot better than most.  One thing to keep in mind is that they may not focus on cancer patient’s needs, so beyond that link you take your fate into your own hands!

Hats

Hats are easy and cheap and can be used in a lot of situations.  You can also get some of the most creative hats to wear, too, if that’s your thing.  Hats are also really easy to accessorize with products to look like you’ve got hair underneath.  I used a few hats when I went through with chemotherapy the second time and it worked out…all right.  For me I found the falls & half wigs that you adhere into a hat to be pretty uncomfortable.  My hair follicles were inflamed and my head felt like it was constantly on fire, so it’s not my top recommendation if the skin on your head gets sensitive.  Another con to this is that if you do not wear anything wig-related under the hat….9 times out of 10 anybody can tell you’re bald.  If you don’t care if they know?  Go for it!

Post-chemo hats were wonderful and did amazing things to keep the Vegas sun off my exposed head.  In reflection I should have gotten a wider-brimmed hat to cover my shoulders, chest and back, too.

Post-chemo hats were wonderful and did amazing things to keep the Vegas sun off my exposed head.  In reflection I should have gotten a wider-brimmed hat to cover my shoulders, chest and back, too.

Bandannas & Scarves

Yes, there is a difference!  Whenever I was at home or in the comfort of close friends I often wore a bandanna, both my first and second times going through chemotherapy.  They were a nice soft cotton and relatively stretchy, so I could easily wear them in a pinch.  I opted out of wearing them in public, however, as I wasn’t comfortable advertising my baldness.

Bandannas are great for away-from-the-public-eye sort of situations. Such as trying to taste how paint smells when you're using it to put tasteful murals of 80s cartoon characters on your best friend's bedroom wall.

Bandannas are great for away-from-the-public-eye sort of situations. Such as trying to taste how paint smells when you’re using it to put tasteful murals of 80s cartoon characters on your best friend’s bedroom wall.

Scarves are totally different. They’re like a dressed up version of the bandanna.  I did not discover the awesomeness of scarves (mainly because I didn’t want to bother with tying them and making them stay in place) until my third round of chemotherapy.  Shortly after my mastectomy healed up I was able to go try on Orpemborp bras.  (What the heck is an Orpemborp?  My grandmother used to work in a drug store that carried prosthetic breasts and when a lady would come in to request one, they had to announce over the loud-speaker to the people in the back room what they needed.  Well, if you get shy about dragging condoms or tampons through a register, imagine the embarrassment of having somebody mention you need a fake boob.  Orpemborp was the random nickname they decided to call them for the sake of the dignity of the woman requesting them.)  While sitting in the dressing room, waiting for the lovely lady to bring me in a few samples I thumbed through a magazine specifically aimed at women going through breast cancer.  What I found was an amazing story of a woman with Alopecia who made these fantastic scarves called beaubeaus.

My fantastic Beaubeau. Toddler not included.

My fantastic Beaubeau. Toddler not included.

http://www.4women.com/index.php

They’re stylish, they’re lightweight, they’re comfortable, and even though it’s pretty obvious you’ve got a lack of hair under that scarf it simply does not feel like it.  You can also tie them in the back in several ways, which you can explore on her website.   Susan Beausang (the fabulous creator of the beaubeau) has a variety of fabrics for warm weather, cool weather, and also for exercising, swimming and sleep.  They come in a large variety of up-to-date fashionable patterns and are wonderfully feminine.  The only con I can come up with these is that people will know you’re bald, but damn it, you’ll be fabulously bald.  This is for those ladies who want to look good and be comfortable doing it and don’t care if the world knows they’re lacking a head of thick hair.

Trying one of my beaubeaus on before I lost my hair. The selfish part of me wishes I didn't donate these lovely scarves to the clinic where I went through chemo simply because they would make fantastic pirate scarves.

Trying one of my beaubeaus on before I lost my hair. The selfish part of me wishes I didn’t donate these lovely scarves to the clinic where I went through chemo simply because they would make fantastic pirate scarves.

When it comes down to it, in the end, the way you opt to cover (or not cover) your head is totally up to you.  Remember that the most important thing is not just the physical comfort, but also the emotional comfort of being able to walk around in public not caring about anything but how far you’re going to kick cancer into space before it burns up in the atmosphere and is nothing but smoldering remains when it returns to Earth.  At which point the occupants of the world will stab it, pour acid on it, set fire to its miserable corpse (again), and dance to Lady GaGa while it dies a miserable death (or several at this point) that the whole world can agree it deserves.  The end.

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