Day 5 – Off With the Hair   October 11th, 2011

I kept hoping I would be among the 1% of chemotherapy patients who wouldn’t suffer hair loss, but this morning as I scratched my head upon waking up, I managed to pull a clump of hair out. So put me on the 99% side of the hair loss column.

Pulling hair out of my head led me to figure out what other hair will fall out too, and some careful exploration suggests I will retain my arm and leg hair, I may keep my eyebrows and some of my already meager chest hair, but everything else is going.

My nurse this morning mentioned that a recent female chemo patient wore a shirt that said “Chemotherapy Gave Me the Best Brazilian” (I hope I don’t have to explain that further, but if I do, it refers to wax, hair removal, and pain in sensitive regions). It put a smile on my face.

Instead of having clumps of hair falling out all over the place, I decided to take some decisive action, and have Linda shave my head for me – that will only leave stubble to fall out in the coming days.

Linda starts shaving Jake's head

Linda starts shaving Jake's head

In the above image, and the subsequent ones, you may notice a dark mark under my right eye. That’s apparently a burst capillary from a coughing fit I had a few nights back. It is not the result of anyone beating me.

The first step in the head shave was to achieve equilibrium, in the form of a mohawk, as pictured below:

The interim phase of the head shave - a mohawk

The interim phase of the head shave - a mohawk

After that it was a matter of simply shaving off everything that was guaranteed to be falling out anyhow, including my mustache and beard – facial features my kids have never seen me without. Krystyana was cool with that (all these photos are hers), but Bas was a little creeped out.

The final result is below, taken while I was in bed getting yet another blood transfusion (after getting platelets this morning).

Jake with a baldish head while getting his latest blood transfusion

Jake with a baldish head while getting his latest blood transfusion

A couple of things I have discovered with my new-nearly bald head: First, my head gets cold quickly. Linda got me a skull cap a few weeks ago, and that is helping. I also bought myself a monkey head cap (like little kids might wear in winter) at a state fair several weeks ago for when I need to amuse myself. I also have a baseball hat, and a good friend is knitting me another cap.

Second, I now find myself baffled by whether I should use shampoo or soap on my head. I stuck with shampoo this morning only because it was the comfortable, safe option (plus it’s Baby Shampoo, so no tears). But if any of you who are bald or have gone through chemo have input, it would be appreciated.

My understanding is that over the coming few days all my stubble will be falling out. One friend suggested (coming from her friend who had undergone chemo herself) that one of those lint remover rollers that uses light adhesive tape might be a good way to assist the process. Linda and Krystyana are out exploring, so hopefully they will bring one back so we can experiment.

Other than the hair loss excitement today, it’s a pretty routine day: Platelets, blood transfusions, lots of drugs, rest, and struggling with dry mouth. One interesting (although obvious) note: if you get a nose bleed when your platelet counts are down (I was at 13000 today) the bleeding doesn’t stop very easily. I’ve been told my blood counts should start showing a slow increase in a few days, and as with everything, it’s only a matter of time.

While I try to express my thanks privately, I want to give many public thanks to my awesome family caregivers – Linda, Bas, and Krystyana – and to the excellent nursing staff here at the clinic.