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Springing Forward
Hair-raising tales of friendship
By Cynthia R. Nelson

This continues a series of personal notes from Cynthia Nelson, 35, of Moorestown, who was diagnosed with ovarian and cervical cancer in June. Cynthia bravely shares with us her experiences, thoughts and impressions each month.

 


It’s now eight weeks post-chemo and I’m starting to sprout. I have about an eighth of an inch of hair emerging from my head at the moment. It’s soft, almost like velvet, not prickly like my legs. My arms, on the other hand, have a fine, white down growing under them. I won’t discuss the other parts of my body, but suffice it to say, I feel like a Chia Pet. Cha-cha-cha-Chia.

I’m not comfortable forgoing the wig altogether but now that I have a little peach fuzz people seem to be a bit more accepting of my head. A few have even asked if they can rub it.

I’m not sure how fast my hair will grow but I suspect it will be about another month or so before I will visit Joe Minniti’s salon again. He will do something similar to when my hair was coming out – refitting and adjusting the wig, but this time to accommodate the hair growing back in. There’s not much I can do to it when it measures about the length of an eyelash.

The good news is that it’s still a dark brown. I was really concerned that it would be gray. With all the stress and anxiety in my life lately, I wouldn’t have been surprised! I will have to wait to find out about its texture. Many cancer patients will tell you that their hair comes back different. If they had thick hair, it’s now thin. If it was stick straight, it’s now curly. At this point, though, I don’t care what it looks like, I’m just glad it’s coming back!

I’ve still got an array of side effects from radiation and chemotherapy. My feet still tingle and my legs hurt. I have stomach cramps and intestinal issues that get worse in the evening when I lie down. Time will tell how lasting they are.

I’m not sure if it’s coincidence, but now that my hair is coming back I’ve also started to have hot flashes. Well, I assume they are hot flashes. They start at my head and sometimes it feels as if my scalp is on fire. It’s rare, but I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been so hot that despite being in public (i.e., at a restaurant), I’ve actually whipped off my wig in frustration. I feel like Samantha from Sex and the City when, in the middle of a presentation, she yanks the wig off her head, sweat dripping from her face. Ah, the glory of menopause!

 

You’ve got mail!

Within days of the February issue hitting mailboxes I received about a dozen emails from readers of SJ Magazine. While I admit I was excited to get mail, I was a bit apprehensive to read them. Overall, the notes were positive but I found myself cringing when someone wrote about “my
mother, my sister, my father…” because I was afraid to see the word “died” come after. It’s always a thought in your brain once you’ve dealt with cancer.

Despite my trepidation, the notes were also comforting in that I found I had a bond with many more people than I realized. Granted it is through this beast known as cancer, but nonetheless, it is a bond that connects us indisputably forever.

Some of the letters made me sad – hearing about the people who did not finish this journey – but at the same time, they made me quite happy. I realized that although I sometimes feel like I’m the only person in the world going through these tribulations, I’m not. And more importantly, I’m not alone, even in my loneliest of moments. Other people are there, praying, thinking and in some cases, struggling right along with me.

My point is best illustrated in an excerpt from one message: “I just wanted to thank you so much for writing this column. I can relate to every detail in every article… Each stage of your treatment process pretty much coincided with mine…”

Ironically, the woman who wrote the sentences above is also named Cindy – Cindy Crable – and she lives less than two miles from me in Moorestown. Crable was diagnosed with stage 2 uterine carcinosarcoma and this summer, she, too, had a radical hysterectomy. She had completed her chemo within a few weeks of mine and had even gotten a wig from Joe Minniti!

Cindy and I emailed once to exchange personal contact information. We met on a cold, rainy Tuesday a few days later, when Cindy accompanied me to a follow-up at the hospital. Was it strange? No. Not in my mind.

We drove and talked. We shared our stories – from how we came to our diagnosis, to dishing about doctors. We laughed and compared our wigs, pondering what was better – human hair or synthetic.

We had known each other for only about three hours when Cindy came back to my house for lunch, but our friendship was already cemented. It didn’t matter that our cancers were different or that we weren’t the same age. We found in each other someone who could relate to our woes and fears, our triumphs and joy. Neither of us knows for sure what our futures hold with respect to cancer, but I am thankful for the day Cindy Crable hit send on her computer.

March 2006
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