Thursday, February 12, 2015

To Tattoo or Not To Tattoo/Electrolysis and Laser Hair removal

Chemotherapy is good, and it is bad. The good is obvious—it kills cancer. The bad is sometimes not talked about openly.

Chemotherapy can make ovulation impossible. My first experience with chemotherapy occurred over a three month time period. I felt sad when I realized my ability to have children was gone. With four children already, I wasn’t going to have any more so it really shouldn’t have mattered, but it did. My breasts were gone, and now my ovaries were damaged. I was being stripped of my femininity one body part at a time. At 45 years of age at the time of that first treatment, my doctor didn’t expect that my period would return. Surprise, surprise—a little more than a year later, it did.

My second experience with chemotherapy was much longer—7 months longer. Then I had a three month break. Now, I am back to chemo but it is less harsh on my body because it is attached to another non-chemo drug that delivers the chemo straight to the cancer cell. This second time experiencing chemo, I was 48. With my age and diagnosis, my ovaries never had a chance.

Chemo has sent me directly into old age. I look older; I feel older. Less estrogen in my body from damaged ovaries not able to produce it, reminds me every day that I never finished middle age. One particular problem with less estrogen is thinner, slow growing hair. That means it is not necessary to shave as often which is great. But less estrogen can cause hair to grow in places it should not. After not having any or very little hair for over a year, when I finally started to grow hair I noticed a few tiny black hairs on the southern end of my face. Any woman who has found dark hair on their face can attest this is a horrific discovery. All I could think of was, “Get that **** off my flippin face!

I decided enough was enough. I was not going to spend another minute with Calvin and Clyde on my face. No, I really didn’t name them that--just trying to throw some humor at you.  Anyway, I called for an appointment to have electrolysis done. A day later, I saw Liz who took care of the two most annoying ones on my chin. She also decided to de-hair what felt like my entire top lip. The top lip is a very sensitive part of the face.  When the needle entered each follicle and electricity was sent to zap a nasty root, I have to be honest, that zapping hurt. My upper lip was really red when I saw myself in my rear view mirror as I was leaving, but I didn’t care. The forest was gone. I’m kidding. It wasn’t a forest.

When Liz was finished (she knew my situation with breast cancer) she said, “I see your eyebrows have not filled in.”

I explained, “Yeah, I have to draw them on just so I can give myself some eyebrows.”

She then said, “Have you thought about having permanent brows.”

I said, “I hear that is expensive.”

She said something I never expected to come out of her mouth. “How about I do them for free.”

“Whaaaattt!” I thought.

She asked me to follow her to one of the back rooms. I did. There she showed me some of her work. I couldn’t believe how beautiful, how natural the brows I saw in the pictures were. She asked me to think about it and went to prepare for her next appointment.

I pulled out my debit card to pay. The young woman at the counter said, “Oh there is no charge today.”

At that moment I could not have told you what was happening around me. I couldn’t believe a fifteen minute session that costs $30.00 had just been given to me for free! OMG!

I regrouped and asked the young woman about the process of having eyebrows tattooed. She told me that first there is an hour consult where color and shape is determined. The next session is the first treatment--it may take an hour or two. Most people prefer to do it on Fridays because there are a few days the skin will have some puffiness. A few weeks later, a touch-up session is done and that is it. Then she told me how much this type of tattooing costs. The total cost is almost $500.00. Eyebrows really don’t cover that much skin--as all of you know—so that kind of money is A LOT. Someone I barely know has offered to do a $500.00 procedure to me for free. Crazy--I know.

A tattooed eyebrow
I am going to talk it over with my oncologist to see how she feels about this and to make sure my platelet count is high enough. Last thing I want to do is bleed profusely from a tattooing of my brows. Then I need to get over the fear I have of permanent ink being placed on my face. I mean, what if she messes up? But I must say I am a little excited about this possibility. To not have to draw eyebrows on anymore-well I think everyone who feels they must paint their faces just to feel like they look better than if they didn’t can understand why I feel pleasantly happy about this random act of kindness.

Wait, oh dear—maybe she thought I did a really crappy job of drawing my eyebrows on and she thought, “This poor woman needs some major help”.

Oh well, I probably do.

What do you think—to tattoo or not to tattoo?  

My Public Service Announcement:  Ladies or even gentleman, if unwanted hair growth happens to you, please go to your nearest electrolysis professional. If you have more than a few, go the more expensive route and laser those bad boys. You will be so happy you did. If you pluck them they will grow back in six weeks. Electrolysis and laser hair removal are permanent. Remember though, hair grows in cycles so for the removal to be effective, the hair must be in the growth phase.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Well Wishers in Community Service/Treatment #29 TDM-1 #12

On January 12, 2015, while sitting in chemo-chair number #24, I thought about the last time I was in this treatment center. It was the end of 2014. I had settled-in and was waiting to receive my drug from the pharmacy. As I opened the cover of my iPad, a young girl stopped by my chair. In her hand she held several cards.  She separated one and offered it to me. I took it and said, “Thank you.” We exchanged smiles, and she walked away.

I looked down to find three snowmen drawn in thick-lined black ink. The picture appeared to be a copy and as a final artistic touch, the snowmen were given color with crayons. I looked on the back, read the few signatures and thought, “How nice, a little holiday cheer.” Then it hit me, “Oh no, I am one of those people. I am the sick person that someone thought about when they decided what to do for a community service project." Now that I was on the receiving end of such a project, the intent of the card was lost in its simplicity. These people didn’t know me; I didn’t know them. The card did not feel warm and fuzzy. It felt superficial and fake.

I suppose I should be more appreciative of the card, but I can’t. If there was noticeable effort given to the work, I would feel differently. The lackluster endeavor made me think these young people had to do a community service project to fulfill a class’s or sorority's requirement or to pad their college applications. The forcing of young people to be involved in doing “good” for their community should at least ask that they show a certain amount of effort even if there is no honesty behind the giving.

Cancer patients are indeed in need. My former treatment center had a basket filled with items made especially for people like me. From that basket, I grabbed a few cute hand-knitted hats to keep my head warm when I was bald and the weather was cold. I appreciated the work behind the hats. When my children were small, we participated in sending cards and supplies to American soldiers overseas. (Why our government is not supplying our soldiers with these basic needs baffles my mind, but that is for another post.) The new razors, shaving cream, toothbrushes, and soap that we packed in shoe boxes I hope made those young men and women happy upon receiving them. Now that I have received a card from a stranger, I believe the cards we sent with our packages probably were not as well received as the goodies.

6 of these are mine, the two beside the small poodle mix on
the left were adopted by other families.   
Community service is good for society. I believe in it. I have rescued many dogs and cats from my local animal shelter. I gave them a warm place to sleep, medicines to heal them and finally showed them to the public where people chose them to become their new family members. During my time doing rescue work, my family added four dogs and four cats to our existing two dogs and three cats household. Life without them would be easier for sure. No de-furring of my house would be needed. No opening and closing doors to let each dog, or cat, in or out of the house would occur. If I didn’t have them in my life, there would be less love and more loneliness in my home. For that reason, I saw the result of and knew the work I was doing was benefiting many people as well as the non-human animals I saved.

It would have been nicer, at least for me, if these young people had spent time making a gift instead of a card. A knitted hat or scarf, an origami animal, or even giving out a few dollars in cash that the group had raised through a car-washing event would have brightened my day more than a few names on a post card. Am I wrong in feeling this way? What do you think?