Kaity Kasper


About Hair & Masks

"You will still be one of the ten prettiest women in Richmond, with or without hair," he told me easily as we meandered through the neighborhood.  I can't even remember how we went from neighbors to friends, but we had, and when I told him earlier in the week that not running or cycling was killing me, he proposed these twice weekly early morning walks.  They seemed like a good idea at the time.  But when the alarm went off this morning and my scalp was throbbing - a tell-tale sign that baldness is looming - I didn't quite think so anymore.

"I'll be bald, scarred, scrawny, and lacking ovaries.  I appreciate your saying that, but I just don't think its true."  My mind keeps hovering around the same question these days - who in their right mind will ever be able to love me?

"The way I see it, you have a few options.  Just see if it falls out.  Go crazy now and rock a mohawk while you can.  Or shave it and paint your head a really awesome color."

"I was actually thinking about getting some pretty amazing henna tattoos," I confided. 

"Yes," he laughed.  "I would be honored to take you and your tattooed head as my date to an event at CCV.  Lets plan on that."

And then the conversation turned to normal things.  As if neither one of us were sick.

*   *   *

I drew my favorite nurse again for my blood work.  My scalp still stinging, and hair falling around me consistently, I wore a hat to Massey in a weak attempt to keep my hair on my head.  Or at least in its vicinity.

I wasn't as good as hiding my red eyes from her as I thought I would be.  I finally confided that my hair had started falling out.

"I see lots of patients come through here.  Few of them look as pretty in a hat as you do.  You will be fine."

Thank you, Kristen.

*   *   *

In addition to the hair loss, I woke up today to an incredibly distended abdomen again.  This was not good.  I mentioned it to Trudy and she offered to have someone call in the order for another procedure, but she wasn't optimistic that they would get me in before the middle of next week.  Sigh.  Good bye pleasant weekend.

Every week we run blood work for two reasons - to make sure its safe for us to continue with the next round of chemo and to make sure its safe for me to be out in the world.  Chemo basically tears your body down and if certain counts get too low - like your white blood cell count - your body loses much of its ability to fight off infection.  This can make the outside world dangerous.

When Trudy came to get me after my labs were back, I knew things weren't great.  She was carrying a stack of hospital masks - a sign that my world had become dangerous.

My white blood cell count isn't where we would like it to be.  So I'm back to relative confinement.  I can go to others homes if I know no one has been sick.  I'm not allowed near crowds.  If I am anywhere in public, I need to wear a mask.  To my meetings.  To yoga.  To the market.  To church.  A fever of 101.5 or higher means an immediate trip to the ER.

I had been sitting at the coffee shop earlier this week, thinking how to the average person I probably don't look like anything is wrong.  And then out of nowhere, the two tell-tale signs of a cancer patient - hair loss and a mask - came raining down on me.  I don't want to be "the sick girl".  I don't want everyone to know my story before I tell it.  I don't want to be fragile, special, wounded, struggling.  

As I prayed last night, I asked God to just throw me a bone.  To give me something.  One little part of my physical body that I could hold on to as normal.  Let me keep my hair.  Give me back my normal abdomen.  Let me regain the weight.  Three hours after I left Massey, Jennifer from radiology called.  They have a spot available tomorrow morning to drain my abdomen.  Did I want it?

 Thank you, God.