“You look terrible,” my neighbour said yesterday. I agree.
They never tell you the whole story before they start the chemotherapy. They warn you about the hair loss, sure. They tell you about the weight gain and that everything you eat will taste like metal. Most things they keep quiet about, though.
Like the loss of balance for instance. For more than six months I felt like I was going to pass out…could not pick up a shopping bag without falling over. Plenty of times when I turned around a corner and fell into a hedge…not because I was drunk I hasten to add. The nurses don’t tell you about memory loss or lack of concentration. Nobody warns you that you’ll get sudden, severe headaches or that your knees might give way and you find yourself clutching a lamppost for support on your way to meeting a friend for lunch.
A nurse did tell me my hair might go grow back in a different colour. Usually white. Or that it might not grow back at all.
Nobody expected this though, surely! I have twice as much hair as before. It defies conditioners, hair brushes and gravity itself. There it stands, pointing upwards, no gel will flatten it, no rubber band will tame it. Am I turning into a middle-aged Struwelpeter? My hairdresser throws up her hands in despair and calls her assistant to fetch a lawn-mower.
And the weird colours. Grey, ok that was to be expected. Chestnut, fine, that’s what I started out with. But mousebrown and blonde with bits of red thrown in? I’m tortoiseshell. My cat would have been so proud!
Looking into the mirror I agree with my neighbour entirely. I do look terrible. But I don’t care…because I am looking into the mirror. I am here. I am.