Gratitude, Peace + Hair Grease

Its true what they say, gratitude changes everything. I gently remind myself of this often these days and what a difference it does to shift my outlook for the day.

In the past 2-weeks, I spent two very long nights in two different Emergency Rooms in the East Bay. Both for very different complications with chemo side effects. One being related to an extremely low white blood cell and platelet counts and the other for water retention and digestion after a hydration IV mishap during treatment. While I am relieved to have been discharged after some decent alterations to the ole' medicine cabinet (er, prescription list. Yes, its that big!), it took a cumulative sum of 18-hours to wait to be seen between the two visits. Yikes! When I feel myself thinking negatively or feel my anxiety getting the best of me, shifting my perspective has really made all the difference. With that in mind, today marks 1/3 of my treatment being complete. A milestone I celebrated with a nice drive through sunny Sausalito between appointments with my Mama. I am so grateful for all of the support, insight and love I've received in outpouring numbers. But my constant source of strength day in and day out, definitely comes from my mother. What a saint she is for being my caretaker, chaufere and cheerleader every single step of this way. My gratitude for her is 10-fold what it was even just a week ago. Cherish your mamas always, they were our first homes and we'll forever be a piece of them. <3

This week was a big week for another reason too. I chopped my long locks into a pretty little pixie =) A dear family friend with the patience of a royal matriarch cut it for me, starting with the braid (I didn't cry, I swear!) then shorter and shorter in stages until we we're satisfied with the length & shape. I've never cut my hair above my shoulders before, I honestly have never even considered it. But I knew it was the right time and right thing to do. *queue: India Ari's, I Am Not My Hair* This journey has sincerely challenged me in many more ways beyond the physical and I know I'll be better for it in the end.

A few have asked why I went so short with my pelo and the answer is pretty simple.

Allow me to explain: All three chemo drugs I'm receiving cause hair loss. In short there's a ton of different chemo drugs; well, realistically around 60. And each are effective in killing cancer because it attacks all quickly producing cells -- which is the common growth profile for a cancer cell. However other cells are produced quickly too. Things like: hair cells, blood cells and even cells in our mouths, amongst others. But chemo does not discriminate. It has one job, attack what grows fast. I hadn't cut my hair beyond a DIY trim in nearly 5 years, my split ends were there to prove it! At that length, to potentially witness it fall out in patches, little by little, every single day, would be even more devastating for me. I weighed the alternative to "wait and see" with friends and a fun poll on Instagram and decided to just go for it. Heck! Why not, I had nothing to loose after all and all the empowerment to gain. So far, no regrets! Totally into the reduced shower, prep-time and product use too. #winwin

The next step in my hair-care journey, of course, is none at all. I've had my share of breakdowns over this reality and realize its derived from the cancer patient stigma. You know, the pale bald girl in every movie we've ever seen, with the frequent bloody noses, casted as meek and shaved down perfectly. I am not that girl, I am not a victim. While I have my share of bad days and worse nights, I truly feel this path for me was no accident. I hope you can see me in this light, too. My doctors and nurses anticipate Chemo Week 4 is when my pixie will begin to turn to dust. Today marks Week 3. So, what's next? Nothing. I will let it my hair fall where it may and shave it when it becomes to patchy to bear. I declined a donation offer of a custom wig from the CPMC Woman's Center, I just cant get behind it. Its so superficial for me at this time and physically uncomfortable to wear, I can only hope it goes to someone who really, truly wants and deserves it instead. I would do it no justice and while I am living in an altered state of reality right now, I hope to still tread just as lightly (if not more responsibly!) throughout my treatment and beyond. I don't plan to wear anything other than a scarf as a turban or wrap a pashmina from our travels around my bald little head when the day comes. Mostly to remain low maintenance and comfortable. I feel it may help to open my hurt in this way, to feel it and embrace this chapter on the path to overcome. Special s/o to YouTube tutorials and a few of my favorite scarfs for coming through on this solution, I'm ready to rock the hell out of a head wrap and really own this journey as my own. See what I mean? THATs the gratitude talking again, y'all. I swear this journey is already changing me! <3

Love & light always,



dena helling