Fistfuls of Hair; or, Sometimes Cancer is like Christmas

Fistfuls of hair

According to our circa 1990 Encyclopedia Britannica entry on “hair” the average human scalp has between 100,000 and 150,000 individual hairs that grow an average of 0.5 inch (13mm) per month. That must account for why it seems that so much hair is falling out of my head but you can’t really tell by looking at me. Of course, the already receding hairline and the nearly bald spot at that central spot where men typically lose their hair first (by the way, why is that?) makes it harder to ascertain how much I was already missing and how much is fresh loss.

Since I like visual aids, I took a couple of shots this evening to share. I haven’t made the decision to shave it yet. There’s something inside of me that makes me feel like shaving it prematurely would be like some sort of chemo victim affectation. I don’t want to cross the line between being a cancer patient and one striving for cancer chic. It’s hard to explain, but that’s how I feel. Anyway, here’s some shots. (For some reason, I could not get thumbnails to show up for these pictures…so, you’ll have to click on the titles below.)

I’m not really this bald

(After closely inspecting the above photo with Dawn, I’m more seriously considering the shave tonight. I’m really not that bald up top. Not yet.)

Not quite a fistful

(This second shot is a typical “clump.” That is, this is the average amount that either falls out or I pull out — which is what I did here to demonstrate — at a time. I’m not sure if this amount will increase, or remain constant. How long would it take if I took no action whatsoever?)

Okay, so it hasn’t really been fistfuls of hair coming out, but hey, my hair is quite short. I must have lost several hundred at least so far. Maybe a couple thousand? This morning while in the shower I made an estimated count of the hairs that were on my hand after running it across my head. There were about a dozen per finger, plus several more dozen on the palm. I figured there must be over one hundred individual hairs on my hand. So, if I had let’s say 125,000 hairs in my head when I started chemo, and there were about 125 hairs on my hand this morning in the shower it would take 1000 such handfuls before it was all gone. Somehow that doesn’t sound like much. Yikes.


Sometimes cancer is like Christmas

Sometimes cancer is better than Christmas. No, really. The head for this entry is a phrase that up until this moment I’ve only spoken to Dawn, because it seems a bit tacky — and I’ll concede that could be read as such. But, it is true in so many ways. Because when I say Christmas, I mean it in the way I would speak about the Christmases of my childhood, which were certainly materially abundant, but were also abundant in more significant ways too. They never lacked for warmth, love, and moments of true compassion and devotion. My family is fairly large: five sons, and one daughter. And our Christmas gatherings up until the time I was through high school (yes, I’m the youngest) were affairs full of love and camaraderie. They dissipated as we grew into full fledged adults, some of us forming families of our own, and others moving to distant lands, but I will always hold those early holidays of my life dear. They are the benchmark of family for me, and I hope that Dawn and I will one day have Christmases like them with our own children.

So, what am I getting at, you ask? My life with cancer thus far has shown me just how many folks there are out there with hearts the size of our Buick. Many of the people who have shown themselves to be the most giving and compassionate are those I do not know very well, have not known very long, or do not know at all. I’ve made attempts to thank them all on this blog before, but the list has grown out of hand, and it’s meaning has made me weep. It’s simply inconceivable to me how a community has seemed to swell up around Dawn and I in the past month as we have tried to trample our way through this disease. The gifts are not the only thing, in other words, that remind me of the Christmas of my youth. It is the compassion, the love, the camaraderie. It is family writ large.

Thank you all. Thank you for all of the cards, the love, the phone calls, even those of you who devotedly read my babbling blog. It all means the world to us, and I can tell you that it has opened my eyes to both the past and the future. Thank you.


One Response to “Fistfuls of Hair; or, Sometimes Cancer is like Christmas”

  1. I am impressed! You have inspired me – I may try to plan something once a week or so…I need to start slow.

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