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Hair Today, Moving On Tomorrow

By: Marilyn Klein Hi to all members of Thrivacious, I’m Marilyn Klein.  Let me tell you a little bit about myself.  I’m 50 years young, I come from the land down under, Aussie mum to Onyx 8 and Noir 4.  I’m blessed to be married to my knight in shining armor Ben Klein and together we moved the family to Tel Aviv 3 years ago after 20 years of living in Tokyo, Japan. 

I was asked to contribute to the blog for Thrivacious and to be honest I didn’t know where to start or what to write about at first as everything seemed manageable since diagnosis. Then things got real as the chemo took effect on my body.  So, here’s my story so far... from my heart to your ears.

It was about mid-January that I found a lump in my right breast.  I found it randomly.  I remember I was crossing the street and for some reason I touched my breast in the exact spot where the lump was.  What is that?  I remember thinking. I felt around again and I couldn’t locate the lump. I was sure I felt something, but it took a bit more feeling around to find it again.  I dismissed it as a blocked milk duct as I had just had a clear mammogram 2 months prior.  Fast forward a few weeks and the lump was now solid, hard and very noticeable through my skin.  It turned out to be stage 1 triple negative breast cancer, which was an aggressive and fast growing tumor which hadn’t  even existed 2 months before.

In the blink of an eye how quickly life can change.  When we got the diagnosis, a roller coaster of emotions instantly filled my body.  Our goals, dreams and priorities were forced to take a different turn.  I went from feeling the fittest I’ve ever been in my life at 50 years of age to an instant cancer patient. My doctor said let’s have an ultrasound, them a mammogram, then a biopsy, then an MRI, blood tests, pee tests, x-rays.  It went on and on and deep down in my heart I guess I knew what the result was going to be.  For the next few weeks endless hours of waiting in Dr’s offices soon became routine.

14 days post diagnosis I was in surgery getting the offending lump removed along with 7 lymph nodes from under my right armpit and both breasts reconstructed.  I’m now on my second round of chemo with 14 more to go.  This will be followed with some radiation and I will have to be on cancer medication for 5 years.

So far, I found the journey manageable until the other morning when I woke up to find my hair shedding on my pillow.  The reality of everything, all of a sudden became so real and up until that moment I felt like I was watching somebody else’s story unfold in front of my eyes.  Even though I knew it was me it was all very surreal.  Like watching it all unfold from above.  Knowing it’s me but not wanting to believe that it’s happening.

I honestly thought I was mentally prepared for the moment of hair loss, cutting my long, luscious, curly locks off the night before my first chemo session.  Dying my hair a crazy pink color as if to tell the world I got this.  I’m in control.  I can handle this.  But as it seems, when that moment came, I realized that I wasn’t prepared at all and it kind of totally freaked me out.  I cried and cried.  I really didn’t know what else to do.  My first freak out moment definitely took me by surprise.  I told myself that it’s ok to have these moments, but not to dwell on them for too long.  It’s good for the soul to cry and let all the emotions out.

I needed a few days alone with my head to digest what was going on around me and to find a solution to move forward in a positive way that wouldn’t affect the kids with any negative energy or freak my husband out by me losing the plot, because this journey is also a head trip for him, too.  I can see in his eyes that it’s hard for him to see his wife go through such an ordeal.  I can see it’s hard for him to put on a brave face all the time to make me feel strong, so I need to be positive for my family unit.  Sometimes I catch him looking worried and I feel so sad when I see his face like that.

There’s a hell of a lot to think about besides yourself at a time like this and I felt like I needed to make sure that I stay calm, stay focused and positive at a time where I’ve never felt so scared in my life.  It’s actually amazing how strong I can be when I need to be.  I’m so surprised at my own mental strength to be honest.  Having only broken down and cried only a few times since being diagnosed.

Well, May 10th was the day I’ve been anxiously waiting for.  I woke up to the next step.  As I went to move my pillow, I noticed the hairs.  Lots of them.  I guess it means the cancer drugs are kicking in.  I didn’t expect the hair to fall out that fast after second chemo session which was only 2 days ago.   This pushes another anxiety hurdle out of my brain now the process has started to happen.  At first, I just stared at the pillow in complete disbelief.  Those bloody hair follicles felt strong in my head yesterday as I washed my hair!  And I woke up to see my pillow covered in little bright pink hairs.  Like a unicorn had payed me a visit during the night and left me a little present.  Kind of like the tooth fairy but without any money.  I feel like I’m sitting on a train, going from A to B and there’s nothing I can do about it.  I can just look out the window and either smile or frown... it’s my choice.  I choose to smile and not let any of this get me down for too long.  Right now fear is deep inside me and I’m allowing myself to feel it, to let me have that moment so I can process it, then release it, to let it all out because I think it’s better out than in my body, invading my body and my thoughts in a negative way. I know me, I hate to feel sad and blue, I’ll work on these emotions, deal with them and get this fear out fast before the next surprise hits me. So. I can be mentally prepared for that.  Question is when do I shave my head?  I don’t really want to wait for bald patches to be visible and I’m not ready to walk around bald yet. 

3 days later after avoiding the shower like the plague for fear of watching the last bits of my hair going down the drain, I knew the time had come and I needed to bite the bullet and shave my head.  So, my darling hubby took my hand and led me to the bathroom and had the honor of shaving my head.

It was such an emotionally difficult transition for me and I’m sure many other women who are dealing with chemo.  The upside to this challenging moment was that my husband was there holding my hand every step of the way.  Feeling his love made me forget what was going on and we actually laughed the whole way through. Like we always laugh and joke at everything we do and shaving my head wasn’t any different.  He made me feel beautiful at a time when I felt so vulnerable.  He kissed me gently, held me tight and looked at me with so much love in his eyes that I didn’t feel ugly or insecure for even a second.  It made me reflect internally about who I am as an individual.  I felt strong looking at my reflection in the mirror and I felt somehow that my breasts and hair don’t make the woman that I am.  All I need is the love of my husband and I’m set. 

I did it, now I can move on.

For more of these amazing photos, you can follow Marilyn on Instagram at: fift_50

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