I had to pay another visit to the cardiologist this week. My oncologist is looking for someone to tell him exactly how strong of a drug he can use on me without giving me a heart attack (always a good thing to know), so I had a pow wow with a specialist. Prolonged QT syndrome isn’t just some bullshit inconvenience that prevents me from ingesting certain medications, turns out it can occur anytime and it can be fatal. In fact, the cardiologist was so concerned about tracking the rhythms of my heart during my recovery that he decided I needed to be fitted with a recording device. This pen cap sized piece of modern technology knows when my heart is too slow or fast, is experiencing arrhythmia or any other maladies. Yesterday morning they implanted a loop recorder into my chest just under the skin and I was told I would likely need to take beta blockers for the rest of my life. It seems I officially have a heart problem. How, after being perfectly healthy for almost 31 years on this planet with a fully functional heart, did I suddenly end up here? I wonder if this thing can detect heartbreak?
In preparation of my impending hair loss, I decided to chop and dye my all-too-new curly mane into a short pixie. Then, after I got released from the hospital for heart palpitations due to my enemy, aka prolonged QT syndrome (bastard!), I thought why not have some fun with it before it ends up on the floor, (and well, let’s face it…everywhere else you can imagine!). I remember desperately wanting to bleach and colour my hair in junior high school, (I was heavy in the grunge phase and well, it looked cool as sh*t in the 90’s! lol). My parents would not let me use the bleach, but I did put some punky colour in my hair anyway, it just didn’t quite show up in my naturally dark hair, much to my disappointment. This was an act of rebellion and an homage to my 13-year-old self. The girl who oh-so-desperately wanted to go to Woodstock ’94 to see all of her favorite bands but ended up at summer camp instead, (ugh!). The girl who wore Doc Marten’s on a daily basis and her father’s old flannel shirts from the 70’s, (cause that is definitely the last time he wore plaid!). The girl with so much potential with a bright future ahead of her. 20 years later, I’d like to think I can be that girl again…just a little older and wiser.
I made a point today of putting away all of my many hair products and styling stuff. It’s best to get that out of the way now before it starts falling out and feels more depressing. I know, I know for a fact that it grows back. I have witnessed it first hand. That much like it says on every list of possible side effects I encounter, it is a temporary hair loss. But you know what? It still really sucks. Women value their hair, it makes them feel feminine and sexy. I have been known for my hair for as long as I can remember. People are constantly complementing me on it. That long, thick, wavy, Gisele Bundchen-esque crown of glory that I loved and prided myself in pre-cancer. My hair had become my thing. A significant part of my identity. Something I was known for. You never imagine that one day you will be utterly bald, as a woman. It was really hard to look into a mirror without crying, without feeling ugly…like I had lost my essence. Thinking that I looked sick. Someone close to me recently told me that my hair isn’t who I am and whether I am bald or not, I am still exactly who I am and that I would always be beautiful (gotta appreciate that ending!). That really helped to remind me that I am still me, no matter what I may look like. I still have the same hopes and dreams, the same sense of humor and tastes, the same feelings in my heart and mind. The same love for my family and friends, (and let’s not forget all the animals). I have to remind myself constantly that I am more than just a body, more than just hair. I am a soul, and my soul cannot and will not be altered by this disease. Cancer is not my life. Though when I am bald, standing naked in the mirror looking at my reflection , it can be pretty tough to recall. At the end of the day though, despite appearances and the situation, it’s always still just me.
Today was the start of preparation for chemotherapy, beginning with a field trip to a cardiologist to have an echocardiogram. The first time I was diagnosed and began treatment, it was found that I suffered from Prolonged Q T Syndrome, a heinously inconvenient heart defect that causes serious arrhythmias when exposed to certain medications (i.e., every medicine you can think of, I can’t take). So, my docs decided it was best to check on the ol’ ticker before they start pumping me full of poison next week.
My brother came along with me for the ride and we had our fun, making jokes and laughing as usual. I admit, even though it was a silly painless procedure, I got super anxious and shaky before we met up to leave. I imagine it wasn’t the act of going to the cardiologist that frightened me, but more so that this is day one of the journey. A journey I’d almost rather die than start again. Having him there as a distraction put my mind at ease, even though I was topless with a technician poking my chest with sonogram equipment while he was on the other side of the curtain watching a video of a sloth eating vegetables, lol.
While the tech was taking pics for the test, he kept telling me to breathe in, then breathe out and don’t breathe in again. We did this several times and then he said, “Okay, you can breathe again.” All in all it was over in 15 minutes and then we were free to leave. It was only when we stepped out into the street, leaving the hospital behind, that I felt I could actually breathe again…