Dress for Your Date with Destiny

I swore I was going to write every week and I got hung up for 6 months on one blog.  I’m not going to get hung up on chronology, and I’m just going to do this as they come.

Chemo Waiting Room Wig Out

Every time I go to chemo, I try to dress up in some way.  There have been times when I’ve been in track pants in a baggy shirt, but when you do something you dread, I think it’s important to dress up to psych yourself up.  There are times I didn’t feel like going out to an event, concert or party but I forced myself to get ready.  In the process, I psyched myself up by picking a more extreme outfit, doing something different with my makeup, or playing music to get me in the mood.  By the end of the process, I was re-energized and ready to party.

“I don't understand how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little - if only out of politeness. And then, you never know, maybe that's the day she has a date with destiny. And it's best to be as pretty as possible for destiny.”  Coco Chanel
Chemo sucks.  Even people who have not had chemo know that it sucks.  In the collective mind, it’s up there with spinal taps and root canals and dermabrasion.  I don’t even know if they still DO dermabrasion, it is so barbaric.  I had a car accident when I was 17 that left the right side of my face heavily scarred and uneven, and a plastic surgeon recommended dermabrasion.  When he described scraping my face off with a high-speed wire brush, I had flashbacks of my mom stripping furniture with a metal drill attachment, and left his office thinking, “No, thanks, I’ll take my chances.” 

Power Necklace in Infusion Room.  Hat by Missoni.

So here I sit, hooked up to in IV and I want to vomit up the veggie chips I just ate, except that I might ruin my cashmere sweater.  I’d also have to pick the chunks out of this dramatic spikey silver necklace given to me by Laura Forbes at a holiday gathering.  I wore the necklace to chemo because the second I put it on, I felt powerful and untouchable, as if the metal was a shield that warded off any harm sent my way.  It imparts me with superpowers.  It wards off evil spirits.  I can camouflage the gripper needle attached to my port. 

My hair fell out when it was cold and awful outside.  I started chemo in February and because I am Her-2 positive, my chemo protocol on Herceptin is ONE YEAR.  I was feeling crap and looking like a mangey egg and the weather was shit, but I had to leave the house for this voluntary torture.  I grabbed my favorite fuschia wig and my deliberately ugly shirt and headed out the door. 

When I got to the hospital, the line for check in at Oncology was long and grim.  This is not a happy place.  As I made my way to the front of the line, and amazing thing happened – everybody started smiling.  “I love your wig!”, the nice women at the counter exclaimed.  People turned around, and smiles appeared on their faces.  I told them I needed to do SOMETHING to get motivated.  I’m certainly not trying to pretend I have hair and pass for a person without cancer, but this IS The Party Girl’s Guide to Cancer and I SWORE I would try to make this as FUN as I can and pick the pearls out of this pile of crap.

I sat down in the waiting room for the preliminary blood test.  There I am in my bright pink wig, my neon studded V-neck shirt and my leather jacket, and as people notice me, the room starts to light up with smiles.  Normally, this is not a happy place.  This is not the maternity ward.  You look around the room and there are people of all ages and all stages.  Some of them look like healthy people, and some look like they are facing a rough road.  You hope for the best outcome for everyone, but know that odds are, some people who are not going to be cured.  Yet, people are smiling today.  Something I did to make myself feel better made other people feel better, too.
The Mangey Egg Phase 
I was told when I first started chemo that I could get a prescription for a wig if I wanted to.  I know there are charities that donate wigs to cancer people.  I have a few cool wigs, why not wear those?  I’m not trying to cover up the fact that I have cancer and my hair fell out and I look like a mangey egg.  I even went out to a rock show with my newborn chick fluff head ‘cuz I just didn’t CARE.  It was too hot for a wig that day anyway.  Yet, there may be an occasion where I need to look like a normal person or be more formal, like wearing a dress to a cocktail party.

My good friend Lindsay Hirsch from L.A. mailed me the most amazing wig ever.  It is a human hair wig.  It is real human hair.  It’s BETTER than real hair.  The color is perfect. It is light brown/dark blonde like my natural hair color.  Real human hair.  It has bangs, which I can never have in real life because I have two cowlicks at my temples which give me wings!  This is my formalwear wig.  I named it: AY.  When we were in college, Lindsay and I lived across from each other and our 6 communal roommates needed to differentiate us.  I was EY, she was AY. So, we are together again, just like college.

EY wearing AY before Monster Magnet 

In the chemo infusion room, there can be up to 4 people in the room.  There is a younger and older woman with me in the room.  Both of them smile as the nurses comment on the wig.  I swore I would make cancer FUN and this may be one of the ways to do it. I hope that no matter what those around me around going through, they see something that makes them smile or realize that you don’t HAVE to hide the fact that your hair fell out.  I think about all the John Waters movies and the hero of his films always turns what the rest of the world sees as a LOSE into a WIN!

My bad day turned into a good day, not only because I made the effort to get dressed up and wear bright colors and put on my favorite wig, but also because I made OTHER people smile, and maybe feel better, and maybe see a different way of coping with being bald, manner of dress or secretiveness that comes along with treatment.  I get wanting to feel and look normal.  That’s what AY is for when I absolutely have to “pass” for a person without cancer, a “normal” person.  But there are days where I just want to let it all hang out, or rage against my lot.  A bright pink wig is a way of embracing my difference and letting my freak flag fly.  If others feel good by seeing the flag wave proudly, then that makes my day even better.


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