Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Hair Prosthesis

That's what the prescription said, 'hair prosthesis'. I will probably lose my hair in chemo, which my doctor said is the adverse affect people are most concerned about. Ruby Tuesday, who I met yesterday on the Hodgkins listserve (hi RubyTue! thanks for the mouthwash advice!) talks about it a little in her blog ( I was really grateful to read her blog. It kind of gave me a map of the territory, if you know what I mean. Everyone has a different experience, but some of the major landmarks are the same.

Hair loss sounds like a major landmark. I mean, it marks women as different when they don't have hair or eyebrows or eyelashes. And I dread the kind of boiled egg look of no eyebrows or eyelashes. I plan to ask if people had any luck drawing eyebrows in before they went out in public. Afterall, women of my mother's generation plucked so vigorously that many of them had no eyebrows--they drew them in all the time. Those high arching lines like starlets. Anyway, I wear glasses, which should help, right?

I read that if I was going to get a wig, I should get it before I lost my hair. So I decided to do it before I had my first chemo, because I didn't know how ambitious I would be afterwards. I went to Kristi, who cuts my hair and told her I'd be having chemo and asked her advice and she sent me to a store that sells everything from custom human-hair wigs for thousands of dollars to $25.00 bright blue synthetic bobs. I don't want my 89 year old mother to know I have Hodgkins because with dementia, I'd have to tell her every time I saw her, and it would upset her. Although I have always had curly hair, and have always hated it, I put aside my chance to get long straight Cher hair, and told the woman at the wig store I wanted one pretty much like my own hair. That's when she told me that if I got a prescription from my doctor, I could take it off my taxes.

You know, I don't quite think of a hank of hair as a prosthesis. It just doesn't seem to rank up there with an artifical leg. But I guess I'm using it for the same reason. I bought it, brought it home, and set it up on its styrofoam head in the bathroom. I'll have it trimmed when I lose my hair--the woman at the wig and hat store said that many people have them trimmed a little too close if they do it before they lose their hair. I try it on every so often and it looks...different. Not just haircut different, but significantly different. I don't think I'll wear it every day. But it will be nice to have when I just don't want to be noticed as different.

People have told me about the character on Sex & the City who had a different wig each episode, and if I had the money, I swear that's what I'd do. And hats. I plan to wear hats. I've never worn hats before. Bob found a website run by a woman who had cancer who makes cancer hats, including a nifty soft fleece hat that says 'fuck cancer' on it. He ordered it for me. More proof I married the perfect man.


Blogger David Moles said...

Bob rocks.

And I think you'll look good with starlet eyebrows. Think Persis Khambatta in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

December 15, 2004 11:03 AM  
Blogger Gregory Feeley said...

That styrofoam head your "prosthesis" rests upon has a name. It's called a blockhead. At least that's what they were called back in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. They were made of wood back then, and custom shaped to match your personal phrenology.

Isn't that neat?

Hey there, Maureen. I had to actually create a blog of my own in order to respond to yours. Now I will have to feed it and take it for walks.

December 15, 2004 11:27 AM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

David! How did you find this?!!!

December 15, 2004 12:49 PM  
Blogger David Moles said...

Greg (Van E.) pointed it out to me. How he found out, I have no idea.

December 15, 2004 1:55 PM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

Hi, Greg, if you're lurking. I am beginning to wonder if there is some conspiracy of people out there watching me on the net. Good thing I like both of you...

December 15, 2004 3:35 PM  
Blogger Madeleine Robins said...

The term "hair prosthesis" is almost impossibly pompous. I keep imagining a Monty Python sketch, with John Cleese or Michael Palin as a salesman.

Hi, Maureen. I'm sorry you're going through this, but delighted to read anything you're writing. For what it is worth, I had an acquaintance at my church in NY who had to go through chemo for breast cancer; she turned out to have an exquisitely shaped head, and while she did wear hats on occasion, she never bothered with the wig. When the chemo was over and she grew her hair back, it came in curly (which it had not been before) and ice-white; she said it was like being reborn as Shirley Temple.

May I say that I love the hat Bob gave you? What a prince!

December 15, 2004 9:50 PM  
Blogger Greg van Eekhout said...

Hi, Maureen. No conspiracy, just a friend of yours who posted a pointer in his DM topic. I'm glad you're keeping a blog!

December 15, 2004 10:37 PM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

Madeleine! Good to see you here! Monty Python is exactly right.

December 15, 2004 10:39 PM  
Blogger Derryl Murphy said...

An ex of mine had a brain tumor (she's about 20 years cancer-free now) and chose not to go the wig route, but of course you have a good reason to wear one. And good on your husband; I would have loved to get that fleece hat for my Dad, but I suspect Mom wouldn't approve. Or would at least play at it.


December 15, 2004 11:59 PM  
Blogger Gregory Feeley said...

My daughter says that you should make sure your styrofoam head is on a firm base, so you can comb your wig on it. (She has done this with her Bratz dolls, and knows whereof she speaks.)

December 16, 2004 7:43 AM  
Blogger Ken Houghton said...

It's not coincident that Samantha takes her "hair prosthetic" off in that Sex and the City episode last season where she's speaking at a fundraiser for cancer survivors.

A friend of ours who is going through treatments lost all of her (gorgeous, if occasionally in need of conditioner, then dark black) head hair; she now sports short, undyed-grey hair that works rather well.

Go with what feels right (though Ohio winters necessitate a head covering, no matter what). Don't feel obligated to disguise the effects.

December 17, 2004 9:24 AM  
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^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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