I’m feeling good. The brain fuzz is clearing. I have something close to a normal amount of energy. But it’s still difficult to forget that I’ve just been through chemo.
There are some things I don’t think they have the heart to tell you when you’re in the thick of it:
• You can lose your eyebrows and eyelashes AFTER chemo is over. I haven’t quite lost them, but they’re definitely very, very thin, thinner than they were after my last infusion. I now have to use an eyebrow pencil to avoid looking freakish. I really hate mascara because of its tendency to run, but I have to use it now. Otherwise, my several dozen eyelashes would be imperceptible. I know I should not complain. The fact that I’ve got most of my hair allows me to “pass.” Still, I hate the fiddly nature of having to wear makeup. Most of the time, when I’m not dealing with cancer treatment, I don’t bother.
• Chemo not only makes people lose their hair, it can make them lose their fingernails. I haven’t bared any nail beds yet, but the nails have become incredibly thin and brittle since chemo ended. It does not seem over-dramatic to wonder if one day they will just flake off. Look this up on the Internet. Apparently, you can develop a ridge in your nail for each chemo infusion. I put the reading classes on and check, and there they are: six tiny ridges on each nail. Like the rings of a tree, there’s one for each poison party.
• Chemo dries out your skin. This effect seems to last well beyond the actual treatment. I’m still putting baby oil in the tub, slathering with moisturizer and Aquaphor. Even so, I’ll wake up in the middle of the night, scratching dry skin.
I guess it will take three to six months for my nails to settle down, enough time to grow new ones. I think the eyebrows and eyelashes are on the same timeline. Friends who’ve gone before me in this adventure say they’ve needed wigs for three to four months post-chemo. Guess it will be a comparable time until I achieve facial hair and skin moisture normality.
These are not big things: not mouth sores, not nerve pain, not bone-crushing fatigue, not a flip-flopping stomach.
These things are not nothing either.