Hairstory is Not Repeating Itself

Friends and Family,

You never know where the next life lesson is going to come from. This time, for me, it was from hair.

Last night, I asked Genevieve to cut my hair. She’s been cutting it for the past six years, so nothing new there. She kidded me about trusting her so late in the day, but I pointed out that she is the night owl – It’s me I wouldn’t trust with a pair of scissors at this hour. We got everything set up, and I sat down in the chair. Genevieve took one swipe of the razor from the back of my neck to my forehead. I watched a thick pile of hair fall to the floor. Genevieve stared wide-eyed at my head, mouth open,  and then stared at the razor. I looked at the pile of hair on the floor. I looked at her. I looked at the razor.

The razor had no attachment.

I busted out into a big belly laugh! I ran into the bathroom to see. Sure enough, I had a reverse Mohawk! I laughed even more, and then took this picture:

Genevieve kept looking horrified and guilt-ridden, and couldn’t stop telling me how sorry she was. I was reduced to giggling, and could barely speak. “Let’s finish this!”

She got out the shortest attachment, then ran that razor over every inch of my head. All the while she kept apologizing. I kept telling her that I was fine, and that she should forgive herself. This morning she told me that she didn’t sleep last night, because she kept having visions of cutting that racing stripe down the middle of my head.  Me? I smiled all evening, and woke up smiling. I think I must have been smiling in my sleep. I was still in a good mood all day. Here was the end result:

Bless her heart, Genevieve was upset about the "damage" she had done. So why was I so happy?

It’s going to take telling you a little about our latest trip to San Diego to make the point.

Sometimes, when we fly down to San Diego to see my oncologist and get my scan results, we walk in confident that everything is going to turn out great. Other times, “scanxiety” gets the best of us, and we get really worried about what we will find out. This time, for weeks leading up to the appointment, we were both much more fearful than usual.

Genevieve kept asking me, “are you coughing more lately?”

“No,” I kept answering, “but it feels like it’s been harder to breathe. Have you noticed?”

Fortunately, we both remembered that we are lousy predictors of scan results. It’s just too hard to be objective when it’s so personal.

I don’t know what triggered Genevieve’s fears this time, but for me, it was because I have been way too logical. I was thinking about how AZD9291/Tagrisso usually stops the cancer from growing for 10-13 months. I have been on it for 30 months. My exceptionally long run has to be coming to an end, I thought. And since there is no clear option lined up for me, I was imagining the worst... that nothing else would work. This is not helpful, but it’s hard to stop those ruminations all the time.   

When we fly to San Diego, we get up at 3:30 AM to catch the plane. Because of all our obsessive worry this time, we were both wide awake at 2:00 AM, and that was the end of our sleep.

Sleep deprivation wasn’t helping this situation. When we got to my appointment, the nurse asked me if my blood pressure was always higher than the Dow. “Only when I’m waiting to find out how long I might live,” I told her.

With days – no weeks – of stress saturated ruminations, it was a shock to both of us when Dr. Patel came into the room... and told us that there has been no growth of the cancer!


This brings us back to the haircut. I get why Genevieve felt so bad after giving me that racing stripe, which in turn led to my really, really short haircut. But I couldn’t put my finger on why I was still grinning all day. After all, it was me that got the un-requested buzz cut. And then it hit me.

Since I was just a little kid, I have only had my hair cut anywhere near this short twice. I had my hair like this eleven years ago, when I went through chemo for the first time. The second time was six years ago, after almost five years in remission. That was when a new cancer spread throughout my lungs, and I was going through chemo again.

This time, no chemo. Despite this hypochondriac’s fears of breathing problems, I’m doing great. No wonder I was laughing. This time, history (hairstory?) did not repeat itself. This time, hair was only hair.

So, my friend, the next time you are stuck in traffic, or your toast is burned, or your new pants have a stain in them that you discover just before you meet with someone important, I hope you can join me in finding some perspective. Sometimes, forgetting your phone at home is just a minor inconvenience, and doesn't have to ruin your day. And sometimes, an unexpected buzz cut... well, that's just a good excuse for gratitude.