I find it quite amusing the way Instagram lends a faux-artistic touch to photos of the strangest things. Take, for example:
I was clearly more than a little bored today at day hospital. I'm onto the second half of my topotecan doses, but my hemoglobin had already dropped to 8.8. I hesitated yesterday about coming in from a transfusion, since 8.8 isn't so low, and at that point I was only just beginning to feel the effects of anemia. Good thing I ignored myself and scheduled the transfusion anyway, since when I woke up this morning I was struggling to get ready without losing my breath.
After getting chemo and then three units of blood (see above photo), my dad and I went out for burgers at DMK Burger Bar, since six and a half hours at the hospital has a way of making a person hungry. The burgers were delicious, of course, but I mention dinner because it was kind of a big deal for another reason. Due to a slight communication mishap (see: story of my family's life), I had neither wig or hat with me, so to get dinner out, I'd have to go bald. And I did.
Here's the thing. It's not an easy thing to say why going bald in public places like restaurants and stores bother me. I'm not insecure about the way I look--frankly, I rather think I pull the look off. After my last bout with cancer, I returned to high school in the fall with a buzz cut's worth of hair and didn't much worry about it.
I think I've figured it out, though. For those unfamiliar with my fair city, Children's is located in Lincoln Park, right across the street from the DePaul campus. The immediate area is saturated with young adults, and it is incredibly busy at all hours of the day and night. Every damn time I drive through to the hospital, or pick up a meal in the surrounding area, I am hammered with reminders of the life I should be having right now. Wearing a wig doesn't eliminate my feelings of alienation, but I am comforted by the knowledge that I look normal enough to those around me.
Bareheaded, though, I am constantly aware of how different I look from everyone else around me. It as if my lack of hair creates a physical separation between me and the rest of the world, like I'm watching other people live their lives from inside a very lonely fishbowl. And nowhere do I feel that more keenly in places where the "everyone elses" are the people I feel I'm supposed to be.
It's not as though these feelings have simply gone away because today I decided to say "screw it" and eat a burger in public bald-headed. But deciding to do so was me finally refusing to let these feelings change the way I live my life. And for that reason, I'll go ahead and consider this a momentous occasion.