In her PEOPLE.com blog, Diem Brown, the Real World/Road Rules Challenge contestant recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer for the second time, opens up about her desire for a child and the ups and downs of cancer and fertility procedures.
Attitude is everything.
That may seem like a cliché thing to say, but I’ve found most clichés are true. We all go through “crappy moments” in life, but the way you approach and maneuver through those moments makes all the difference.
I have tried to embrace my second time around with cancer. I’ve become so curious about how chemo actually works and kills cancer cells. So, as hard as it is to watch your hair fall out, I decided to not shave my head so I could feel the entire experience.
The best way I can describe the feeling of your hair falling out as a result of chemo is it’s an annoying emotional torment.
At first you become extremely aware of every change as you feel your head tingle intensely and see the multiple strands of hair on your pillows, shirts and filling the sink. But then two days later, those head tingles intensify even more and those strands of fallen hair become chunks of matted hair that, if brushed, washed or slept on, instantly become detached and deposited in large masses on everything you own.
Yes, the first couple of days are extremely emotional, but then it becomes this weird Twilight Zone-like occurrence. I’ve become almost fascinated by it. Although the frantic emotional moments still exist, especially after a shower. Detangling a matted section of hair, even with the most gentle of strokes, can cause an entire section of your hair to fall off, revealing your first pale bald spot.
Hair Loss – At the Gym
During the first couple days of hair loss, I tried to continue with my normal routine of throwing my hair up into a ponytail while working out, only to instantly feel the tingling head sensation grow. So I quickly removed the scrunchie (yes, I’m that girl still rocking the scrunchie in 2012) for fear that my entire hair-filled ponytail would fall out during class.
I had to laugh at this because I turned into the girl who I would stare at at the gym. Before you judge, let me just be clear … gyms in L.A. are not your oversized sweatpants, college logo T-shirt, scrunchie wearing gyms. Oh no, no, no. Gyms in L.A., especially West Hollywood, are like candy stores: bright colored skin tight tops, or just sports bras with matching booty shorts, or capri Lululemon pants all worn by year-round bronzed, tight, toned bodies. Yep, it’s a Barbie gym cat walk.
Because I feel best in oversized sweat pants and torn wife beater tank tops while working out, I would be completely mesmerized by the Barbies in the gym. These girls would be in full make-up and would run on the treadmill with their long hair cascading down their backs.
This last part always baffled me! How does a girl run with her hair down! How? No really, how does that work? How does their almost booty-kissing-long hair not get caught up under their armpits or matted to their forehead or shoulders as they run and get all sweaty? I have never understood it, which is why my present gym moment made me laugh.
I felt I had to remove my scrunchie and run with my hair down because I feared that if I left my hair in a ponytail, at some point it would fall off my head and roll off the treadmill to some girl’s feet. I envisioned a girl screaming, thinking it was some sort of rodent. Yes, this is how my crazy mind works. So I became the girl running with her hair down on the treadmill, and I just couldn’t help but chuckle.
Find the Upside
What I’m trying to say, in way too many words, is that even through pain, you have to find some humor whenever or however you can – no matter how awful the situation is. It might seem off to say that, but trying to find some sort of upside really helps.
If you are confined to your bed, an example upside can be: You can finally finish the Fifty Shades of Grey series while drifting off to images of Christian Grey’s ties dancing around your head.
Now I’m not going to lie… finding the light or humor in a bad situation is not easy, but it can come even when you’re feeling at your lowest.
While I was at the mall trying on winter coats, I caught my reflection in a mirror and could feel my eyes well up seeing chunks of hair all over the back of my black shirt. You feel frantic as you hastily try to remove the hairs as people eye you. Then, once you have finally freed your shirt from your fallen locks, you look back down just five minutes later and – BOOM! – you’re back to shedding like a Shih Tzu in the Sahara Desert.
During these emotional moments, I have realized that some of the chemo side-effects are actually a girl’s best friend. Think about how annoying it is after you shave your legs, your underarms and your um etc., then you step outside and a gust of cold wind immediately makes your leg hairs pop right back up. Well, with chemo, I’m looking forward to having the smoothest winter legs ever. Bwahaaahaa! Yes, it’s a strange perk to the hair loss, but hey, you gotta find those moments to help keep yourself sane and smiling.
No matter what your hurdle, there is a reason for it. Maybe it’s to take time to “smell the proverbial roses,” maybe it’s to appreciate the loved ones in your life or maybe it’s to show you that you’re stronger and more resilient than you think you are.
Whatever the reason, it’s out there. So when you’re having a low moment, try to find the light or the humor any way you can. It can help you deal with the cards you have been dealt.
More Diem Brown Blog Posts