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This is one of several essays from my private cancer journal. It is not intended as anything than a record of my states of mind as I struggled with the disease and the effects of the treatment.

More Karmic Fun


That was a rough one.

But since my last entry about 10 days ago, I've learned a lot.

Looking up potential side effects of my next treatment (HDK+HC) and realizing there were words missing from my glossary booklet I am working on, I took a difficult journey for I also cut hair on floor went into chemotherapy, which probably awaits me down the line. As I struggled through them, I was nauseous but some obsessive-compulsive drive that I have kept me at it. I couldn't let the glossary lag just because I didn't like what I was reading.

After a few days, I punched through it. Maybe it was when I came to finally realize why certain side effects occur.

That was when I realized what was really bothering me: the hair loss.

When I was much younger (back in my 20s and 30s), I used to have a recurring nightmare that I would be combing my hair and wads of hair would come out and I would awaken, very shaken.

Men I've corresponded with about HDK+HC say the hair loss is minimal but everything is relative. It depends on what you start with. Me, I happen to have a very full head of hair and except for the sideburns, it is a rich brown. I don't know what the other men had.

We are all familiar with the movie or documentary where the cancer patient (always a woman) is wearing a bandanna to hide the effects of the treatment. My impression is that they never make it. The bandanna is a signature.

Of course, it's not true. If I struggle, I can remember a scene where the woman was rubbing her hand over the new cranial fuzz and laughing, as it came back in.

But the good side doesn't stick, does it? Especially when one has already had the nightmares, as if they were some ghoulish premonition.

What I realized was that it wasn't the high PSA that bothered me or even the treatment or, really, the side effects, including hair loss. What I was doing was coming in the back door because hair loss = end stage.

It is like how some men who go prematurely bald feel old. They identify the condition with age and so, if they have it, they are aged. It may not be logical but, hey, who said this has to be logical?

It was the loss of hair that meant end-of-the-line and that was what dug into my gut.

Okay, I said to myself. If that is what it is to be, then let it be.

But I'm going to be in charge of it.

I'm going to get a crew cut.

Call it silly, but if this disease is going to kick me in the gut by coming in the back door, I will deal with it in the same way. Besides, last time I had a good crew cut was circa-1959, when I was discharged from the Marine Corps. Shortly after that, I was in San Francisco where long hair was the fad and I mine was soon down to my shoulders.

So I've done that gig. Time to get back to basics. Besides, it's summer in Ohio and I am sure it will be cooler.

Then the other shoe dropped.

I learned that with HDK+HC, I can't drink. I'm not sure if it is an alcohol intolerance as I experienced with Nilandron a couple of years ago, where a sip of even a beer tasted horrible, or that it puts a load on the liver. Either way, I'll be on the wagon. And I had just bought a new bottle of scotch. I poured one to ponder on my plight and decided to complete the bottle, as some rite of passage.

So with all of that out of the way, I called my oncologist and left a message to tell him my decision. He, in turn, left a message back saying the prescription was done and gave me some instructions, like how I need a blood draw weekly to make sure there is no liver damage. Fortunately, I was past the point of worrying too much. I need to talk to him to clarify a couple of points in his message and then I will get the drugs and start.

In the meantime, the glossary booklet kept me completely absorbed. I began to drive myself on it to the point of exhaustion at the end of each day, tinkering with this alignment or that and counting the pages as it slowly took final shape. I even took a proof to my printer to get a better estimate, and the bad news as to how much it will cost.

But it kept me from thinking about the crew cut, the weekly blood draws and having to drink milk or a soda instead of a scotch or a glass of wine. In fact, as I write this, I'm toasting the occasion from the dregs of that bottle.

The karmic fun never stops, eh? (laugh)


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This information is provided for educational purposes only and does not replace or amend professional medical advice. Unless otherwise stated and credited, the content of Phoenix5 (P5) is by and the opinion of and copyright © 2000 Robert Vaughn Young. All Rights Reserved. P5 is at <>. P5's policy regarding privacy and right to reprint are at <>.