Posted by: Kate | June 3, 2010

Insult to Injury

I can think about it without crying today, so I suppose that’s improvement.

“It” is the latest in my ongoing series of new ailments and sequelae resulting from my illness and hospitalization and medications. I’ll start to reach a point where I imagine I’m reaching some sort of stasis, that I’ve finally come to the end of this particular mess and can start the cleanup process without worrying that a new problem is popping up behind me while I’m paying attention elsewhere. Kind of like waiting until you’re sure a party is really all the way over before you start washing the dishes, right?

But things keep popping up, even though tomorrow I’m up for my 60-day recertification process for VNA services, meaning I’ve been home for a full two months. That first month didn’t really count, in my mind; I was home, so I had more clothing choices and the food was better, not to mention constant access to my loved ones, so that was better. But I was still hooked up to the VAC 24/7, and my mom was here running the house and solving problems and generally letting me be pretty passive and cared-for all the time, so it didn’t really feel like home. She returned to her own home right around the time I was allowed off the VAC and started being able to move more and generally play a bigger role in my own life, so early May really was when I started to feel like I was truly home.

Anyway, things popping up. Such as the VAC itself, which was this bizarre, constant, uncomfortable reminder of just how damaged my body was. It allowed me to leave the hospital with a complete, open hole in my abdominal wall, so I’m grateful (if a bit baffled) by the technology, but carrying it around qualified as One More Thing to cope with. Then once that was gone, I started losing toenails. Ugh, unfair, not what I wanted, blah blah… but they’ll grow back, someday, right? And in the meantime, it’s toenails, not entire limbs. Right?


So I had a few days of relative calm, symptoms-wise. Then Saturday reared its ugly head, and I was wallowing in pain and self-pity and guilt and so on. I finally dredged myself out of bed mid-morning with a stern self-talking-to along the lines of, “My sisters do not make it out to visit very often, and it is neither appropriate nor acceptable to squander their visit this way.” I sat down to chat with them, and Sarah (the middle one, and completely blameless here: she’s only the first to say something, not the cause of any bad feelings!) very casually asked, “Have you been losing hair lately?”

It seemed an odd question, but then I realized that, over the past week or so, I have been losing hair at ridiculous rates. As in, clogging the shower drain three or four times in a single shower… sitting on the couch and running my fingers through, and pulling out huge hanks of hair – and repeating the process over and over until I had an entire handful of hair and could still feel more loose strands hanging down… very gently and gingerly brushing and ending up with what should be a month’s worth of hair loss after a few strokes. I hadn’t given it much thought, aside from vague amusement, because didn’t that happen to everyone after pregnancy? Sure, it does; it’s not something that’s much advertised, but I warn all of my pregnant friends to be ready for it. And then there’s this post-menopause nonsense, yet more reason… so I took it lightly. Never looked in a mirror – my hair has always just been my one point of vanity, a simple air-dry-and-ignore approach is sufficient, it was full and long and think and just something I relied on. No matter how bad the rest of me looked, I knew I had good hair. So I was pretty relaxed about it when I asked her why she asked; I expected her to say that she had noticed one of the mouse-sized balls of hair in the bathroom garbage or some such.

No… she hadn’t seen that. She just could look at me and tell that my hair was thinning out.

Wait. What? Just look and see? No way.

A while later, I ambled to the bathroom… and, yes. Apparently I had been missing the bigger picture, because I really have had very, very significant hair loss. Today I’m wearing it all back in a ponytail (a loose one, to try to keep it from getting pulled more) in a clip that formerly would barely have contained enough to get it out of my eyes. And I’m still losing it at horrifying speeds.

I waited until the weekend was past, tried hard not to think about it much, and wandered online yesterday. The news istelogen effluvium, and can be blamed on things like febrile illness (layman’s term: illness with high fever), stress, new medications, post-pregnancy, menopause, surgery, new medications, changes in hormones… um, yes, yes, check, yes, yes… mark me up for all of the above, and aren’t I just lucky??

I don’t want to be so tied into looks, and usually I’m not. Usually, I’m very comfortable with my physical appearance; I would consider myself to be a solid 5 on a 1-10 scale, maybe hopping up to a 6 or 7 if I dress up or get pregnant. I have weathered vast changes in my weight, silhouette, and other things over the past few months, and none of them bothered me very much. Just the nature of the beast, I supposed, and I focused on the next thing. But this, this was something I took for granted, and I liked about myself. And just, ugh.

So, mixed news: it’s a known problem, and therefore not a reason to run to a new specialist. It’s painless and not dangerous. Points on the positive side. But on the negative, there is no treatment, and no one can tell me just how much hair I’ll actually lose – I could lose 90-100%, and I would judge that, conservatively, I’ve already lost 50% in the past week or two. Plus, everything I’m reading only says that I should get some or all of the hair to grow back on its own eventually. Not for sure, and not how soon.

Thus it’s just One More Thing. One more addition to this ongoing list of stresses and just yuck stretching out from a simple little strep infection. Can’t wait to find out what’s next.

Oh by the way, I am doing something small about it, at least… I’m going tomorrow to donate that which I have left to Locks of Love. Wish me luck…


  1. well, for fuck’s sake. Will this never end?
    On the other hand, it is just *SO* you to take this yet another thing and turn it into helpfulness for someone else. Locks of Love is a great thing. Enjoy the haircut- I bet you’ll look cute no matter what (and frankly if you end up temporarily as bald as Adam and it turns out you have the right shaped head for it, I may hate you, just a little!).

  2. The rising of new things just when you think you’re going to be OK seems to go on forever. I still have crap jump on me that I never thought of. And some of it brings on depression. Deep breathing, meditation, and relaxation techniques help. Also, the ability to look at one’s self in context of the larger picture. Hang in there.

  3. One more thing when your plate is already too full is enough to send you reeling a bit. Counting your blessings is good and all, but sometimes you just need to shout F*&%, if ya know what I mean.

    Feel free to shout a way. You’ve earned it.

  4. I just don’t even know what to say other than, suckity, suckity, suck.

    But good for you for making a donation.


    When I had MRSA one of the abscesses was on the back of my head and I lost a chunk of hair about as big around as a golfball, as in the skin it was attached to dried up, I scratched an itch, and it detached in my hand like a giant scab with a ri-i-i-ipp I hear in my nightmares.

    My hair has always been down to my waist.

    The good news (well, the non-me-centric good news aside from my loss being just one big chunk in an easy-to-hide location) is that after a few months it did start growing back, and now that little lock is down to my shoulder blades. I had a hairdresser part and peek a while after it started to grow in and he estimated that 95% of it was coming back, so hopefully that will happen for you too!

    But damn, yo. I feel you. NOT THE HAIR!

  6. I (sort of) know what you mean. You’re not vain…it’s not like you’re whipping your long glorious locks all over the place…but for me, I could always count on my hair to look nice and make ME feel pretty, even if no other part of my body did. Having a nice little cloud of long, fresh-washed hair at the edge of my vision made me feel like a woman.

    And it’s having one more thing taken away from you without your consent. And there’s no control over it. Oh yeah, I understand it…not as well as you, naturally, but yes, the loss of control is fierce, fierce.

    No advice, but from what I’ve read, it will probably grow back. And I’m sorry to hear that something else is haunting you.

  7. If the world need only know one thing about Kate, it should be that she has pluck. To go and donate what you have left is just so perfect in a situation that is, ever increasingly, so not perfect. Good for you, and I am so, so sorry that your hair has been yet another casualty in this mess. Perhaps a few new hats would help make the time being a little easier?

  8. Oh that sucks! Good on you for donating it.

  9. ((((hugs))))

    The SUCK just never ends, does it?

    I’m so sorry you’re having to endure this, but selfishly, I’m so damn glad you’re still around to be losing your hair. ❤

  10. I’ve been reading you more than commenting and admiring your strenght in silence.

    My mother was losing a lot of her hair recently (post trauma, but nothing compared to what you went thru) and my hairdresser got her on some vitamins to help prevent further loss. She’s been taking them (all natural) for a few months and we see the change in her hair. The cie that makes them is “Arlor Natural Scientific” ( check it out, we never know…

    Good luck with that and the rest.

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