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Cancer Won't Take Over My Life

My name is Hail Erdmann and I’m originally from Long Island. You can absolutely tell when you meet me from my heavy accent. I lived in Austin, Texas for five and a half years to get a bachelor's degree from the University of Texas at Austin. In the last semester of my senior year I found out I was pregnant with my and my husband's first child. When I was six months pregnant we bought our first house. We felt like we were really hacking this thing called life. Shit got real when I was seven months pregnant because I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 24 in September 2017. I had stage 2B triple negative breast cancer. Yes, I did chemo while pregnant, which continued until my son was 4 months old. I did 16 rounds of chemo to murder the lump in my breast. I had a nipple sparing double mastectomy with implant reconstruction. GETTING A DOUBLE MASTECTOMY WITH RECONSTRUCTION IS NOT A FUCKING FREE BOOB JOB. However, I did take advantage of my situation and now I got double D porn star titties. Right now, I get to enjoy the anxiety filled “life after cancer” journey.

Losing your hair can be the worst part of cancer. It makes your disease well known to the public. Also, in our society, hair is factored into one’s femininity. I’ve heard many women say they feel like their femininity is taken away when their hair falls out. Honestly, I was totally OK with losing my hair. It was actually the only part about cancer that I enjoyed. It made getting ready in the morning to go to chemo or work extremely fast. It allotted me more time to be creative with my make-up. And, at the risk of sounding cocky, I look damn good with no hair.

Also, it encouraged a very sweet moment between my father and I. You see, my dad shaves his head, so after I lost my hair during treatment, being bald made it a little more apparent for people to see how much I look like my dad. As far back I can remember, which is surprisingly far considering the amount of chemotherapy that fried my brain, my dad would wear this skull beanie he got from a Hot Topic store when their merchandise was still of great quality. It became a trademark “Tom” (his name) accessory. Upon learning that my hair was going to fall out, my dad gave me his iconic hat so I could protect my scalp. It is one of the sweetest gestures out of many that he did.

On a sillier note, my father and I were able to bond even more because we both were bald. He would always say, “If we put our heads together, we can make an ass of ourselves!” A lot of the time, instead of hugging to greet each other, we would rub our heads together. He was able to make having cancer a little more fun.

Enough of the sappy shit that comes with tragedy.

One specific instance I want to share is the night I had to shave my head. It was about two weeks after my first round of chemo that my hair started to come out in clumps. It was quite horrific. No one tells you that losing your hair hurts like a bitch. Losing your hair because of chemo is like getting scalp pain from wearing a tight ponytail times a hundred. It hurt so much that I would pull the hair out myself to get relief! By the end of the week, I looked like Smeagol from Lord of the Rings. Everytime I encountered anyone I knew, I would hunch my back and whisper, “the precious.”

I waited until the weekend to shave it in order to have my parents around to make it into a big event. Through the days leading up to the weekend, my hair just kept shedding and creating huge knots. It was almost knotted into one big dreadlock. When we shaved it, the huge knot of hair that fell off my head looked like an animal, a furry bird in mid-flight with its wings completely out. We could not stop laughing at the sight of it. At one point during that night, my husband dragged it around the house pretending he was being chased by it. He also would treat it like a puppet and make it walk across our kitchen counter while making bird sounds. It was quite the spectacle. Not only did he animate this creature that was manifesting on my scalp, but he put it on his own head, which he shaved to support me. It looked like a brunette powdered wig sitting on top of his scalp.  I even have photos!!

That night I reflected on how my family and I treated this “journey.” We made it our prerogative to get in a laugh whenever we could and to also share that with others. Somehow my mother would have the infusion room full on belly laughing through all this mayhem. And somehow my dad was able to share laughs with us even though his baby girl had cancer. My husband somehow was able to get me to laugh despite the fears he had watching his wife go through cancer treatment. We didn’t allow cancer to take over our lives. Instead, we made sure to pull out the positives from this experience; make fun of and laugh at cancer as if we could make it cry like a school kid.

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