April 7, 2008

Two days ago I looked in the mirror and I had a downy head of short hair, and an equally soft and short beard. Well, short and long at the same timeā€”the hair isn't as curly as usual, and it sticks out a bit more. Yesterday morning I was putting pomade on my scalp (it's still pretty dry in here) and my hands came away covered in hair. This morning, after washing my face, I noticed that most of the hair from the lower half of my jaw has disappeared. (Since the remaining hair is still kind of long, my sideburns looked a little like a low-rent Wolverine.) A few minutes ago I noticed half of my mustache is gone.

Well, that was quick.

Speaking of side effects, I've been joking since the beginning that I've dealt with some harsh chemo pretty well. I've always counted myself as lucky in that regard, but yesterday I found out just how lucky. While talking with another AML patient here (who is also black and waiting for a bone marrow transplant), he mentioned that the first time he went through chemotherapy almost a year ago, the cytarabine blinded him for fifteen days. (His most recent chemo finished around the same time as mine, and his vision is starting to go again now.)

Not for the first time, I was thankful that I've made it through three chemos pretty easily. But I also thought about how people keep saying my attitude is so good, I'm always up, etc., etc. Let me tell you, if my vision had started to go, I would have lost it. Just the thought of it makes me shake.

To end tonight's note, I should mention that I'm going to start posting edited versions of my e-mail messages on my blog starting with backdated archived messages (of course, you're reading this on the blog now, so it's kind of odd that I should write this; it's a little like some kind of strange time travel story where I go back to tell myself not to do something). After that, I'll be posting to both the list and the blog more or less simultaneously. Since I started writing about and photographing this adventure, people have been telling me that it's helped to demystify a lot for them. This has been especially true for people who have or had parents going through cancer; "don't talk about it" appears to be the dominant sentiment. So if it helps, why not?


posted by Emru Townsend at


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