The next few weeks were a period of recuperation and learning. I was regaining my strength, finding out what damage had been done to my body, and learning about the many medications I needed to take in conjunction with the chemotherapy.
My skin had become sensitive from the chemotherapy, so I was too nervous to shave my head. Instead I cut my hair. The saying "If it offends you, cut it off" came to mind as I clipped away. I did not stop until all I had was "peach fuzz," about a quarter inch of hair. In some places I had bald patches.
My first reaction to the new look was to notice that my eyes had grown twice their size and my head appeared totally defenseless. I ran my hands along my scalp, and my skull feat reassuring. I turned my head left and right, trying to adjust to myself. All I saw was vulnerability, no place to hide, and now everything showed on my face more than ever!
That was the head. Now I had to deal with the body -- my incision first. A deep rose-colored scar running along the curve under my left breast caused numbness in my left side from my ribs up to my breast as far as the nipple. This was because all the nerves had been cut during surgery. I also had two smaller scars on my chest, one where all the fluid by my heart had been drained and another where my chest tube had been. Both held scabs that fell off early, leaving more rose-colored marks. I looked down at my chest; the scars were reminders of my battle with death. I reflected on them sadly but with pride.
I had two projects to work on, eating and taking medications. I lost the art of eating in the hospital, but it miraculously returned when I got out!
I went to see Dr Douglas for a check-up and showed him my bald head. His response boosted my ego: "You look like a fashion designer!"
My mother and I moved into an apartment in Brooklyn to be closer to the hospital. I set up my easel and paints and got to work. I was very excited and happy, but I started to feel hot. The next day my temperature bit 101 degrees F. I rang Dr Barnes, who instructed me to come to the hospital and to pack a small bag in case I had to stay in the clinic. He told me I probably had an infection.