First, the big news. I rode outside yesterday. For the first time in 45 days.
Before the ride was the mixed joy and frustration of working on my bike. An activity I hadn't done for months. I sold my race bike to a teammate before the diagnosis and, now that there is no reason to spend big money on a 2010 model race bike (why do that when I can buy a 2011 model race bike-duh), I am planning on using my Tri-Cross for summer riding and Cycle Oregon.
Which meant conducting what is usually a very simple exercise...swapping out wheels. A simple task that was made completely infuriating by one of the most aggravating pieces of equipment in the cycling world: Tektro cyclocross brakes. It should not be that f-ing hard to (1) undo the brake arms and (2) adjust the brakes to eliminate rub.
I threw a tool yesterday. I have been doing some of my own mechanic's work for a long time and had never thrown a tool in frustration. I felt like there was a hidden camera in the ceiling and a roomful of lab-coated engineers and psychologists in a secret test facility sitting in front of a screen and rejoicing that there nefarious plan had finally worked.
I met Heidi at her house for a short spin around SE Portland. For some reason, I didn't want to wear my team kit, just casual knickers and a long-sleeved shirt. It seemed like if I wore the pinstripes, there would be pressure. Pressure to do what, I have no idea. Train? Win the hills? Not die of a heart attack in the Springwater Corridor headwinds? Who knows.
The first 15 seconds were a total rush. My legs literally went:
The motions were automatic were once I had a few minutes to adjust: Shift, pedal, brake, weight the corners, bunny hop to check for rattles.
It was like my soul was coming out of hibernation.
I think we were out for an hour, but an hour was enough. I was breathing pretty hard into the headwinds and inclines and my shoulders were aching from being forced back into the cyclist's hunch. But I finished the ride feeling more joyful than I had been feeling for weeks. And between the hour on the bike and the hour on foot in Forest Park in the morning, I fell asleep without a sleeping pill last night. Again, for the first time in weeks.
Second piece of news. I'm shaving my head today.
It's a control and timing issue. I'm on Chemo Day 10 and common wisdom is that it starts to fall out around Day 14. I'm going out to the Gorge this weekend to support my teammates and friends at the Cherry Blossom Cycling Classic. (And by support, I mean heckle. And by heckle, I mean finding the longest hill on the course and yelling "Why are you going so slow?" at everyone. This also might involve an air horn and a bucket of Gatorade to pour over people's heads. I'm a good teammate like that.) I didn't want to deal with the hair over the weekend if it happened early, and I can already tell something is happening with my body. I haven't had to shave my armpits since Saturday. (Yes, we're talking about my armpits again. Hopefully for the last time in a few months.)
I also didn't want to deal with shaving my head in the first few days after chemo. And I sure as shit don't want to deal with any clumps of hair falling out, EVER.
So today's the day.
Which is totally ironic because my hair has been behaving marvelously for the last two weeks. Its mocking me. So, with everything that dares mock me, it's time to dole out some punishment.
But in all seriousness, I'm expecting to need to grieve for a little bit of time over this. I've never been a hair person. It's been short for over 12 years and my haircut has always been about keeping it out of my face and off my neck (its very thick) and how quickly I can look normal after taking off my bike helmet (with the help of a few genius styling products, I can go from ride to work appropriate in 15 seconds).
But although bald may be beautiful, it also immediately flags me as a sick person. Throughout all of the surgeries and scans and doctor visits, I was able to hide my "sick person" status under my bra or by holding my affected arm close to my body. Can't so much get away with hiding anymore.
Being bald will also force me to work on my patience with other human beings. Like most reasonable people, I do not like being stared at. And I'm going to get stared at. Yelling "WHAT?! I HAVE FUCKING CANCER. FUCK OFF!" to everyone in Portland is not going to make me someone anyone else wants to be around for the next few months.
So I am going to have to grow up and learn to make eye contact and smile insanely at strangers. My theory is that if they think I'm also totally cuckoo for CocoPuffs, the staring will stop in a more timely manner.
My life is already one big lab experiment. I might as well make it an entertaining one.