Monday, January 31, 2011

Extreme Makeover: Joyce Edition

Incredibly, I have my very last chemo treatment scheduled for tomorrow.  I cannot believe it's here.  You know what they say:  "Time flies when you have cancer"...or something like that.
I've been thinking a lot about makeovers lately.  Maybe it's due to awards season, and the fact that I can't help but watch all of the Hollywood starlets as they arrive on the red carpet.  I love it when movie stars look nothing like the characters in their films.  Yes, these really are pictures of the same woman (the fantastic Melissa Leo from "The Fighter"):

In character as Alice Ward

On the red carpet at the Golden Globes

At least Ollie loves the bed

Or maybe my love of makeovers is due to my addiction to HGTV, and my desire to have one of those celebrity designers come and decorate my bedroom.  I even made an audition video to be on an HGTV show.  I figured I might as well pull the cancer card, considering these shows like to dramatize everything.  I can see it now:  "Joyce was suffering from breast cancer.  Things weren't looking too good until we came to give her a relaxing oasis for a bedroom where she could heal.  Now, remarkably, the cancer is gone."  Seriously though, you can go online to view my video (which is completely embarrassing) and vote for us:  We're asking for "one star" votes, because the "uber ugly" rooms are the most likely to get made over, right?

Or maybe this makeover mentality is due to my own current appearance.  As I mentioned in my last post, my eyelashes have fallen out.  At this point, my eyebrows are pretty much gone, too.  Now when I wake up and look in the mirror, my face (and head) is completely void of any defining features.  My first thought is always "Good Lord!  When did that cancer patient sneak in here?!?"  My friends who have known me since high school can attest to the fact that it has always taken me a very long time to get ready.  Now my makeup process is even more extensive:  dealing with dry, chapped skin (from the chemo) that is even more acne-prone than it used to be (from the steroids), gluing on eyelashes, penciling in all adds up to quite a bit of time.  At least my hair is easier than before.  I literally just throw it on.

Fake hair, eyebrows, & lashes!

The good news is that hair starts to regrow as soon as chemo leaves the body.  The bad news is that it might be 6 months before I have enough hair on my head to where I don't feel bald.    The exciting part is that there is no telling what my new hair color and texture will be.  If often grows back very differently after one has undergone chemo, and it usually comes in very curly, at least at first.  Might I have gorgeous locks like Taylor Swift?  In my dreams! 
Additionally, I have scheduled my surgery for March 23.  This is definitely the most "extreme" portion of the makeover.  I will have a bilateral (both sides) mastectomy with reconstruction.  I have another meeting with my surgeons (oncology and plastics) next week, but based on my initial consultation and my own consideration, I will be having a "Lat Flap" procedure (Latissimus Dorsi Tissue Flap Breast Reconstruction).  Rather than posting diagrams, I'll just let you Google that one on your own.  It sounds like a crazy surgery, but I've talked with women who are really happy with it.  And again, I'm at Emory, where breast reconstruction was pioneered.  I'm truly in the best facility for it. 
While I'm looking at a major surgery and major recovery time, I will luckily have my in-laws here during and after the surgery.  Dad-in-law is an ear, nose & throat surgeon -- not a breast cancer specialist, but someone who knows a little something about the human body, surgery and recovery, so he's good people to have around.  Mom-in-law is an accomplished cook, book provider and mother who can lovingly tend to my needs as well as those of my husband, who might be freaking out and feeling a bit helpless during this process.
So this is my makeover story.  I'll post more details about surgery as they become available, along with a disclaimer about the contents of the post.  Some people are curious, but others get a bit squeamish when it comes to gory details.  I am normally in the latter group, so I totally get it.


  1. Wow, Joyce, you are plowing through this like a total champ (which we know you would). And no joke – you look great with your new eyebrows and lashes! I don't believe it :)

  2. I'll continue to push the HGTV for you, Joyce. You WILL get a new place!

  3. Thanks Lucas! It's not like you have a day job to tend to :)

  4. I saw your picture and wondered how you grew hair back so quickly, and then read that it's all fake. You fooled me, Joyce! If you look that great now, I think Taylor Swift is going to have some real competition in about 6 months. :)