Nora Ephron's neck problem is a damn luxury. I'm going bald. And I've been told there's nothing I can do about it. Mostly I deal with it through denial. In the mirror, I look at the front of my head, where my hair is thin but more or less covers my scalp. In Copenhagen, however, Other and I stayed on the fourth-floor of our hotel, and the only way to get to and from our room was to take the fully mirrored elevator. Every morning I woke up cheerful. Half an hour later, when I stepped into the "fun" house mirrors of the 'vator, I descended emotionally as well as physically. There was no denying that I look just plain depressing from the rear.
If I'd had to choose between my boobs and my hair, I would have kept the hair and lost the boobs. Sadly, I didn't have that choice. I lost the hair AND the boobs. Maybe I would have lost my hair anyway—my family runs to unmanageably thick tresses early on and unmanageably thin wisps beginning in middle age—but chemo certainly played a role. Taxotere (a.k.a. taxo-tears) is known to cause permanent hair loss in a small percentage of women, a fact that has come to light mainly because women who get Taxotere are surviving their cancer long enough for the rarer long-term side effects to reveal themselves.
I'm one of the beneficiaries of Taxotere-promoted survival. I've lived so long—more than five years since diagnosis—that I'd like to put it all behind me and stop feeling like a cancer victim and start feeling like an ordinary person. But it's hard. I look 10 years older than my age and 20 years older than the preternaturally young-looking Other. When I walk down the street with him, I can practically hear people thinking how nice he is to be so affectionate with his mother.
At any rate, being boobless and nearly hairless is a cosmetic challenge. I try to wear at least one signifier of my gender every day: earrings, a necklace, a skirt, whatever. I've been trying to wear falsies lately in my effort to put the past firmly behind me and get on with my life. And I've found a pair that are tolerable, though not actually comfortable. Trouble is, the flat chest kind of explains the bald thing: people guess that I've had cancer. When I wear the falsies, people just think I'm an aging crone with a revolting hair problem.
So when I hear people like Nora Ephron whining about their necks or their thighs or their big butts, I have sympathy, but not that much.