Do bumps on head mean cancer metastasis?

No. Or at least, not always. Two Sundays ago, I googled that question, in endless combinations, and found no answer. I was alone, the others having gone to church, and I needed to know — were the squishy red bumps on my head a sign of brain mets, as my Grandmother’s had been so many years ago? Or were they irritation from bone mets spreading to my skull? What were these strange bumps, and how could I find an answer on a Sunday afternoon?

I ran my hands through my short hair, exasperated at the lack of information on the net and wracking my brain to recall other forums and bulletin boards. As I rested my hands on the desk, I turned them over, questioningly – and found the palms crossed with clumps of hair. I laughed, I cried, and my mother came in to comfort me. I told her what had happened – I was losing my hair! – and she put her arms around me in reassurance.

No, no, you misunderstand, Mom! I wasn’t crying for the loss of my hair. I was crying in relief – my fears had not come true – and I was not one step closer to the end. I was just losing my hair, a sign that the chemo was working, attacking the fastest-dividing cells, as it was supposed to do.

As I explained to my sons that night, this kind of chemo attacks the cells just as each divides into two new cells. The fastest dividing cells in a person’s body are cancer cells. The second fastest are the ones that make your hair grow. So when we see Mommy’s hair falling out, we know (hope) that the medicine is killing both the cancer and the hair cells as they divide!

The kids accepted this, and asked me what cells are next – stomach, I explained, which means my stomach may hurt over the next few weeks as well. We ended with great big hugs, and my 7 year old surreptitiously tugging on my hair in the back, just to check.

In fact, the next night, just before bed, he met me at the top of the stairs and yanked on it! I yelped, not remembering the previous day’s conversation, but just as quickly I remembered, lifted him up in a giant hug, and laughed and laughed with my smart boy, checking for himself that the chemo was working – reassuring himself, and me, that we would be okay.

It’s been a couple weeks now, and my hair has significantly thinned on top, but I still have hair around the edges and faith that the chemo will work. Today I’m back at chemo, scared to take it on top of pneumonia, but scared even more to skip another week. A silly fear? perhaps, but when my day comes I know that I will have done everything I can to fight this thing and win one more day over cancer.


24 Responses to Do bumps on head mean cancer metastasis?

  1. Diane Krapf says:

    what a sweet moment you shared! It’s the little things in life that count, isn’t it? How long are you there getting your chemo?
    thinking of you…..and all during my hydro zen class this morning.

    • It takes several hours, from the initial blood draw to be sure that my counts are good to the 15 minute infusion of the chemotherapy and additional infusion of Zometa, a bone-building medicine that I take once a month. So about 3 hours?

      Thank you, Diane, for the wonderful CD you sent me! It arrived this morning and I am looking forward to using it!

      • Hydro zen … Awesome!

        • Diane Krapf says:

          Hydro Zen is a wonderful warm water class I take at the YMCA. We do hydro pilates, yoga and Tai chi to beautiful music. I highly recommend a program like this for all women, especially those who find land exercise difficult from breast cancer surgeries.

  2. Hooray for falling out hair! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Lucas got a Mohawk yesterday (yeah) and my mom posted on FB that maybe she should get one, too. I responded that if it were 5 years ago (when she was diagnosed with breast cancer) I would have given her a strong yes — why not be a bit silly before it all falls out anyway?!

    You’re such a great Mama, explaining things to your boys at their level and giving them reassurance through something that could actually worry them if it wasn’t explained.

    • Thanks, Aimee!

      I love what you said to your mom – why not have fun with it indeed! Of course, I’m glad I didn’t shave mine all off that week – it appears to have stopped falling out (pending today’s treatment) – and if I can keep some of it, why not?

      Thanks for the note, friend! It’s great to hear from you!

  3. Dorothy Doyle says:

    This is yet another example of how extraordinary you are….you are able to see hair falling out as something to be embraced because it is a strong indication that the cancer cells are being attacked too. I love how you handled this with your boys – with such grace and warmth. I am learning so much from you….Thank you, and may God bless you and your family abundantly.

  4. zapladybug says:

    Although I’ve only met you online, I can unabashedly say: YOU ARE AMAZING!

  5. magpie says:

    i’m chuckling. kick cancer’s ass, susan! love to you.

  6. Amanda says:

    Your mom came in…of course she did and yet that made me squeal with delight. And you laughing. If my prayers grow stronger with joy, than strong puffs of prayers just sprang through my every pore. Sending love to you all.

  7. Elaine says:

    I’m blown away by this. You make me appreciate every single day I have on this Earth. I hope the cancer cells are taking a beating and won’t be the source of so much pain. May this chemo bring you some time.

  8. Widget is such a smart boy! And caring too, although perhaps tugging on your hair isn’t the most obvious way of showing it ๐Ÿ˜‰ Long may this chemo keep working for you (and for us, who love you). You are always in my heart and mind, dear friend. You are a great mum and I admire you so much.

  9. Linda Lawrence says:

    In all things give thanks! You are teaching your boys so much! ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. There is no doubt to me, and there will be no doubt to your children, that you have done everything you could possibly do for more time. And along the way, rather than retreating into your shell (not that there would be anything wrong with that) you have shared your story with us. In return, I have learned to encourage my girls interest in science and more importantly I have hugged them tighter and tried harder to appreciate every moment.

  11. {sue} says:

    You are an amazing mom. And you have awesome boys. Praying for you and the drugs that give you more time with them.

  12. love and prayers xo

  13. Bon says:

    i don’t think your fears are silly: you are playing for life and for time.

    i wish the fight were not so daily, so hard. but. the hair is falling out and now i understand that that is GOOD and…well…i’m sitting here sending all my energy your way. may the chemo keep doing good. may you feel the love and support and appreciation we have for you. xo.

  14. kimmer says:

    Glad you are doing better and I hope Chemo wasn’t too terrible.

  15. Catherine H Myers says:

    Thinking of you this evening, Susan. I hope this week’s chemo isn’t producing too much trouble for you in general – just for the cancer cells!
    I noticed what Thrift Store Mama said above about your writing and one result: she’s giving more encouragement to the interest her girls show in science. I want to chime in to say you’ve had a similar effect on me (though applied to my niece and grandsons). And to myself: I’m trying harder to pay attention to the details of science stories and stretch for a better understanding.
    So thank you!

  16. not only did this post educate me but made me smile.

    You are an endless source of amazement and love Susan.


  17. Amy Hughes says:

    I love reading what you write. I was diagnosed with stage III cancer when my youngest (of six) was almost 6 and all I could think of was them. You are an amazing inspiration to me. I hope you and your family have a wonderful and enjoyable holiday season. xoxo

  18. […] Do bumps on head mean cancer metastasis? ( This entry was posted in Cancer and tagged Cancer, cancer decisions, Chemotherapy, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, Hippocrates, Raw foodism by admin. Bookmark the permalink. […]

  19. jen says:

    OK, I’m seriously glad you are losing your hair. And I’m just so happy you are feeling better. You have been on my heart and in my prayers and asking Jesus to give you a wonderful Christmas with your family. ((Hugs))

  20. Eileen MHT says:

    Thanks for sharing Susan. I have been following your story and praying with you through my college friend Colleen Z. Wishing you peace and comfort. Eileen

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