A few days ago I went to the hair salon and had most of my hair chopped off. It had been down to about my waist, and is now shoulder length. Part of the reason I did this was because it was just getting too long and difficult to manage. Another reason is because I was ready for a change. The biggest reason, though, was that it was just time to donate again.
The first time I donated my hair was in late 2008, while I was pregnant with my second daughter. I don’t think I had a very good reason for doing it that time. It was just what the hormones commanded of me.
Several months later, I went to my obstetrician for a routine 7-month ultrasound. The ultrasounds were always one of the best parts about being pregnant. There is nothing like seeing your child up on that big screen, moving around and growing inside of you. There is nothing like being told that the ultrasound is abnormal.
The ultrasound tech and the doctor were not able to tell me much. They explained that there was something “down past the spine”, and it had not been there in the ultrasound that was done a couple months prior. I burst into tears, and my doctor held me while I cried. I am still so grateful for that amazing gesture.
A few days later I found myself at the Center for Advanced Medicine in St. Louis. A very lengthy and detailed ultrasound (which was rather uncomfortable given how pregnant I was at the time) revealed that Claire had a Sacrococcygeal Teratoma. Basically this is a tumor on the tailbone. She would have to undergo surgery very shortly after birth to have the tumor and her tailbone removed. The length of her hospital stay was unclear. How well the lower part of her body would function was unclear. The likelihood of the tumor being cancerous, however, was very small.
A follow-up ultrasound in St Louis showed that the tumor was growing rapidly. The doctor sat down in his office with me, and explained that the “solution” for this was to deliver the baby via c-section. This particular type of tumor has a very good blood supply, and he didn’t want to risk it hemorrhaging. When I asked about the time frame, he said, “How about tomorrow?”
Claire was in the NICU at St. Louis Children’s Hospital for a total of two weeks. She had her surgery at one week old. I was so happy when they told me at the two week mark she could come home. The worst was over. Then the oncologist showed up.
There is a very bright side to this story. Claire is going to turn 4 in May. There have been many return visits to Children’s Hospital for tests and scans to make sure the tumor wasn’t coming back. She did not have to undergo chemo or radiation. I like to joke that Claire has spent enough time at the hospital that she has nearly completed her residency. I can’t deny that it has been a long and difficult journey. Last August her oncologist declared her a “normal kid”, and she now only has to go back for annual visits. We celebrated with ice cream.
The point of all this, is that donating my hair now means so much more to me than just a change of pace. Claire didn’t have to lose her hair, but I can’t help but think what it could have been like. My baby was lucky.
(Please note: Do yourself a favor and don’t look up Sacrococcygeal Teratomas online. The images are not pretty, and the majority of them show cases that are far worse than what Claire had.)