*Quick note, I made a flub last chapter, when Bella told Leah about her cancer, it was after Leah told her that she and Eli were engaged, which I had forgotten I'd moved up in my timeline so it happened in chapter twelve, so I changed it to them asking Edward and Bella to be the godparents for the baby that Leah is pregnant with. If you want to go back, it is early in the chapter, but if not, just know that Leah's pregnant, about a month and a half behind Alice. Thanks to Siriusmunchkin for making the catch.*
A/N: Thank you so much for your patience, it takes a while to write these chapters, but they are coming. The summer has been busy and I've been doing a lot of writing, the proof of that will be coming in the next several weeks as some of the chapters are finished and posted. Love to Mizzdee for always working to get me chapters fast and being there almost every night so I can get at least two hours with my words.
Just as a quick guide because a few people have asked for updated ages since the time has jumped a bit in the last few chapter, as of this point in the fic (this chapter starts in March) Bella is 29, Edward is 30, and the twins are 19 months.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Chapter 14 - A New Friend Gained, an Old Fear Faced
The first week after the surgery was tough on me. I was sore and the drain was a pain in the ass, but everyone was wonderful about stopping in and trying to keep my spirits up.
Edward had met with Victoria last Friday, and she had agreed that he wouldn't be pushed to begin his next novel until my treatments were done. Now I knew that he would probably write some as a way to channel his feelings, but without a deadline he could work on it at his leisure.
The kids were a little confused about how I had to keep them at bay a bit, but they were resilient and started to approach me on my right side by the time the week was done.
My sponge baths were Edward's favorite part of our nightly routine, because it was his chance to pamper me. He even found a tray online that allowed him to wash my hair in the sink while I sat in a chair so that I didn't have to bend at a weird angle to get under the spray.
For the first week of my cancer treatment, we were holding on pretty well, and now it was time to go to my first follow up appointment.
Edward and I left the kids with Eli and Leah, and we made our way down to Dr. Gerard's office at Virginia Mason. We checked in and then headed to the waiting room so that we could hopefully pass the time quickly until he was able to see us.
The main reason for today's appointment was to check on the incision and to determine if the drain was ready to come out, something I was praying would be the case. Edward seemed to be able to sense my unease, because he reached over and took my hand, kissing my knuckles as he held it in front of his mouth. The gentle brush of his lips against my hand was enough to sooth me until the nurse called my name.
She led us to the exam room and I removed my top and bra so I could put on the gown that was waiting for me, and a moment later Dr. Gerard was in to see us.
"Good morning, Bella, Edward," he said as he shook our hands.
"Good morning," we both responded as he moved to put on a pair of gloves.
"How have you been doing this past week?" he asked.
I proceeded to tell him about the drainage that I'd kept track of and any pain or tenderness I'd felt. He did his exam as I spoke, prodding around the drain and incision before looking up at me with a smile.
"You seem to be healing quite well. The drain has done its job and I'd like to remove it today." He turned to Edward. "Would you mind stepping out for a moment while I take out the drain?"
Edward smiled at me before stepping out at the edge of the curtain and pulling it closed behind him. Dr. Gerard made small talk with me as he worked, and soon he was telling me to get dressed again while he stepped out to bring Edward back in.
Once they were back and I was fully clothed, he made a few notations on my chart and then regarded me warmly. "From what I can see so far, there doesn't seem to be any reason for us to push back the start of your chemo. We'll continue these Tuesday morning appointments for the next two weeks, and if everything is healed you will be starting your first chemo treatment on April 1st. Do you have any questions for me?"
"No, thank you, Dr. Gerard," I told him as he once again shook mine and Edward's hands and then walked us out to the waiting room.
Edward led me back to the car and walked around to his door before he climbed and took my hand. "How are you doing?"
Shrugging, I gave his hand a squeeze. "The fact that everything checked out makes me feel better, and the drain being gone is a relief…but this is the first few feet in the marathon."
"Well then, this is a good start, and whatever comes next we will handle. Now, I know the girls were talking about wanting to take you wig shopping, have they set anything up yet?" I asked.
"I think they're taking me next week, we haven't set up anything solid yet," I explained.
The silence that filled the car after that wasn't awkward, it was just us both processing what was milling around in our heads.
Having a bit of energy when we got home, after Eli and Leah left, I made some meals that could be frozen and reheated later. Edward went off to work on something, keeping the door open in case the kids or I needed him.
The next couple of days passed without much change. I was taking it easy, Edward was attentive and loving, and the kids were enjoying having their parents around all the time to play with them.
Alice called me on Thursday, asking if I wanted to go shopping on Saturday, and since I didn't have anything going on I told her that was fine.
While I was glad that I was getting a wig now, knowing that I would be more self conscious once the hair started to fall out, I felt a little like I was expecting it to happen, but given the type and rigorous nature of my chemo, I sort of was expecting it to happen.
Rosalie and Alice wanted to pick me up, but I told them I would meet them at the store because I wanted to do some other shopping before I met them.
Having read a lot of forums on the various cancer sites, I knew that I might do better with comfortable clothes for when the chemo had me worn out and battling a dozen different side-effects. So for a good part of the morning, I went clothes shopping and then got some unscented lotions and some other products that were recommended. I'd yet to sign in with a name and join any of the forums, but I knew at some point I would.
Another thing I'd done was let my readers know that I was facing some medical issues, not wanting to go into too many details yet. Not that it would somehow clue them in to who I was, but I was getting enough sympathy while they were in the dark, my inbox overflowing with private messages and well wishes.
Realizing that it was almost time to meet the girls at the wig store, I drove to that part of town and parked the car. They were both there when I walked in and the saleslady was quick to see if I needed anything after the girls said their hellos.
"I'm looking for a wig or two," I told her and she looked at me for a moment.
"Are you looking for something completely different? Or is this meant to match your current hair for medical reasons?"
Could she tell by looking at me that I was sick?
"The reason I'm asking," she interrupted my thoughts, "is because I need to know if we'll be sitting the wig on your hair after it's been tucked and pinned onto your head, or if you'll be wearing a cap and then sitting the wig almost directly on your scalp. It effects how the wig sits, and also, if it's an everyday wig, I would suggest either a human hair wig, or one of the more realistic looking synthetics."
"I have cancer and I'll be starting chemotherapy in a few weeks, so I wanted to be prepared before the need arises," I explained and she nodded.
"Okay, with that being the case I can show you the kanekalon and human hair wigs, as they will be the best options for you and we'll also discuss the price differences so you can make a decision."
Thinking back to Edward's mandate that I not worry about the cost when it came to things like this, I told the girl as much as she led me over to the section that had human hair wigs. Rosalie and Alice came over while I looked at the different options.
"Do I look sick?" I asked them. "Because she immediately asked if I was looking for a wig for medical purposes."
"We chose this wig shop because it's higher end and deals more with everyday wigs that will hold up well. Because of that most people don't buy them unless they have money or a real need," Alice explained.
"Oh, okay, because if people can tell I'm sick now, I'd hate to see what they think after a few treatments," I tried to joke, but I couldn't make it that believable.
The woman came back to escort me to one of the corners of the shop where she had several wigs set up around a chair. "For now, pull your hair into a low ponytail and we'll put a cap on so that you see how it will sit on your head."
I did as she requested and once I was wearing the cap she placed the first wig on my head. "I picked a few wigs that are close to your natural hair, but if you want to be adventurous I can get you other styles."
"No, I'd really like to stay close to my regular color, but maybe a shorter wig also, just because it might be easier when I get hot," I offered and she nodded.
"We can definitely see to that. Now, I'm going to get you a mirror, so why don't you play with the wig a little and see how it feels."
I ran my fingers through it, and although it was nice, it still didn't feel right, and when I saw it on my head as I looked at my reflection, I knew that I wanted to go a different direction.
"I can tell by your expression that you're not a fan of the synthetic, so why don't we try a human hair wig next." She removed the first and then situated a new wig in its place. It took her a minute to primp it, but then she picked up the mirror and showed it to me. The difference was night and day and immediately I knew that the human wig was the only one I would go with.
"This is much better," I told her.
While she went to pick out a few other wigs, I looked over where the girls were, wondering what they were doing. What I saw really bothered me. They might have thought they were giving me space while I had my consultation, but looking over and seeing them playing with the wigs like it was Halloween as I was preparing for my body to continue to destroy itself was too much.
The woman returned with a few more human wigs and I ignored my sisters-in-law so I could focus on myself. It took a few tries before I found a short wig that I felt confident in, and then I chose a longer one that fell a little below my shoulders.
"Going too much longer, even with human hair will tangle way too easily," the woman explained and I nodded in response.
After a few more minutes of explaining proper wig care and boxing up my purchases, I paid and slipped out without saying goodbye to the girls, afraid of the possible meltdown I felt coming.
Driving across town, I held it together until I was in the house. Edward was in the nursery from what I could hear, so I went straight to the closet, hoping to put my purchases away and get in the shower before he saw me and asked what was wrong.
"Hey, Bella, how was shopping with the girls?" His question was so simple, but it completely set me off. The tears were fast and unrelenting as I curled in on myself, Edward's body right behind me to offer support and help me to the bed. "Baby, you're scaring me, what happened?"
"I know that I'm being over sensitive, but we were there shopping for wigs that I'm going to need once I lose my hair, and they were in a different part of the store playing with the cheap synthetic wigs like it was for a fucking costume party. We've talked about how sensitive losing all of these markers of a woman is making me, and seeing them make light of a very trying thing for me it just…" I trailed off, unwilling to admit how much it hurt, but a knock at the door kept Edward from responding.
"You go into the bathroom and get everything ready for a bath, I'll see who that is," he offered, closing the bedroom door nearly all the way as he went into the main part of the condo. I pulled out my towel and the pillow I had that would stick to our large whirlpool tub and then turned on the water, letting it fill. I could hear some raised voices so I moved into the bedroom to see what I could make out from the living room.
"You two don't get it," Edward yelled. "Bella is terrified of what's happening to her and what will be happening in the months to come. Every single day some new change occurs and Bella tried to deal with it. And she doesn't always win that battle with her emotions. Today was a big day for her. Admitting that the chemo might take her hair is one of her biggest fears besides being scared that she can't beat this, and you went in there like it was a game."
"She didn't say anything to us about it," Rosalie said, almost sounding surprise by his statement, but Edward didn't let up.
"She shouldn't have to. If you had been there beside her while the saleswoman was helping her, then you would have noticed her apprehension. If you had stuck by her like I foolishly assumed you would when you agreed to take her, then none of this would have happened. But it did, and you'll have to find a way to make that up to her another day."
"We can't talk to her now?" Alice asked, sounding upset.
"No, my wife is taking a bath and trying to relax. You can call her tomorrow."
I closed the bathroom door behind me and shut off the water as it was halfway up the sides and climbed into the tub. The water was about an inch or two above my hips and about as high as I could dare with my incision. There were a few doors closing outside in the main part of the house before Edward knocked on the door.
"Are you ready for your bath?" he asked, sitting the baby monitor down.
"Thank you for what you did out there," I told him. "You didn't have to be that harsh, but I appreciate that you stood up for me to them."
"You're my wife, Bella, and I will always put you first, and they were way in the wrong on this one. I love you."
"I love you, too," I whispered as he dipped the washcloth into the water and then lathered it up with soap.
We didn't speak for several minutes as he carefully washed my body. His eyes followed the movements of his hands as they worked as he cleaned and then rinsed my body. When he was done, he helped me change into my pj's and then pulled my vanity chair over to the sink. We attached the tray that would catch the runoff from him washing my hair and then continue our routine. Once again, Edward is reverent in his actions and soon my hair is wrapped in a towel and we're moving into the bedroom.
Just like every night that he washes my hair, he takes the time to brush it before allowing me to tie it into a ponytail. Once he's done he got up, moving to stand in front of me. "I'm here for you, Bella, whatever you need. I promise you, if it's wig shopping, or picking up clothes that are more comfortable once you're in treatment, to weird foods to keep you healthy…I will do everything in my power to help you. We'll take all the help that we're offered, but not at your expense. I will not let them make you feel insignificant again," he promised.
"I believe you, Edward, and I love you even more than I already did because of it," I admitted freely.
The rest of the month of March passed without any other incidents. The girls were quick to apologize, though Rosalie's tone in telling Bella that she should have just told them that she was upset almost had me interrupting their conversation the next morning. Rosalie was being defensive, and I would give her that this time, but Bella was my only concern and I had no problem telling my brother to control his woman.
On Tuesday, Bella had gotten the green light from Dr. Gerard that she'd healed well enough and was ready to start chemotherapy. From that appointment, we went up to Dr. Banner who had Nurse Tanya with him so they could prepare us for Bella's chemo the next Monday. As they'd explained when we first met to discuss her treatment, she would undergo one chemo treatment every three weeks with weekly blood work to make sure she was still doing okay.
Our hospital had a great system for how they handled the person you brought to be with you during part of the chemotherapy session. For the first half an hour, Bella would be alone with Tanya and the other patients, but as long as I was healthy enough to not cause any health concerns for the other patients or Bella, I would be allowed to sit with her for a while, then near the end of her treatment I would have to go outside and wait for her to return to the post-treatment area where I could stay with her until she was okayed to go home.
That was our last real week of calm, and we both tried to embrace it. The twins seemed to sense that something was going on, but they were still too young to really understand.
Monday morning came too quickly for my liking and with Bella's appointment at one in the afternoon; we tried to have a normal morning.
Breakfast was light, mainly because neither one of us could eat. Playing with the kids distracted us until my mom arrived to watch them at our house for a while before taking them for the night. With it being Bella's first experience with her medication, it seemed best to have the kids with my parents so my undivided attention could be on my wife.
Without the kids to keep us distracted, Bella started to go through her little bag that she was bringing to her chemo session. "Do you think that you're just going to want to read, or should I bring a deck of cards or something?"
"Bring whatever you want, Love, I'm there for you," I told her.
"Yes, and you're going to be bored out of your skull," she groaned. "What if I fall asleep? Are you going to just stare at me for the next two plus hours?"
"I'll bring my bag, so I have my iPad and my notebooks, and you should bring the same," I told her.
"What are you talking about?" she asked.
"You never know if something for your story might strike you, so you should bring something to write in. I could always type it up for you later, or Leah could if you'd feel more comfortable with that. I know she's the one who got you into it, and you said that she has your information for the site," I rambled a little.
"Yeah, I did that in case I'm not able to post for a while, so she could put something on my profile so people wouldn't be wondering what happened to me. I've told them about the diagnosis in general terms and the outpouring has been amazing. The messages and reviews with prayers and well wishes are so amazing. It's hard to imagine that these people care that much about someone they've never met, but they do and it means the world to me."
"And you'll get to tell them that when you are finally found to be cancer free," I told her, needing her to believe it.
"Yes, I will," she agreed and a little while later we were on our way.
Tanya was waiting for us when we signed in, taking Bella back right away and telling me that someone would be around shortly for me. Sure enough, another nurse brought me into another exam room so that I could be checked out and once they were happy with how healthy I was, I was led into the chemotherapy room.
I was surprised to notice that forty-five minutes had passed since Bella had gone off, but when I walked over they were getting her settled next to woman with a beautiful scarf wrapped around her head.
"Oh, this, you can order them on Amazon pre-formed, but my husband was a serviceman so whenever he went somewhere for training or a deployment he would bring me back scarves from his trips, this was from the two years we were stationed at the Naval base in Hawaii. I actually got to live near the base with him that time, it was pretty amazing."
"Oh, Edward," Bella called me over, "this is Maggie. She's on a different type of chemo, so she's on her fourth of ten treatments, but she was just giving me a few tips for first timers." It was so wonderful to see her happy to have made a friend that was willing to show her the ropes, and it seemed that Maggie wanted someone to talk to also.
"It's nice to meet you, Maggie, and thanks for helping Bella through her first treatment."
"It's no problem, the last few patients who are in here at this time have finished, so I get lonely during the second half of my session," she explained.
"How long are your sessions?" I asked.
"About six hours, so you're coming in around hour three for me. This is when I tend to start snacking, the nausea doesn't usually hit me until the next day, but that's different for every person. If you can eat during the treatment without getting sick, I would take advantage of that."
"You can eat in here?" Bella asked.
"You'd be surprised how quickly this can turn into a cafeteria when there are a lot of patients at the same time," Maggie told us. "Now, you have my number if you ever want to talk, and you can ask me anything you want today, I really am an open book when it comes to this, but for the moment I'm going to let you settle in."
"Maggie, is your husband going to be by later?" I asked, wondering why she was alone in the first place.
"No, I'm a widow, actually. He survived Iraq only to be killed by a drunk driver. But he got to meet our Bree, so I'll be able to share all of those stories with her."
Maggie smiled and Bella was quick to reach for her phone. "Do you have a picture of her? These are our little miracles. I had cancer years ago and was forced to have a hysterectomy, but thankfully I was able to save some eggs and my best friend was our surrogate."
The two swapped phones and Bella showed me the picture of Bree sitting on a swing in a park somewhere around the city. "She's beautiful, how old is she?"
"Two and a half, and she such a little mush. She's a hugger, something you'll see when you get a chance to meet her."
"I can't wait," Bella beamed.
Tanya walked back in with Bella's prepared IV and attached it, starting her three hour treatment. We talked on and off with Maggie, joked, and played games, before I ran to get Bella a snack. It seemed that Bella was doing well with her stomach, so I went to get her some peanut butter crackers, just in case they rebelled later.
The fact that Bella had a friend to help her through treatments was a huge blessing. Although Bella had had cancer in the past, she never had to undergo any treatment beyond her surgery, so she was facing this for the first time.
Soon after she ate her crackers, Maggie grew tired and drifted off to sleep for part of her treatment, while we were still the only three people in the room, it gave Bella and I a chance to talk.
"How do you feel so far?" I asked her.
"Okay I guess," she said. "Although I do feel a little sleepy."
"Then take a nap. I'll be fine sitting here and reading while you sleep," I told her.
"Okay." She yawned and I kissed her forehead as she drifted off.
I watched Bella sleep as the time ticked by, and soon enough Tanya had returned. "They're both sleeping, that's a good sign."
"Is it really?" I didn't know that it mattered that much.
"It means that they don't have any side effects that are so bothersome that it keeps them up. For some patients, the chemotherapy side effects can start bothering them before they're even finished with the dose. For others it won't bother them for a few days. But if she's made it through her treatment and hasn't felt too poorly, then at least she has that going in her favor."
"Well then, I'm very happy to hear that. Is she done now?" I asked, surprised that time had passed so quickly.
"She is," Tanya said. "Maggie has another thirty minutes, so by the time I'm finished with Bella it will be time for me to go through her post-treatment care."
"Thank goodness. Should I wake her?" I asked.
"Please," Tanya responded as I brushed my hand up and down Bella's arm.
"Wake up, Sweetheart, you're all done," I whispered.
"What? I'm done?" She yawned.
"You are, Bella. Now if you can just stay still I will unhook your IV and then we can go over your after care," Tanya said as she made quick work of Bella's IV. From there she gave Bella a cup of water and told her to sip it slowly to rehydrate her mouth a bit before giving her the oral chemotherapy medication. "Good, I'm glad that you're not having any problems with nausea today."
"These are all of the possible side effects?" Bella asked a little worriedly as she looked at the sheet Tanya gave her.
"Yes, but that doesn't mean you'll have all of them. We simply give you the list so that you know that you should contact either me of Dr. Banner so we can help you determine if you need to stop by the hospital or if a home treatment is best." Tanya continued to work as she explained this to Bella. From there she checked her blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, pulse, and temperature before giving her some anti-nausea medication and releasing her.
Maggie had just woken up as we packed Bella's things, so the pair of them hugged and Bella promised to call before we left. On the ride home, Bella was quiet, but after everything that had happened today, I could understand her needing time to process.
When we got home, she was still feeling good, so I decided to take advantage of that and reheat one of the meals she had prepared while she sat down to play with the kids. Abby was curled into her side while Masen was shaking his butt along with the TV show they were watching. He was so animated, Bella was laughing at his hijinks, which only made him do it more. Much like myself, my son will do anything to make his mother smile.
"She seems to be doing well," my mom said as she joined me in the kitchen. She had used the momentary distraction of the kids to pack her car and would be leaving in a few.
"For now, but they warned us that she may not start to feel the symptoms until tomorrow, so even though I know that she'll fight you taking the kids tonight, I think it's best."
"Of course, and if she is feeling poorly and you need another day, I'm fine with that. Your father and I are happy to take the kids," Mom told me.
"What about your clients?" I asked.
"I'm only doing some of the more high profile clients now, the rest I'm letting my team of designers do. It's one of the perks of being the owner of the company, I get paid something even if I don't do the work," she teased.
"So you have more free time for the grandkids?" I asked, knowing that my mom wanted her quality time with the kids.
"And your father, we should still enjoy our lives while we're young." My mom looked wistfully at Bella and the kids before she walked over to them. "All right, I'm going to let you guys enjoy dinner while I take these little ones home with me."
"Esme, I'm feeling fine, really," Bella started to protest, but my mother was holding firm.
"But you may not be later, dear. Let's just try it tonight and we'll play it by ear from here on out."
With a sigh, Bella kissed the kids goodnight and watched as my mom left with them. I finished up dinner and Bella set the table so we could eat it. Dinner was quiet, but Bella seemed to be holding something in.
"Baby, talk to me," I pleaded after the dishes were in the dishwasher.
"I'm just trying to deal with everything, Edward. I'm so tired, but I haven't done anything. I know it's a side effect, but I came out of the treatment feeling okay so I thought I was getting a pass. I just remember how bad it was for my mom. How I cut off my hair and donated it when she had to shave her head. How sick she would get, and the days that she couldn't even get out of bed. I watched her waste away."
Bella's sobs tore at my heart, so after I reached her, I scooped her into my arms and carried her to our bed and pulled her close. "Bella, we will fight this with everything we have. And I will do anything that you ask me to. If you lose your hair, I'll shave my head with you, I'll hold the garbage can while you throw up and I will give you sponge baths and make you all of the health food that you researched. I would take this on for you, if I could, Love. You know that I would die if it meant that you could live a long and healthy life with our children."
"Edward, please don't say that." She cried harder into my chest. "I love that you're willing to do everything you said, and I would be interested to see you with a little buzz cut going on, but we will take it one day at a time. Today it's just being extra tired. The rest will come or it won't, but we can't sit here and wait for it."
"So we'll just curl up here and watch a movie and wait to see what happens tomorrow," I confirmed. "I can do that."
Putting in Pride and Prejudice because I knew she loved the Matthew guy who's in it, and because I couldn't make it through the six hour Colin Firth version tonight, I snuggled behind Bella and eventually drifted off to sleep.
The day after her treatment, the nausea hit, and though the medication helped, it sapped the strength out of her. We went for the follow-up blood work and Dr. Banner came down to check on her, saying that besides her side effects, she was doing well after her first dose. My mom kept the kids another night, before my dad dropped them off and checked on Bella.
"There isn't anything I can do that isn't already being done. She just has to take it easy until her next treatment," my dad told me and I got annoyed.
"I hate this," I hissed. "This is just the beginning and she's already suffering. What is it going to be like six months from now when we're nearing the end of this?"
"No one said this is easy for either of you, but you have to let others in. Your sister and Rosalie are distraught about how they're not able to be there for Bella and you-"
"Then they should have been a little smarter in how they acted. She's a little raw right now, and they're forgiven, but Bella needs a little more time to pass before she's going to bring them into the center of this," I told him.
"I understand, Son, but know that they do love her and if either of you need anything, they're there for you. The guys too. Maybe a round of golf or something would do you a little good when things get to be too much," he offered.
"I will consider it, but for the moment I have to get back to my wife."
The week continued to pass, but thankfully the nausea began to fade and the exhaustion was the only thing that seemed to come crashing down on my girl before the end of the day. It was the last day of Bella's first week post treatment that the bottom fell out.
She was in the bathroom, when I heard the clattering of something hitting the tile floor. Running into the room, I saw her brush on the floor with a clump of hair stuck to it.
"Bella," I whispered as I crossed the room to her.
"It just felt like a knot, I didn't even think about it until I felt the hair give way and saw how much came out." She broke down and I led her out of the bathroom and back to the bedroom.
"It isn't noticeable, babe, I can't even tell where it came from," I said honestly. It was a decent chunk, but it wasn't a bald spot or anything yet.
"It's just the beginning," she told me. "I'll lose a decent chunk until I lose it all."
"Would you want to shave it now, or wait until you see how much it thins?" I asked. I would help her with whichever choice she made.
"Wait, I couldn't deal with that today."
Hugging her close, we left the bedroom and spent the day with our children.
Monday, Bella was showering when a large amount of hair accumulated at the shower drain.
On Tuesday, she woke up to find it on her pillow.
By Wednesday the loss was evident and she was in the guest room because she wanted to be alone. I hated that she was pulling away from me, but I knew something I could do to ease her into the next step of dealing with her hair loss.
Peeking into the room, I saw her asleep on the bed, so I took the baby monitor with me while the kids napped and got to work in our bathroom.
I took the trimmer and turned it on, focusing on the gentle humming. We would do this together, just like everything else we'd had to face so far. I was looking at the instructions, seeing the diagram for a complicated crew cut with layers, but I decided to stick to something simple. I knew that if I did it short enough, the hair being the same length wouldn't matter, so I found the guide for a quarter of an inch and snapped it on. Placing the clipper at the center of my forehead, I pushed it back straight and even, feeling the hair start to fall away as I reached the crown. I did several passes across the top of my head and then went to the base of my skull and cut the back of my head. It took me a little time make sure I hadn't missed any spots or left patches of long hair, but once I was done, I went to get the broom so I could clean up the bathroom.
"Edward, what did you do?" Bella asked as I walked into the living room.
I hadn't expected her to be up so soon after crying herself to sleep, but it was time to explain myself.
"I promised you that I would cut my hair when the time came that you lost yours to the chemotherapy. I know that you might not be ready to shave the remaining hair off, but I wanted to show you that I meant what I said."
Bella walked over and rubbed her hand along my scalp, sending tiny pieces of hair flying everywhere as they were dislodged from what little hair I had left. "I like it, it's fuzzy."
I couldn't help but laugh at her comment, which broke whatever cloud had been hanging over her because she giggled along with me. I followed her as she went into our closet and pulled out one of the pre-formed head wraps she'd bought and then turned to me.
"I think that I'm ready to shave it. It isn't like there's a lot left, and it means that I won't be as self-conscious about it."
"You're sure," I asked her, because I didn't want her to regret her choice.
"Yeah. Maybe once we're passed this I won't feel like I need to stay cooped up in the house," she commented and I pulled her to my side.
"You go out when you're ready. No one is going to rush you," I told her.
"I should go have lunch with the girls. I haven't seen Alice or Rose since they apologized, and I don't want them to think I'm still holding it against them." I could tell it was an attempt to placate them, not her wish to be out in public with her newest development since beginning treatment.
"They can wait, now why don't we grab your chair and I'll take care of this."
Moving silently, Bella got her vanity chair and sat it in the middle of the bathroom. Using the same sure strokes I did for my own head, I began shaving off Bella's remaining hair. I switched to the smallest comb, knowing that I would be too afraid of cutting her without a guide and the tiny lengths of hair would fall out without too much notice. At least it wouldn't be to the rest of us.
Once I was finished, Bella ran her hands over her head, the tears falling faster than the hair had.
"Are you okay, Love?" I asked her.
Looking up at me, she offered me a watery smile. "Not yet, but I will be."
E/N: Lots happened here, and I used a lot of research to figure this part of the story out. I know quite a few cancer survivors, so some of this came from their personal experiences, but once the chemo does begin to attack the hair follicles, the hair loss can happen pretty quickly. Hair's fast growth rate is what makes it susceptible to the chemo drugs, because while some are more specialized, others will attack any rapidly reproducing cells.