11.09.2018

Pardon My Goatee

As my male oncologist and male pharmacist prepped me for the side effects during my first dose of Cetuximab, they down played things like the ultra-dry skin and the nail bed infections - something that would ultimately land me a weekend in the hospital, removal of my toenails, and some IV antibiotics. It was all about the rash, and every pill and cream handed me was about suppressing and controlling what is well known to be the most visible side effect of the EGFR-inhibitor drugs.

After a couple of months I noticed something else unexpected, and casually mentioned it to my pharmacist as he stopped to check on me during my weekly dose. "You didn't tell me I'd be growing a beard!" He seemed surprised, and before denying its possibilities quickly searched for side effects on his phone. And there on the drug manufacturer's website it said:

"Skin problems are one of the most serious side effects of ERBITUX. Skin problems include an acne-like rash, skin drying and cracking, infections, and abnormal hair growth."

Abnormal hair growth. No kidding. 

I now found myself sporting hair in places I didn't think my face I needed it, and dark hair at that. Coating my nose were tiny little black hairs only visible under my magnifying mirror and spotlight. There was the dark beard and mustache I was eager to wax if my raw skin would allow it. The first time it happened I was willing to face the repercussions it might have on the compromised skin of my upper lip. It may bleed and scab over, but at least it would be hairless. 

And there is of course the famed long, curly eyelashes everything thinks are so amazing on these drugs. What they don't tell you is those long curly eyelashes curl in any direction they want, including right into your eye. And I can assure you mascara doesn't look nearly as lovely when each eyelash is going off in its own direction. It also doesn't look lovely when its coating the crusty edges of my eyelids, which seem to perpetually be oozing something that replaces itself and hardens faster that I can scrape it off. My normally fine and dainty eyebrows were replaced with thick, course hair that had no interest in staying calm in place or hanging out in the same direction. I resorted to trimming them short, making it all the easier to pop the pimples I'm not suppose to touch and clean the crust that coats them every morning when I wake up.

Last year at my annual skin check, I asked my dermatologist if there was anything she would recommend for the rash aside from my usually scripts, and casually mentioned the obnoxious facial hair. As she scanned my body with her illuminated magnifying glass, she came to my ears and exclaimed, "Girl, you're just down right fury." I hadn't noticed, but I wasn't just the bearded lady, I was also coated in a light dusting of fine baby hair - something you might find on a newborn fresh out of its first bath. 

Having shared a motor home with hair and make-up on many a film set, I had learned of and partaken in the industry practice of face shaving. Not really a hairy girl, I knew the makeup artist used this on talent to make their face paint look more flawless, and to exfoliate. There is a rumor going around that men age so much better because they are forever exfoliating with their daily shave. I tended to opt for the exfoliating factor when I did practice the fine art of a facial shave, as I wasn't really one for wearing layers of foundation.

Faced with a mug covered in course, noticeable hair (in addition to a pimply rash), I decided to bear any pain and misery it might cause my raw, scabby face and shave. It might be one way to also rid myself of the chronic layer of crashed dry skin around my cheeks. I didn't have the patience to wait for my goatee to grow long enough to wax again, nor did I have the confidence to walk around grooming it with hipster beard paste until it was long enough to do so. 

Shaving would be it for me, and I was going to own it. Like so many dirty details of this disease, I have had no shame. And just as normal ladies would never speak of poop or facial hair, I am not a normal lady and so I will.