Anne's Diary

Shunt Stories

I'm aging fairly gracefully, but I have to admit it: I have horrible hair.

When I was in the hospital 8 years ago, I had a shunt put into my head, and I'll have that shunt in there forever, probably, so I've resolved to get used to it: As I wrote in an earlier diary, my scalp will always resemble Frankenstein's a little bit.

It was put in because, when the aneurysm burst inside my brain, it threw off a lot of particles that closed off the openings that normally let spinal fluid drain. After the shunt was inserted, Whitley was asked to determine when my personality was "normal," and the shunt was adjusted to that point.

This sounds like some sort of "Stepford Wives" scenario, where Whitley might be tempted to change a somewhat feisty wife into a more demure little thing, but--thankfully--Whitley wanted his original wife back, so he tried to make sure that's what he would get. I still cuss at him at least once a day, and if I don't he misses it, and goads me until I throw the "F-bomb" at him. It makes him feel at home.

After I got out of the hospital, I continued to wear my wigs for awhile, even after my hair grew in. No one ever compliments me on my hair, but I found that I received effusive compliments on it when I was wearing a wig, which is why I was reluctant to give them up, even when I didn't need to wear them anymore.

I remember going to a conference where a woman who has seen me often kept telling me how wonderful my hair was, when I was wearing a dark, "spikey" wig with a streak of another color in it (one of my more outrageous purchases). You don't know what to say at a moment like that, so you just say, "Thank you."

Every woman I've ever known who's gone bald from chemotherapy tells me they've faced the same situation.

I was talking with a friend who runs a sweater store down the street one day, and she told me this story: When she was bald from the chemo she had to combat a bout of breast cancer, she was feeling rebellious one day and said to her husband, "I'm not going to wear a hat or a wig in the store today, I'm going there just as I am."

Her husband pleaded with her: "Oh honey, don't do that," but she was resolute. It's a small store and the cash register is right in the middle where she can see everyone (and everyone can see her), and she was sitting there, bald as an egg, when an Asian family--a mother and daughter--entered the store.

The little girl pointed at my friend and cried, "Look Mama, it's the Buddha!"

I've given all my wigs away to a friend who's having chemo, so now I'm defiantly wearing what I call my "shunt cut." This sounds faintly obscene, but it's really just a combination of a short and layered cut plus a darkish color that hides the lump on my head.

Since I have rather large ears that stick out, it's not the most flattering style I could wear, and I'm sure many of the people who meet me are dying to tell me that. Sometimes I put a lot of gel in it, then spike it up. My son likes the look, while my husband doesn't, so I know it's fashionable.

I remember being in a department store about twenty years ago, when long, poufy hair was in fashion. I happened to see a female shopper with short, cropped hair all over her head. I thought it looked so cute that I went over and complimented her on it.

As I was leaving the store, I had a moment of chagrin, when I realized that she had been sporting a post-chemotherapy cut: Her hair was just starting to grow in again. I felt terrible about it, but then I thought, "Hey, I'll bet I MADE her day."

My shunt has a long wire attached to it that snakes down through my body and ends up in my peritoneal cavity. I didn't realize it could be seen in an x-ray until I was in Texas a couple of years after getting it inserted, and decided to stop at a nearby clinic I used to go to when we lived there and get my annual mammogram.

I went under the x-ray machine and the technician read the films. Suddenly she exclaimed, "My God, I have to tell the doctor about this!" and ran out of the room, clutching the evidence. As you can imagine, I was deeply disturbed by this, but it turned out that she had never seen a wire like that before and didn't know what it was.

Whitley said I should have just explained to her that I was really a robot.

I've discovered a new problem that comes along with new technology: the ipad (and perhaps other e-readers) give out a great deal of magnetism, and I have to stay about a foot away from the screen or it could reset my shunt, changing my personality. Imagine bending over to look up something on the internet with one personality and emerging with the answer as a "different" person!


My one regret is that they didn't give me a remote so I could amp her up and shunt her down at will. But truthfully, I want her just the way she is: strong, assertive, tender, sensitive, wild, brilliant, fun and always surprising. My Anne. How I love her!

Anne, you always write such great stories! Thank you for writing them.

You two are just terrible (in a very, very good way) !

Ahaha! You guys are lovably nuts. :D

What a wonderful story!

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