Post-Chemo Hair Update: A Milestone!

As my hair was growing out shortly after chemotherapy two years ago, I took weekly photos of my hair. With short hair, change happened quickly. I wanted to keep track of what I looked like with my hair at different lengths, because before stupid cancer, I'd never had short hair. But as my hair grew longer, change became harder to detect, so my last hair-focused photos were taken over six months ago.

Until now. This week, I hit a milestone. Looking in the mirror, I realized my hair is now as long as it was when I cut if off my freshman year of college! It's still shorter than it's been for most of my adult life, but I look like my old self again. Maybe I'll decide to cut my hair short again at some point, but it's a great feeling to be in charge of the decision this time around.

Post-Chemo Hair Update: The Last Three Months

My last hair update was August 1, so it's time for a new one. When my hair was beginning to grow out after chemo in the spring of 2012, it made sense to take weekly photos so I could keep track of what it looked like at each stage, to remember if I liked a particular length. But now that it's getting longer, I can no longer observe changes from week to week, so I've been taking monthly photos instead. Here's August, September, and October.

Post-Chemo Hair Growing Out and a Clean Bill of Health

Life is pretty damn good these days. The Henery Press edition of Artifact comes out next week, I finished a rough outline of the third Jaya Jones book a few days ago, and I got a clean bill of health at my annual post-cancer doctor appointments.

Still... I couldn't help grumbling about how long it takes hair to grow back! I've been taking weekly photos of my hair as it grows out, and tracking my progress has made it feel sooooo sloooooow.

But then I took a step back. Looking at photos from every other month during the past 10 months, it's easy to spot the change from a super-short pixie cut to whatever you call a big curly swirl of hair that the wind is constantly blowing into my eyes. Cancer can't stop either me or my hair.

Fifteen Months After Cancer: Fearless & Feeling Like Myself Again

It's been fifteen months since I finished chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

I definitely fall into the camp that believes what doesn't destroy me makes me stronger. I continue to feel healthier than I've ever been -- thank you Kris Carr and Post Punk Kitchen! -- and am enjoying life more than ever.

However, as I've recovered, I've felt strangely unlike myself in two key ways. First, I no longer had my old (BIG) hair. Second, I no longer had my ability to eat or drink anything I wanted to.

Though it turns out I can pull off short hair (here I am in August of 2012), I didn't really feel like me with that hair.

Now, though my hair isn't nearly as long as it used to be, it's long enough that it gets blown over in the wind and has a life of its own. In other words: I'm back to feeling like my hair is my own. 

As for food, I used to take pride in the fact that I would try any dish put in front of me, a la Anthony Bordain or Andrew Zimmerman (of the Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods show), and drink any spirits no matter how high the proof (absinthe, anyone?).

After finding out that certain foods would greatly increase my risk of cancer recurrence, I realized I needed to change my eating habits. But where would I be without my identity as a fearless eater? There was no way I was going to become a boring eater. Well, it turns out there was a different way for me to be fearless with food: I learned to cook.

When I got sick, we'd recently moved into a house with an amazing kitchen. Before that, living in Berkeley and San Francisco made it easy to walk five minutes in any direction and get any type of food we desired, so there was no need to cook in cramped apartment kitchens with electric stoves. But in a gorgeous kitchen with a gas stove and plenty of counter space, I was already tempted to learn to cook.

It turned out that cooking from scratch was easier than I ever imagined. Granted, it's not fast; it's quite time consuming. But who knew that cooking could be so much fun, and that healthy foods could taste so absolutely amazing? So now instead of being someone who will try any food, I'm someone who can cook up any dish I feel like eating -- and have it be both delectable and good for me. Not too bad, as trades go.

And yes, I do all my writing in the morning so I have time for leisurely cooking in the evening.

Mixing the ingredients in a wild ride salad. 

Homemade vegan butter with a cashew base.

Homemade raw chocolate.

Our greenhouse in the backyard.

Done With Revisions: PIRATE VISHNU Comes Out September 3, 2013

Gigi Pandian post-chemo hair, March 2013
Gigi's post-chemo hair, March 2013. 
Revisions inevitably take longer than anticipated. For me, it tends to take me about twice as long as I estimate. Since I've learned a thing or two over the last few years, I doubled the time I thought I needed to finish revising Pirate Vishnu: A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery. 

It worked! I made my deadline!

I sent off the manuscript to my copy editor over the weekend. Advance Reader Copies will be out in May, and the novel will be published September 3, 2013.

Now it's time to relax and have some fun! Well, perhaps I'd better clean my house, too... After ignoring housework while finishing these revisions, the house is a bit of a disaster area, especially my study. But even though I neglected housework while finishing the book, I remembered to take photos of my hair growing out. Here's the latest one.

Later this week I'm heading to Colorado Springs for Left Coast Crime. I'll be on two panels at the mystery convention. If you'll be there, please find me and say hello!

Literary Inspirations for Traditional Mysteries
Friday, March 22 at 9 a.m.
With panelists: Sara J. Henry, Charlotte Hinger, Christopher Lord, Susan Shea, and Mary Vensel White

Occupations to Die For
Saturday, March 23 at 11 a.m.
With panelists: Ellen Byerrum, Naoimi Hirahara, Tammy Kaehler, and Patricia Wood

Here's a tiny teaser of the new book I just turned in. More details will follow in April, along with the book cover.

Pirate Vishnu: A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery

A century-old treasure map of San Francisco.
A sacred treasure from India.
Two murders, a century apart. 

Historian Jaya Jones has her work cut out for her. 

New Glasses to Celebrate a First Royalty Check!

With my first royalty check from Henery Press, I bought myself cool new glasses!

Since I'm going to have short hair for a little while as it grows out, I wanted to get more dramatic glasses. My prescription hasn't changed in years, so I didn't really need new glasses. But I liked the idea of doing something fun with a royalty check. I hadn't stopped to do that after Artifact came out, so it was fun to slow down and think of getting something to celebrate Other People's Baggage.

I fell in love with these glasses at the beginning of February. I meant to post photos sooner, but somehow it's already the end of the month... Actually, I know exactly how it happened. Revisions. But they're almost done!

Now back to my hole where I'm revising furiously... 

Two Progress Reports: Book Revisions and Post-Chemo Hair

My Pirate Vishnu book revisions and my post-chemo hair growth have something in common: they're both going strong, but also taking longer than I'd hoped!

My subconscious solved one of the biggest remaining problems in the book, so I can tell I'm almost there, but I've gotta put in the time to get there. To that end, I'm keeping this short so I can head back to the cafe to keep writing.

I've never had hair this short, so I'm glad I decided take regular photos of my hair as it grows out. The curls are getting long enough that hair gel tames them a bit, so I no longer have to rely on hats!

Post-Chemo Haircut Photos: Weeks 9, 10, 11

Life got away from me after the release of my first mystery one month ago. It was one of those months that felt simultaneously like it went by in a flash and that it was endless. I posted about fun book news, but didn't step back and upload my post-chemo hair photos, though I continued to take them each week. Below are the last three week's worth of photo of my hair growing out.

Post-chemo hair, week 9.

Post-chemo hair, week 10.

Post-chemo hair, week 11.
My curls are coming back, so the hair is starting to get crazy. I've got wax it in to keep it from being completely mad-scientist-esque, but the curls are starting to stand their ground! The guy I bought coffee from today said I had artist hair, which sounded about right.

One Crazy Week

Artifact poster in a bookstore window.
Somehow it's been over a week since Artifact went on sale. You'd think it was more work to *write* the book, and yes, to some extent that's quite true. But it turns out it's true that publicity is important to help people find the book, so I've been busy attending to opportunities that arise.

Today, I'm featured on Jenny Milchman's "Made It Moments" blog. Jenny is a mystery author whose first novel, Cover of Snow, debuts in 2013. For years, she's had a feature on her blog where she invites authors to share the story of when they feel like they've "made it" as an author. I used to think the answer would be when your book is published, but that's not generally what authors choose as their moment! It's not what I chose either.

It's really fun, and slightly surreal, so be hearing from mystery fans who already read the book. And it was cool to see this review of Artifact that appeared in ForeWord Reviews magazine. The most interesting thing is to hear the specifics of what different people think--the book is no longer mine alone, but a freestanding entity.

Post-chemo hair, week 8.
I'm getting ready for my book launch party at A Great Good Place for Books this weekend (there's a photo above of an Artifact poster in the window of the bookstore), and in the meantime of course it's a busy week at work so I can't take time off! But that's what coffee is for....

Lastly, so I don't slack off taking photos of my hair as it grows out, here's this week's photo. For the first time since it's been growing back, it's long enough that I feel the hair resting on my forehead. But at the same time, I'm also finally getting used to having short hair! Who knows if I'll decide to keep it.


Goodreads and Good Hair (post-chemo hair: weeks 5, 6, and 7)

I know, I know. I slacked off posting weekly photos of my hair. It's not that I didn't remember to take photos each week. It's because it turns out there's so much work to do with a book release that I didn't think about downloading and posting the photos! I also didn't remember to publicize a last chance for members of Goodreads to win an Advance Reader Copy of Artifact.

So below, good hair and a Goodreads giveaway:

I got a new haircut! Yes, I'm growing out my hair, but it was getting so scraggly and unruly that it needed a clean-up. I still don't think I quite look like myself, but I think it's kind of cute. I suspect it's going to be one of the great ironies of life that as soon as my hair has grown back out to how long it was before cancer, I'll finally have stopped thinking of myself as a long-haired person. 

Post-chemo hair, week 7.

Post-chemo hair, weeks 5 and 6.

Are you on Goodreads? Through Monday, August 27 (the day before Artifact is officially on sale), you can enter to win one of five signed ARCs:


The Haircut: Week 3 / Plus a Note About Comments

This week was a tipping point. My post-chemo hair growth became long enough that I can no longer spike it straight up. When I try to do so, it looks rather like a pathetic attempt at a mohawk. Not an awesome mohawk, mind you. Just a sad little silly one.

Instead, I'm going to see if taming my curls downward works. Here's my first shot. It'll be interesting to see how long it takes my curls to rebel.

I previously blogged about my inadvertent sociological experiment that took place during chemo, in which different wigs received vastly different responses from the people I interacted with. This continues to be the case with short hair! More than any other change of appearance I've ever had, hair changes the way strangers interact with me.

I'm not sure if it's these thrilling posts about my hair that are increasing the number of people reading the blog (kidding, I know it's the how-to posts), but I've started to receive SPAM comments that I've had to delete. Therefore I've changed the settings and comments will only appear once I've had a chance to approve them.


The Haircut: Week 2

Last week I began a weekly ritual: taking a photo of my hair once a week as it grows out after chemotherapy. This way I'll be able to remember what it looks like at different lengths, so I can decide how long I'd like to keep it.

I'm much better at sticking to things if I declare publicly that I'm going to do them. Much like participating in NaNoWriMo pretty much ensures I'll complete a 50,000-word draft of a novel within a month, and starting Gargoyle Girl got me to sort through years of gargoyle and other mysterious photographs, promising to take a weekly photo of my post-cancer hair means I have to do it—even if I've got a bit of Alfalfa hair going on like I do right here.

One Year Later: The Post-Cancer Recap

Last week was the one year anniversary of when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. What a year! I never expected so many of the things that happened this year:
  • Getting cancer in my 30s.
  • Going through chemo, which sucked but also had the wonderful side effect of bringing out the best in my husband and friends.
  • Deciding to stop waiting for my agent to hear from publishers and instead form my own imprint and publish my first book myself.
  • The support of so many people regarding my controversial decision.
  • Feeling healthier than I ever have in my life. 
  • Eating a diet that's pretty close to vegan. This is after previously being someone who prided myself on my ability to try any food, anywhere. I never expected it, but food tastes more amazing than ever.
  • Finding myself completely comfortable with hospitals and needles. 
  • Having short hair—and thinking that it doesn't actually look so bad!
Regarding that last point, after the first inch grew back thin and straight, my hair is now growing back as fierce and curly as ever. In the picture above, you can see my short cut is starting to curl at the edges. That picture was taken a little over a week ago, and it's already visibly longer. I'm stealing an idea from a friend and am going to take a photo of myself each week as my hair grows out, so I can decide what length I like best. As long as I don't look too ridiculous—and those curls will start to look silly—I'll share the photos here. Okay, okay, I'll post photos here regardless. But I don't promise that I won't sometimes be wearing a cute hat.

And how did I fare with my New Year's Resolutions that I came up with right as I finished up chemo and began radiation? I stuck to the important ones (my first mystery novel is coming out at the end of August, I'm working on other fun writing projects, and I'm cooking delicious healthy food) but I failed in a few ways that surprised me:

It's true. Hell has frozen over. And look outside your window; you'll see some pigs flying. Yup, I'm now on Facebook. With my first book coming out in less than two months, I set up an author page (not a personal one). I haven't yet decided what I think of it, but I'm around, so you can find me there.

I wanted to practice my French, but I haven't spoken a word of French since 2012 began. Okay, maybe three words. Or thirty. But I didn't start a new French language course. It turns out it's so much work to be one's own publisher. (More on that next week.) Getting my book ready for publication didn't leave me with much free time. I also didn't keep a sketchbook, or keep up with this blog as much as I would have liked. I did keep a notebook of notes, and I see I've got lots to blog about, so that's one thing that'll be easy to do more of. But French? I apologize in advance to the French, whose language I will slaughter when I visit France this fall after my last cancer treatments are complete.

This year has taught me that it's true you can never know what will happen in your life—but you can be prepared. Having wonderful people in my life got me through this year, and I know now that I can get through anything.


Birthday Weekend and a New Haircut

Writing in a hotel suite overlooking the bay in Oakland.
The long weekend I gave myself to celebrate my birthday is almost over, but I packed in a heck of a lot. This is looking to be a great year.

Mini writing retreat—check.

Dinner party after writing all day—check.

Dinner at delicious San Francisco Mexican restaurant Gracias Madre—check.

Happy hour with old friends at Gather in Berkeley—check.

With pals at Gather in Berkeley.
Taking the day off on Monday to have fun and be productive—half-check. I had a great day, but didn't write much (though I solved a plot problem). I tried updating my website, but found I was in over my head with things I wanted to do beyond simple HTML (I'm thinking of switching to WordPress).  

I've still got a really long list of things to do for my novel coming out in a little over three months, but I'm looking at my list in a new way. Rather than worrying about how daunting it is, I'm back to having fun with the journey.

Relaxing after a long day of writing.

And...I'm sporting a new haircut! I didn't believe this haircut would work on me until I listened to the sage advice to buy conditioning shampoo. Turns out curly hair needs love even when it's this short! The next time you see me, I'll look like this: