Unsinkable Jo

I miss the phone call by one ring and look down to see that Jordan was the caller. When I pickup the voicemail, the commentary is immediate. No “hello” or useless pleasantries.

–Dad, when I lose my hair my friend says I should use your clippers to shave it off, so I’ll make a deal with you. I will shave my head if you will shave your face. Love, your daughter, Jordan.

Now, for a bit of background. In two days, Jordan begins chemotherapy. The protocol includes drugs she hasn’t had before, and it is extremely likely that one of the drugs will cause her to lose her hair. In the past, we were advised that she might lose some hair, but this time the team told us that it would be a complete fluke if she didn’t lose nearly all of it. So, we’ve prepared her for what’s sure to come. She has handled it surprisingly well. As proof, re-read the first few words of her message to me. “Dad, when I lose my hair…” She doesn’t say “if” anymore.

Her “friend” is a counselor who has been working with her to prepare for the next phase of treatment. She explained to Jordan that a lot of times the hair doesn’t fall out all at once. It often separates from the scalp in clumps. She told her that a lot of kids choose to use clippers to trim it all off when the clumps start falling. When Jordan says “shave” she really means that she wants to use my clippers.

And the last bit of explanation has to do with my grooming habits. I hate shaving so I often let the stubble grow. I can’t seem to grow much of a real beard, so I use the clippers to keep myself in a steady state of inbetweeness. Jordan has never been a fan of this look.

–You just don’t look like you, Dad, she tells me.

She doesn’t like it when she “gives me sugar”–her favorite way to describe the way she kisses me on the cheek. This explains her simple proposal. If she uses the clippers to trim her hair when chemo sets in, I have to properly shave my face. I call her back immediately to accept her terms. I also start shaving immediately as a gesture of goodwill. I am rewarded by a frequent stream of sugary cheek pecks.

Our family is apprehensive about Thursday. This will be the first of two infusions spaced roughly three weeks apart. She’ll spend the day in the outpatient clinic while they monitor her progress. The drugs will probably make her nauseous and we expect that her white blood cell counts will drop dramatically within a few days. For this reason, she may not start school with the rest of her class in a couple of weeks.

I suppose there is no good time to start chemo, but if you can let your mind consider such an idea, this week is perfect. Jordan is coming off of a summer high point. She returned from camp a little over a week ago looking sun-kissed and rosy. She passed her swimming test and spun tales of camp shenanigans for days. As if that wasn’t enough, she celebrated her birthday last weekend. Her Aunt Lisa and Uncle Ricky flew down from Oregon to help her toast 12 years. They ventured to Disneyland on Saturday with one of Jordan’s great friends, and then we feasted on El Cholo Sunday afternoon. To top it all off, she received an iPad as her main present. We conspired with several friends and family members to buy it for her. She was completely surprised and summarily described it as, “the best birthday present EVER.”

Seizures have come and gone, but she is mostly riding on the fumes of good health and a great attitude. This is the happiest and the most vivacious I’ve seen her in years. So, in that sense, it is a great time to begin a new regimen. She has her own indomitable spirit on her side. And if I have to make a deal with her now and then to sustain her momentum, so be it.