Since my last post, the rate of hair loss has increased. Over three days last week a carrier bag of hair fell out. On Thursday morning, I woke up feeling emboldened and largely recovered from shingles. The scabs had dried over, so before I had a chance to procrastinate I called the hairdresser and booked in for a hair cut that lunchtime. Over the telephone I explained I was having chemotherapy and hence my need for a very short cut, and wanted to book with a hairdresser that would be ok with that. She booked me in on the first available appointment.
Never have I felt so nervous going to a hair appointment, I had butterflies in my stomach and a lump in my throat. When I arrived, as always happens, one of the juniors came over to take my jacket, put a salon robe on me, and then take me to the basins to wash my hair.
“Oh no, my hair’s falling out, I don’t want it washed, thank you.” The poor young woman looked at me a little startled and went off to get me a cup of tea instead.
On Pinterest I’d created a board of great looking pixie cuts. I had high expectations from the examples set by Natalie Portman and Anne Hathaway. I showed the pictures to me hairdresser.
“Oh, you mean really short!”
I had wondered if I’d be ok to watch the cut. It was fine. The hairdresser had lots of experience with customers dealing with chemotherapy or alopecia, so we chatted about hair loss, amongst other things. I also asked her if she’d shave the whole lot off if that day came, and she said she’d be happy to.
My hair tumbled down my shoulders in great clumps and fell to the floor as a new look me was emerging. Goodness, what a huge pile of hair to be swept up.
I didn’t hate what emerged, she’d done a great cut, at least I don’t look like a boy, but I did think I look like me when I was about five years old (with a few added wrinkles).
On the way home I went in to a cafe to have lunch. Nobody fainted with shock on seeing me. Nobody gasped in horror. My new normal was not extraordinary. Phew.
I went home, and was utterly spent, useless for the rest of the day. It was almost as exhausting as hearing I have cancer.
Over the coming days my hair has continued to shed and my scalp is sore as the hair follicles give up. My pillow is covered with hair in the morning and my handheld Dyson has never had so much use as I leave a trail of hair wherever I go. I joked with my niece and nephew about not standing in the wind in case it blew my hair away.
Thank you to everyone who has complimented my new look, it really helps.
This may all read as terribly vain. But look around at the media, what is considered feminine, youthful and desirable now? Long, full hair. Women’s hair is a multi million pound, heavily marketed business. Women have extensions woven and clipped in, to achieve this look. Gail Porter was seen as brave for being bald in public, and Britney Spears labelled crazy when she shaved her head. I’m never been a girly woman, but I’ve always taken pride in my appearance and this change is one I did not choose. I’ve chosen to own this change, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.
And more than that, losing my hair is a constant and highly visible reminder that, try as much as I might, I am not totally in control of what is happening to my body. This is what cancer, and its treatment, do to you.
Preparing for chemotherapy session 2
Whoever thought I’d be glad to be having chemotherapy? I was so frustrated last week to have my chemo delayed, as the sooner I start, the sooner it’s over. But it gave me the chance to enjoy Easter (chocolate!) and I even got out on the bike, which made me super happy.
First thing this morning I was at the hospital for my blood test. Unlike the Imaging Department and their pizza bleepers, for a blood test you take a delicatessen ticket and await your turn.
Then off to Cherry Lodge Cancer Care centre for an acupuncture session. Apparently, it can really help with the nausea, so worth a try. Needles in my feet, legs, tummy and hand. Felt like a pin cushion after the blood test too.
This afternoon I went to Raoul’s in Paddington to choose a wig, accompanied by one of my friends, and we had a great laugh. The NHS fund a certain amount towards a wig (for the Whittington it’s £120, apparently it varies by hospital) but you can top this up. Every customer has a private room, and your wig fitter brings a selection to try on. Some of them looked truly awful and were obviously wigs. Interestingly, the long ones look more fake. In the end, my friend and I agreed that a short wig, like my new cut, was the most flattering and least obvious. Not sure how much I’ll wear it, but I’m glad I have it should I lose a lot more hair.
I’ll persevere with the cold cap tomorrow, although it might hurt more with so much less hair to protect my scalp. And I’ll remember to pack a thin lunch.