cancer hair



Growing your hair back from scratch is like carrying the cutest, rarest pet with you at all times. That lives on your head.

I think of this new growth as fur not hair at all. It has this minky colour, which is more blonde-y, grey-y , brown-y (it’s mink, that is the colour I just tried to describe-y) than I’m used it being. It’s short and thick and sooooooo soft, like a pelt of fur. I may be hunted and skinned at any moment.

I croon to my hair and rub my hands over and over, my now not bald scalp. Like my own personal talisman. A., so he tells me, gently runs his fingers over it while I’m sleeping. I don’t know how it feels to watch the person you love change from so many different extremes (I hope I never get to find out), but I’m sure I’d be pleased when they got their hair back too.

Some of my work colleges only met me for the first time as a bald, moon-faced creature. I didn’t have eyelashes at the time! I find it extraordinary that in 2 months I’ve grown approx. 1 cm of hair and more eyelashes than I have patience to count. The fact that I don’t feel I have the time to count my eyelashes, should tell you how drastically my life has changed again in the last few months.

People want to and like to touch my head, it looks so much like a velvet cap. I think it’s difficult not to want to stroke it. You see? Pet on my head. When I meet up with people after time a part, I automatically lean in so they can pat me. That’s weird right? I’m pretty sure I’ll stop this soon.

The touching of my head by others, often without permission, took no time for me to get used to. I was going to write that it feels weird and like a strange invasion of personal space but stroking my hair comforts and fascinates me, so I assume it does others too. It’s such a joyous time. I’m happy for people to share my joy.

I guess this may be how heavily pregnant women feel, though I read most women aren’t so into randoms touching their bellies. Are bellies more intimate than heads? Perhaps as you are growing a person not just hair….

As I’ve been told quite recently that conceiving a baby is not likely (we’ve got 2 chances and about a 20% success rate, each time); this is perhaps the only time people will feel able to randomly croon while patting a part of me, so feel I should embrace it.

See what I did there? I got all serious in a pithy piece about hair. I’m not sure how I feel about this information yet. It’s pretty fresh but obviously my subconscious it interested in discussing it.

So, so I went to see a specialist, who told me the news. I got pretty choked up, more from shock than anything. My first thought was; this would be so much worse if I’d always wanted children, if I couldn’t imagine my life without kids, I would be devastated right now but I’m not sure I do and I totally can, so just breath. Then I told A. and he took me in to work. I’ve not, we’ve not, had much time to unpack this whole thing yet.

I’m angry it’s another area of my life that I don’t get to control anymore. I’ve observed, even in the short amount of time since receiving the news, that people assume you want or are able to have children. I’m not surprised or feeling particularly outraged by that assumption but truth be told A. and I are some what ambivalent.

We also feel we are in the middle of a battle that hasn’t ended yet and finding this out is like losing a squadron. It’s not nothing but we have to concentrate on the whole battlefield at present. We can mourn later if that’s what we choose to do.

A. has been showing me pictures from magazines of older couples with lovely homes and wonderful bear sized dogs; he says that they look happy. They do look happy. We are very happy at the moment too and as we are ‘living in the moment’, I think I’m as fine as I can be.

Besides I get to carry around a pelt of fur, on my head, like a pet – not everyone gets to know what that feels like.


It may be winter outside….

But in my heart (and on my head) it’s spring!

While I spent the summer complaining how uncomfortable and resentful I was, going through Chemo in the hotter months. I’m glad I am not just starting to lose my hair now, it sure is chilly on the ol’ noggin these days… Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure, whichever season I started chemo, I’d find reason to grumble about it. Chemo is just a very grumbly time.

So the leaves are falling, the fog is rolling and the temperature is plummeting and a mini renaissance has taken hold of my body. While it may not be as beautiful as the first crocuses of spring, the velvety fuzz covering my head is as welcome a sight. I wake up each day to new growth. It’s a very funny experience growing your hair from scratch, I will it longer as I brush my teeth each morning. Don’t tell anyone but I’ve started to shampoo and condition it, a bit of a conceit as it’s barely an a mm long. I want it to know it’s welcome and greet it with love. I shall never take it for granted again. I sport it as proudly as Rapunzel must have.

I’m finding it oddly ironic however, that in amongst this re-birth of Polly, I’m spending more time than ever at the hospital. Every weekday morning at a stupidly earlier hour, A. and I drag our weary bones to the Radiography / Oncology department where I am stripped, prodded and zapped with lasers. I imagine it is somewhat like an alien abduction feels like, just prior to the anal probe….. Bright lights, cold hands and strange crackling machines. It certainly feels alien at 8am on a weekday morning. Not that it would be ‘par for the course’ on a weekend, you understand.

What with all the stripping and all the strange hands on my breasts. It feels a bit like being newly diagnosed again and as I’m barely polite before 9am, it’s a job in itself not to slap these hands away. Being physically restrained helps, my arms are held in a position above my head by a device, I’m inaccurately going to describe as hand stirrups.

3 pinpoint tattoos are meant to guide the radiographers to the exact areas they need to zap, though I do seem to end up with a lot of red pen on me anyway. 15 minutes later I’m back on the streets, slightly bleary and destined to spend the rest of the day rubbing fridge cold Aloe Vera gel onto my skin in an effort to dissuade laser burn. A. rather evilly finds my cold gel dance unproportionately amusing.

We’re certainly living the dream at the moment.

People have been asking me since I began treatments last week if I’ve noticed the fatigue but I worked a 61 hour week last week. Between that and the early morning appointments, I can’t really tell. Roll on the 23rd of December I say, when I’ll be treatment free. Just in time for Christmas. Which is probably why I’m so ridiculously excited by the holiday season this year. Buying an advent calendar for the first to in years. There just seems so much to celebrate!

So should you see a fuzzy headed women, skipping about town, decking the halls, mulling some wine and indulging in a mince pie or two. Please don’t begrudge her the christmas album she’s playing on repeat. It could be me counting down the days until this disease and it’s treatment are behind me. Spare a thought for A. too who is charged with trying to reign me in!


Hair Today……

I could have called this post a million other things but I had to go with a cliche because hair loss and Chemo seems to be the biggest cliche there is.

A few days ago, I went out for the night, mainly because I still have hair. I wanted to celebrate this fact and the fact that I was feeling like a human again. Going out because I still have hair, just another in a long list of things I never thought I’d be doing.

I wake up everyday and look at my pillow expecting the worst. It’s like the reverse of Christmas mornings of my childhood. I’m not really sure what I’m expecting. I think it may be like those cartoon characters, who when they run away, leave a slow waft of their hair behind them – is that Tom or the Coyote?

I remember Mum traumatising me, by calling me over and then pulling a chunk – and I do me chunk – of hair out of the back of her head. I’m not sure if she found it funny or was just fascinated, probably she was traumatised too. Perhaps it’s a mixture of all three.

I really am going to try hard to be all ‘bald is beautiful’ because there are so many role models out there. But here’s my new theory, you really need eyebrows to pull bald off. I think this is doubly so if you are dark of hair and brows.

Mind you my friends, the lovely and very yummy looking D-W sisters, are so blonde they don’t have brows. I’d never noticed until they brought it up. So hopefully I can take a leaf out of their books.

Here’s the rub, I think you can have no brows and lovely hair or no hair and lovely brows. Both at the same time? I think you may just look like you’re having Chemo.

Don’t get me started on eyelashes, what is a mascara lover meant to do with no lashes? Apparently brows and eyelashes may last a little longer than head hair. I rub coconut oil into them each night; in a bid to keep them happy and attached. i have no basis that this works, none at all. I’ve read nothing on any weird corner of The Net. I just think Coconut Oil cures all ills. I sometimes rub it into my hair as well.

What I wasn’t expecting is how odd my hair feels now, like it’s already a wig or it’s already separating from me. Actually, I’m not sure if this is me separating from it or it from me. It’s probably all in my head (boom boom).

Do you know what really disturbs me? The thought that all my hair will go, ALL my hair. Body, Head and Face. It makes me think of those crazy bald cats or when I used to wash my hamster (which sounds like a euphemism, but it’s not). Though on the plus side in these summer months I can skip about hair free, and I will not need to question why I feel the need to do so.

I have been rocking the Continental armpit look, you aren’t allowed to shave after lymph node removal and I didn’t want to be lope-sided. It certainly saves time and if it’s good enough for Julia Roberts and Madonna…..

I have started to collate an amazing collection of eBay wigs (I’ve gone for ones with big fringes – two birds, one stone) and vintage scarfs. Pa and A. are a little weary that I’ve got eBay wigs, especially the pink and blonde one. Just FYI, Dolly Parton told me (and about 500 others) just last night, that she always wears wigs. I love her a little be more now.

In fact as soon as I finish this I need to make a wig appointment at the hospital. This is life now.


A Day of Firsts

Yesterday was a day of Firsts, the First Time that I’ve cropped my hair – it is now the shortest it’s ever been, by a good few inches. It was a pre-emptive, two stage strike (to put it in vaguely army lingo – at least from the explosion films I’ve been watching).


I’m going to try cold-capping (I have mentioned my vain streak, right?) which I believe will be easier with short hair. Silk pillowcases help too apparently and work with the Princess Vibe I’m going for….

Imagine the trauma, as well as the mess, if cold-capping doesn’t work or I bottle it (it’s deeply unpleasant apparently – a real test of vanity) and I started losing very long hair. I am not the best at brushing my hair anyway, A. is constantly teasing me, my moulting clogs up the vacuum – magnify that to the power of 100! I’m fond of our vacuum.

When this whole thing started, I’d been growing my hair, it had just reached chest length – ironically enough. It was the longest it’s been for at least 10 years. I thought it would take me and others (my Dad mostly) time to get used to shorter hair again. So I’ve cut it in two stages, with an option to buzz-cut later on…..

Incidentally, the above photos are to serve as a public service announcement – I managed to scare the crap out of my Brother in a crowded cafe (where he wasn’t expecting to see me), having neglected to mention I’d had the first cut…. I shall never forget the abject terror on his face, as he tried to place the person hurtling, too fast, towards him.

That first cut was a sort of cropped bob thing, that description does nothing for the actual miracles my haircutter D worked, sorry D. This, turned out to be the emotionally trickier cut. The cruuu-ack, cruuu-ack sound of scissors cutting off my ponytail – not a sound I’d care to hear again.

The second cut, I feared the worst but I actually handled it better. Having had a month to get used to shorter hair and bringing Miss Z along for company helped. Last time I’d sent A. off, as I thought if we made it a big deal, it would be worse. If you’re doing this yourself, take someone, it’s a distraction if nothing else – providing their poker face is up to it.

D.  turned the chair around to face Miss Z, so I was only dimly aware of what was going on. Does anyone else have that thing, when sitting at the hair-dressers, staring at your own face – it just becomes a jumble of features and you can pick out each and every flaw? After 34 years of this, I’m pretty convinced that my eyes are wonky and I have more pores than anyone else, ever.

I feel very grateful that I have D. as well, he’s been cutting my hair for 4 years now, so I trust him.

Yesterday, was also the First Time I noticed how much long, flippy hair is out there – cropped haired females are out gunned by a good 25:1. This could be because I was walking home through prime University real-estate, the Bristol Uni girls always seem to have the fashionable crows nest thing going on, they’re mostly blonde too or ombre (surely this has died a death now, you are not a t-shirt from the 70’s).

My First walk home with cropped hair, was a bit of an eye opener, there I was feeling completely exposed but sort of brave and it turns out I’m invisible. As a long flippy hair person, I found, people generally make room on the Zebra Crossing or the pavement at least, and cars slow down when you cross the road. The world seemed to be drinking the kool-aid of the long flippy hair. D. told me that, it was very rare for people to cut their hair from very long to very short. It’s just not done.

When I was 14, I longed to cut my hair off, just like Winona Ryder but I knew I’d be ostracised for doing so (Mean Girls). That feeling has stayed with me for 20 years. If I hadn’t been pushed, I doubt I’d ever done it.

As a female. there’s a confidence, a self belief you need to cut off your hair. It takes balls and a strong knowledge of who you are. I don’t have that at the moment, who I am changes hourly. So yesterday, armed only in the knowledge of who I was - long, floppy hair person – and who I thought you had to be to rock short hair. I turned myself invisible.

I don’t mind being invisible, especially not at the moment. If I do lose my hair completely, from what I remember from being around mum, invisible is preferable to the stares and the pity.

I hope my sense of self rises from the ashes. I hope I can do the crop proud.

Oh, also, yesterday was the First Time I’d ever come across a rotten egg – argghhhh – I could of gone another 34 years without that. It was the First Time I’d ever discovered yesterday’s pants in my trouser leg too – while out in town no less. I guess I was more nervous than I thought.

I’m actually grateful for these Firsts, it meant yesterday wasn’t all about hair.


Top Five things I’ve discovered, so far, about short hair

Swimming feels amazing.

First time ever my hair looks better now I’ve slept on it.

You can save 10 minutes of drying time (imagine what I can do with that*)

I can now get rid of all hair bands. A. is most pleased about this, my hairbands used to multiply colourfully, all over the flat.

I can spend all the shampoo money on lipstick

* list to come