A-Z of Blogging: H is for Hair #AtoZChallenge
26 posts. 26 days. 26 letters of the alphabet, one blog post beginning with each letter.
H is for Hair
I started this blog a few years after my breast cancer diagnosis and at the time I went through treatment I didn’t keep a diary. It means that I have very few pieces of writing about the experience.
However, I do have one piece that I wrote at a writing class at the cancer support center I attended. Reading it again today I have such a visceral reaction to the memory that I can’t help but put my hands on my head to make sure I still have hair on it!
“Hair today… gone tomorrow.”
Ten days after the first dose of chemotherapy, it starts coming out.
It is New Year’s Eve 2004 and I am in the shower washing my hair, getting ready for the night ahead and although I am expecting it to happen, I am not quite ready for the shock of chunks of hair coming away in my hands as I shampoo.
It’s alright, I keep telling myself but it’s just that it all seems so real now – such a visual reminder – no denying that I am sick now…
It’s not about vanity.
It’s about holding onto your identity, your normality, your sense of who are.
in the past, my hair had always been the bane of my life and I waged daily battles with it- it was too fine, too flyaway, too ordinary, but ah! I didn’t know the beauty of ordinary then…
It is easier to mourn the loss of hair in one sharp shock than to do it on a daily basis. A fact I wish I had realised at the time with my rapidly diminishing sparse hairs hanging on for dear life.
I am like a shaggy dog shedding hair everywhere I go. I leave a trail behind me – on the floor, my clothes, cushions – the pillows when I wake up in the morning are covered and it is in my mouth, Who knew I had so much hair?
Then three weeks later it is almost all gone, except for a few random wispy clumps. I stand in front of the mirror and see… my grandfather staring back at me, an old man, with greying skin and wispy bits of hair…
It is January and I am not prepared for how cold it is without hair – now I know why bald men wear baseball caps – it isn’t just a style thing. It’s bloody cold without hair on your head.
I wear my woolly hat all the time indoors, even in bed…. waking up to find the inside of the hat covered in yes, yet more hair.
I decide to buy a wig – something I had been determined I didn’t need but now I want one. I know what I want and I won’t be put off my task of finding the longest, blondest, sexiest wig I can find – the shop assistant keeps asking me what my hair had been like before and assuring me I could get a wig to match it and no one would know the difference. Well, what’s the point in that?! As I already said my hair was nothing remarkable to begin with and now here is the perfect opportunity to be different.
I look through the rows of expressionless mannequin heads – at straight, curled, long, short, blacks, reds, browns.
And there it is….the long blonde hair of the shampoo adverts – I try it on and really want to flick it like they do in those ads but I’m afraid it will fall off my head if I do? The assistant assures me it won’t but still, I won’t risk it.
The wig looks fantastic and I feel transformed – it is hideously expensive but I think of all the money I will be saving on hair cuts and highlighting over the next year. I buy it and wear it out of the shop, like a new pair of shoes.
I know many women wear their wigs every day throughout their treatment, but I decide to keep mine for special occasions– it is like an alter ego. I release my inner blonde and watch my confidence soar. The fact that it is the winter months makes the wig a cozy alternative to a hat although I do wear a furry hat sometimes – very Julie Christie in Dr Zhivago. And after a few embarrassing mishaps, I quickly learn the subtle art of removing a hat without taking the hair underneath with it.
I can’t imagine wearing my wig in the summer months though because wigs are so incredibly hot, a fact I discovered in the overheated stores when I often have to give in and pop to the bathroom exchanging my wig for a scarf. Sometimes it does become tiresome all that popping into lavatories exchanging scarves for wigs and wigs for scarves. My public lavatory routine now includes, hanging my wig on the hook of the toilet door, giving it a good brush out, and giving my itchy scalp a good scratch, before facing the world again.
Then at last…at last… my hair begins slowly to grow back. I check its progress each day and then one day I just do it – I abandon the protective scarf and face the world with my newly sprouted short crop of hair. It feels incredibly liberating and another visual sign…. this time one of healing and getting better..of having come so far over the past year.
It is now black (a colour I didn’t even sport in any of my previous incarnations via the dye bottle) but it is really mostly grey and showing signs of turning into the thick crop of curls known in cancer circles as the chemo curl. People pay fortunes to get their hair looking like this, I’m told – usually by girls with enviably straight hair. But then what is worse, I ask myself, a bad case of style or cancer? I think I know the answer to that one!
I wasn’t so much bothered by the loss of hair on my head, after all I saved sooooo much time by not having to mess with it every morning, but losing my eyebrows was so very traumatic. Nearly two years after chemo, they still aren’t truly back. Weird how certain things take on so much more meaning. Love and light to you today!!
As you know….the hair thing was SO hard for me. My hair regrowth timeline gets the most hits of any on my blog. Really enjoying your A-Z.
Thanks Abigail and Kimberly for your comments. I am always struck by how individual our reactions are to different aspects of cancer treatment. We truly are unique.
How brave you are to post a photo of yourself without hair, Marie – I know from other friends that losing all one’s hair is one of the most difficult effects of chemo. I lost about 2/3 of mine after one cycle of FEC (aptly named!!) – but the other side effects were so bad that I refused further chemo, so I never went completely bald. And when the hair returned, it was curly underneath the top layer, which gave me what looked a bit like a bouffant-style hairdo!!
I am smiling at the mental image I now have of a bouffant hairdo on you Julia 🙂 For me losing my hair wasn’t the worst aspect of treatment but I know that it is a big trauma for others.