This post is hard to write—I wrote it when Roots was just an idea. I hope my honesty helps others going through a difficult time. This was my reality and how I felt about it.
I was terrified of the prospect of losing my hair. Most people use their hair as a comfort zone, something to touch and twirl when you feel nervous. I certainly do. Everyone is worried about how their hair looks, getting it coloured, cut and styled, men and women alike. It makes you look and feel so much better. Everybody hides behind their hair and I felt that I had to find my personality quick!
When I started my treatment this was the first thing I was so worried about. We all know that with chemo comes hair loss, but I had no idea how I’d look or feel when it started happening to me. I also wasn’t sure how much hair I’d lose, if I was going to lose my eyebrows and eyelashes or even my leg hair and pubic hair! I wasn’t quite so worried about my leg hair or pubic hair; in fact, it could prove to be both a time and money saver! But this was going to be a new me. Not knowing where to start, I went to see my hairdresser Becky. She knew me and had cut my hair for some time—and she was amazing. She had so much knowledge and suggested where to get a wig sorted knowing I’d need one to make myself feel better about myself.
One of my biggest concerns when starting chemo was the prospect of losing my hair.
Then my treatment started and it all became a reality. Fast forward to my second or third treatment, my hair had already begun to thin and fall out in my hands and hairbrush, and then one morning I woke up with bald patches. Both my hair and my head started to get really painful, something I didn’t expect. It became such an issue that it got to the point that I didn’t want to wash my hair as it hurt too much and I had no idea how much would fall out, clogged the drain and lying there for me to see. I think this is the point most people must get to when you have to make a decision. I decided that I had to shave it off and take full control.
I know it should feel empowering, but actually it hit me in another unexpected way. It meant I really was a cancer patient. I would see it everyday and so would my husband, daughter, family and friends. It was truly, truly real for people to see. Me, no hair, going through chemo. Me with cancer. I did it though, I took control. I can’t remember much of how I felt, I just remember crying. So many tears. It was especially hard when I saw my whole head bald for the first time, I cried and cried. I kept touching it—it was so odd and hard to take. It was my stumbling block. I hated it. I didn’t want to see anyone and refused to go out. I’d simply lost all my confidence. Every time I looked into a mirror, the first thing I saw was cancer.
I had my wigs but they felt wrong and as I was mainly hiding inside at home I started to get a woolly hat fetish. I did try some head scarves, which were great, but my head would get cold and need a cotton hat underneath. I got some lovely wool hats to start off with, and then treated myself a beautiful cashmere hat—a birthday present to myself to keep my head warm at nighttime as this is where you lose the most heat. I was wearing my hats more and more and soon started to think of a new idea. I bought some hair extensions and a got my friend to sew them into the bottom of my hat, giving the impression that there was hair underneath. It was amazing the difference it brought to my confidence. It was the first time I started to feel a little normal and I finally started to go outside a little more. Not a lot more, but more. I did think at one point that I was going to be brave and just walk around with a bald head, but this changed quickly and I knew I just couldn’t. With my hair gone I’d simply lost all my self-esteem.
Every time I looked into a mirror, the first thing I saw was cancer.
I needed to feel better and make this work for me. I decided to go back and see Becky my hairdresser. I found old pictures of myself and she helped me style my wigs to how my hair was before it was shaved. I brought more hair extensions and wigs—made from real hair—along with shampoo and conditioner to keep them shiny and healthy-looking. To be honest, I just found all this a particularly difficult and emotional time. Taking my wigs off at night, brushing and washing them, keeping them on a polystyrene head to style them and keep the shape overnight. Every time I did this I just cried. I never loved my wig. It felt like a wig but looking back I couldn’t have survived without my hat and hair extensions. Which was comfortable and comforting.
As a result of my treatment, my eyes became very watery. The natural thing to do of course was to rub them... but that then started my eyelashes and eyebrows to fall out. To help control this, I brought some RapidLash serum to help them grow back and I was amazed at how well and quickly it worked. I did try fake eyelashes, but the wateriness of my eyes meant they constantly fell off. I also looked at getting my brows tattooed but with blood cancer it wasn’t advised. Looking back maybe I should have done it before my treatment started, but it all happened so quickly I didn’t have time.
Everyday I put coconut oil all over my body and head as this kept it soft and helped stimulate hair growth. I did some research on regrowth shampoo and condition and bought some of the Waterman’s products to try. They worked wonders. I was so thankful to them and truly believe they helped so much.
At first my hair grew back curly and black. So different to my old hair. I looked like I had pubic hair on my head. Never a good look! I was worried I was going to have this look on my legs to, but luckily I didn’t. My hair started to lighten and became wavy, but I did have shorter bits of hair which took longer to grow. I ended up with a weird mullet which is also not a good look! But after a year I started to feel I had my hair under a little bit of control. I still wasn’t allowed to colour it though as it was new, soft and fluffy baby hair. But at least it was my own hair.
When it got to a certain length I went to see Becky again to have it cut into a bob. I think it’s the hardest thing going through something like this and wondering who you’ll be at the end of it. But my hair is now back and is super think and healthy. Same with my eyebrows. So who knew that the good thing about losing them would be that I now have a much fuller set now, and they’re no longer over-plucked! A small silver lining.
Find out more about my wellness routine throughout chemo.