So I’d like to have a frank conversation about hair. I’m not talking about hair generally but about my own hair and my relationship with my own hair. It’s an important topic not least because it is part of your character and can (maybe judgementally at times) say a lot about you without you even knowing the person. It can define and depict your: image, status, confidence levels (hiding behind), political views, personality and so on. So to have that freedom of choice of how you wear your hair stripped from you is just shit – to put it bluntly.
Hair loss is the biggest fear people have before undertaking chemo mainly because without hair you do not look like you anymore and is an instantaneous reminder not just to you but now to everyone that you have ‘The Big C’! And of course it’s not just the hair on your head you loose. You can loose your eyebrows and eyelashes (which structure your face) and you are certain to loose all other body hair (yay no waxing at least – every cloud 🤣).
I’ll of course keep you posted in future blogs and via my chemo diary, but at the moment here’s my breakdown of unknown questions regarding hair loss:
Potential negative unknowns ☹️:
- Will hair loss negatively impact my mental health?
- Will it negatively affect my confidence levels?
- Will I turn paranoid?
- Will I drive Will mad asking if I look ok all the time?
- Will I scare the kids?
Potential positive unknowns 😁:
- Will I clog up the plug hole with hair? Not likely 🤣
- Will I become amazing at applying makeup, to the point where I look better on chemo?
- Will it make me appreciate and look after the small amount of hair that may remain?
- Will I actually grow to love my bald head so much that I keep it that way after chemo?
Potential ‘either way’ unknowns 🤔:
- What reactions will I receive from the public?
- Will the public even care?
From the early beginnings
From the classic bowl haircut of the 80’s to the Rachel cut of the 90’s, I’ve certainly had my share of short and long hair doos. Certainly when I was old enough to choose my own hair style I’d be pretty rubbish at deciding how to have my hair cut at the salon. I’d often go from long to quite short as my hair would annoy me so much. There’d be many a nervous hairdresser cutting several inches off as I looked on nonplussed. My hair grows quickly so my take on it was that it’ll always grow back if I hate it. But more than that I was never that bothered about my hair to care. I hated having a fringe and I hated having my hair in my face, so I often wore it up in a ponytail. Will I keep my hair short after chemo? Who knows we’ll see 😬.
Braving the Shave
So to take back some control I decided to shave my hair off before the chemo takes hold. Psychologically this was massively important to me. When you are diagnosed with cancer there’s very little that is within your control. So for me this was a crucial part of both acceptance of where I’d come from and my journey so far and remaining defiant at my half-way mark by sticking two-fingers up to the Big C 🖕. I’m writing this post, post shave and I’d like to say a huge thank you to all those who have sponsored me so far. The response has been quite overwhelming.
Most people have heard of the amazing charity Macmillan but I wasn’t aware of their ‘Brave the shave‘ campaign until Will and I saw their advertisement on tv. It was an instant decision for me and almost took the fear of losing my hair away as I’d be the one shaving it off! So the next day I signed up online and with 4 weeks until the ‘shave’ on 10th August there was no going back 😬.
I picked the 10th August mainly because we were on a family holiday and I knew they’d be plenty of people who’d want a go at chopping my hair off! It was very liberating but surprisingly quite emotional. I was relieved in the end that I didn’t look like a total plonker with short hair.
I’m tantalising close to hitting my sponsorship target. Thank you so much to everyone who has donated.
Hair loss workshop
I went to an amazing hair loss workshop this week at the Robert Ogden Centre at St James’ Hospital, Leeds ran by Macmillan. The ladies told us about what to expect when we loose our hair and how it’s likely grow back. They also provide advice on how to look after your scalp and they let you try in their wigs and head gear.
Here’s what I learnt about hair and what chemo does to it:
- Each individual hair follicle has its own muscle which helps prop up the hair and is responsible for how straight or curly you hair is. The floppier the muscle the more wavey the hair is as kinks are created when the hair is pushed up through the scalp.
- Chemo attacks the fast growing cells which form within the individual muscles. The muscles subside and flop to the side as a result of the chemo and the hair follicle will just let go taking the hair strand with it.
- The hair root is not effected or damaged as a result of chemo
- If exercising you will have limited barriers to prevent sweat getting in you eyes. Hair on your head and in particular your eyebrows are normally enough to stop the sweat. Putting a bit of vaseline above your eye sockets helps divert the flow. I personally might do an Andre Agassi and buy a chunky 80s headband and rock the egg head look 🤣. But most likely I’ll be wearing the faithful buff – which has seen me through many a physical challenge.
How worried am I about it? Less so now. The hair loss and makeup workshops boosted my confidence in being able to deal with hair loss through better use of applying makeup. I’ve also now completed the Brave the Shave which was incredibly liberating. Are the kids bothered? Elsie couldn’t care less and Archie quite likes my spiky head 🤣. Is Will bothered? He does like my hair short, but being totally bald is new to all of us. Even with the amazing support and feeling prepared my hair has never dropped out before so I am walking into unknown territory.
Two and half weeks after chemo and the hair on my head hasn’t fallen out yet but it’s only a matter of time. I can gently pull on it and it very easily comes out. My arms and legs are now very smooth and my pubic hair is clinging on for dear life 🤣.
I’ll keep you posted on my hair loss via my chemo diary and will do a future blog on my new daily beauty routine 😉.
What I will say is to those lucky people with hair – love it, look after it, shake it, talk to it. It’s part of you. Do not take it for granted. In the great words of Joni “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”. And to those without? You’re beautiful 😘.
Liz Spice, 1st Sept 2017