In this blog I have talked extensively and intensely as it has been a central part of my cancer journey. As soon as I found out that I was going to undergo chemotherapy, and thus lose my long hair, I decided that it was my chance to try lots of different haircuts. I found a trainee hairdresser called Stuart on gumtree and a bunch of haircuts that I wanted to try out. Then off I went down to Taylor Taylor (www.taylortaylorlondon.com) every two weeks to gradually chop off the hair via trying different hairdos, and this is what happened:
I found the going-for-haircuts-experience extremely therapeutic. Ok, so I am going to lose my hair to chemo, right? well, let me have some fun with it before then! and fun I had.I was too very lucky to find Stuart. I told him from the beginning what was going on and why I was cutting my hair and why I wanted to come back every two weeks to try something different. He seemed unfazed by it all and treated me with complete normality. Since he was at the end of his training we were the perfect match. He was experienced enough to try more risky haircuts and I was happy to be the guinea pig.
The haircuts also gave me some control over cancer treatment and its consequences. In a sense I was not losing my long locks to chemo, but to an array of hair styles I chose to try out. On top of that, on social occasions (read parties, gatherings in the park and trips to the pub) it helped take the attention away from my newly diagnosed breast cancer and onto the hair: “Oh your hair looks great!”… was always the first thing that was said, instead of “Awh, how are you doing?” (often coupled with a sad-puppy-eyed facial expression). It really was a massive help. The change in my life was not just a breast cancer diagnosis, it was also my hair!
But you may wonder, what happened after the haircuts finished and the baldness arrived? I mentioned how I don’t feel comfortable going bald in public. I have been encouraged by friends, but don’t fancy the attention that would come with it. Maybe it has something to do with making that ultimate statement to the world: I am a cancer patient/I have cancer (do not like the expression ‘cancer victim‘). Maybe I am too vain (even if I don’t find myself ugly without hair). Maybe…I could actually come up with so many maybes as to why I do not go bald outside my home. So I chose to wear not a wig, but wigs. Well, I might as well keep on experimenting!
First time I wore a wig out I was so self-conscious I felt that I had the words “Hello world! I am wearing a wig” written across my face. I got on the tube. Whenever I made eye contact with anyone I thought “they can tell I’m wearing a wig…they are thinking ‘look at her wig!…’oh my god she is wearing a wig’… ‘why is she wearing a wig?'”. I felt so faked. And it made me think of these women who happily fake it all: fake tans, nails, boobs, hair (extensions), eyelashes. And how all I was doing was fake the hair, because I had lost to chemo, and yet I felt like a complete cheat. How do these other women do it?
On subsequent trips out the feeling was similar. Extreme uncomfortableness. But the more I went out with the wigs, the more the feeling of self-consciousness lessened. Nick did tell me that I’d get used to it and would stop thinking about it. But at first I really couldn’t see how that would happen! Fast forward 5 months and here I am now, happily walking around with my wigs, not only not thinking about it but not caring t if anyone realises that I am in fact, faking it.
Another thing with the wigs was getting used to “the perfect hair”, and how to dress accordingly. I do often dress myself around the wig that I am wearing, and at some point I was going to document in the blog the looks that I was coming up with (but didn’t carry it through in the end). The bob length dark wig always makes me feel like dressing up with dresses, could be a 60s look or a 20s one…the shoulder length dark one is good with jeans and more for day time wear. The blonde one is perfect now that my lashes and eyebrows are pretty much gone, so I can get away with the Scandinavian look. Being fair-haired also allows me to wear colours that do no look so right with dark hair. Above all, to me this is an example that losing your hair, as traumatic as it can be, it can also give you the chance to play around with the way you look and dress ( the wigs are only £20 a pop! ). But to me it is also a way to feel better. At the moment, I do not look in the mirror much. My eyebrows, which were dark and framed my eyes prior to chemo, are gone (well i think i have about 10 individual hairs on each) and the circles around my eyes are deep and brown in colour. I look like someone who is doing chemo, in a way that I didn’t do before (this chemo is harder on your hair). But when I put my wig on, the make up and a nice outfit I feel so good (specially by comparison) that I truly feel ready to take on the world. It takes very little time and makes you feel healthier and thus more empowered and energised. No surprise then that this charity exists http://www.lookgoodfeelbetter.co.uk.