Breast cancer lesson number 60: Get your head in gear (but only with accessories that suit your face shape)

I have a head for hats. This rather exciting discovery, made in a hospital consulting room of all places only a few days ago, is not one I think I would have ever made if it hadn’t been for a bit of chemotherapy-induced hair loss.

I think it’s fair to conclude ­– especially after revealing my current choice of underwear in lesson number 59 – that I am not a fashionable woman. Yes, I have followed some basic styling rules in recent years, I keep to my ‘summer’ colours and now own such things as matching accessories (I even have a copy of the What Not to Wear rulebook somewhere). But, it took me about 26 years to realise that I don’t look good in black and that necklaces aren’t just for special occasions. You wouldn’t believe I used to write a blog for a model!

It will come as no surprise for you to learn then that I have always been pretty unadventurous in the headwear department. Apart from a regular haircut (that has only recently developed into something other than a bob), my head usually gets treated to a bobble hat on Bonfire night and then a series of fluffy numbers throughout the winter months. And, if it’s very lucky, the occasional swimming cap (although I think my open water swimming days might be on hold for some time).

Faced with a spring/summer season of baldness, I jumped at the chance to attend a Headstrong session. Set up by Breast Cancer Care (although I think anyone undergoing cancer treatment can book one), these sessions are designed to help people make confident choices about everything from hats and headbands to scarves and hair accessories. Beyond the odd bit of fake fringe, the emphasis is less on hair (by which I mean wigs), and more on the fabrics and styles to help turn hair loss into a fashion statement.

I wasn’t sure what to expect as I loitered in the Cancer Day Unit waiting room. I certainly didn’t expect Breast Cancer Care’s answer to Trinny and Susannah and one of the most enjoyable experiences of my entire cancer journey so far. Armed with a cup of tea (naturally), I sat back in front of the mirror as two wonderful ladies tied knots on and around my head and dressed me in blue florals, leopardprint and velvet bows. We started with headscarves (I got a beautiful pink and white polka dot one with matching grey headtie to take home as a free gift), before moving on to scarves with hidden caps underneath, turbans, berets, beanies, soft hats, sleep caps, baker boy caps, bucket hats and pearl-effect hairbands. We covered all the seasons in about half an hour.

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The whole appointment was an entertaining voyage of discovery. For example, I learned that a wig cap is nothing more than a popsock for your head. I had visions of it being more a like a latex swimming cap, but no! I now know I look like a gnome in a turban and a milk maid in an eyelet scarf. Baker boy caps and bucket hats are a must for the summer and, when I put a Mandy hat on (one of my favourites), I look like an extra in a Poirot movie. Basically, I was just born in the wrong decade. And, it’s amazing what a thin headtie can do to dress a short pixie hairdo.

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With a couple of summer hats and headties on order – to add to my small pile of scarves and soft hats – I think I am ready for SS14. Maybe this will be my summer of style (if we ignore the fact I am highly likely to be bald for most of it).

Please don’t think I am cheating on Suzie (see lesson 57) by stocking up on soft fabrics and straw bucket hats. But part of me just thinks if I’m going to lose the lot, why try and cover it up with an acrylic equivalent (other than for relevant meetings of course)?

So, if you’re about to embark on chemo and would like a whistlestop tour through the wonderful world of scull caps, jersey turbans and faux fur hats, I would book a Headstrong session as soon as you can – and certainly before you start shopping.

Cancer may be going after my hair (or so my hairbrush tells me), but it’s not going to take my confidence with it!

3 comments

  1. Jackie, you look great in the polkadot scarf, and the head tie too. Headstrong sounds like a great organization. I have a wig, and plenty of hand knit winter caps, but I need to be looking into scarves because I think we had the last snow of the season this week. I’m meeting my radiologist tomorrow, and at that hospital there’s a wig and scarf boutique. I had no intention of going there, but after reading your post, I think I might wander in!

    1. I would definitely do it! I don’t know about you, but I always gravitate towards the styles I think will suit me. By having the chance to experiment, I saw a new side to myself (quite literally) and I liked it. Good luck choosing – and at the radiologist. J x

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