Breast cancer lesson number 62: How to bear losing your hair

Today was supposed to be a quiet day. Working at home with just a cup of tea for company, the day was there to be filled with sunshine and strategic thinking. Turns out cancer had other ideas. Today is a day I will never forget.

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I thought hair loss would be a gradual thing. There is, however, nothing gradual about scratching your head while pondering over a paragraph of text, only to be greeted by a clump of the stuff. And we certainly won’t be dwelling on what happened when I went to the toilet.

I thought I would find it amusing in some way. After all, while I had started to think it might never happen, I knew deep down it always would. I thought I was prepared for the emotions that came with it. But, the truth is, you can never really prepare for something like this. When hair you have known and loved is no longer on your head, but in your hand, there’s only one thing to do – have a good old cry.

As soon as the tears subsided, it was time to get practical. My hair (or what’s left of it) is too short to donate (if you’re about to go through this and have more than 17cm of hair, I would urge you to follow in the footsteps of this inspiring young woman Connie, who has just donated some bunches to charity). But, given I am not one to sit around waiting for something to happen (and I certainly don’t want to clog up the sink), I have already made my decision. It’s time to take back the control. It’s coming off, at 12.20pm tomorrow!

So, what started out as a quiet day at home is now the last day pixie and I will be together for quite some time. I think the hardest part is knowing that my hair may never be the same again. I’m not afraid to lose it (although there are a few marks on my head I am not particularly excited to see). I’m just worried that what grows back may be a new version of me that I may not like straight away. It may be better. It will probably be different. It’s an adjustment I never thought I’d have to make. And, now I am staring at a spring/summer season of baldness, part of me wishes I could just grab it from the sink and stick it back on. I’ve done the scarf shopping. I just didn’t really think I’d need to wear the scarf.

Every side effect that suddenly appears is a rather harsh reminder that, while on active treatment, you can’t get comfortable. You have to be prepared. Because, if you’re not, something will creep up and try to steal your happiness when you least expect it.

Tomorrow is head shaving day. Tomorrow I lose a little bit more of myself to cancer. Tomorrow is the day I may also be introducing my alter ego Suzie to the world (or not, so will be packing some fabric-based alternatives just in case).

Of one thing I am certain. With a trip to the office scheduled for the afternoon, tomorrow is going to be interesting! Wish me luck.

Think Duncan and I might be raising a glass to my mousey locks tonight! 

3 comments

  1. I feel for you! I too thought I’d somehow escape the wholesale loss of hair, but as soon as it started to really fall out everywhere, I got it shaved. You’ll be amazed how fast the process is! I thought it would take 15 minutes, when it took less than two, including all the fancy shaver manoeuvres. The good thing was, it was too fast to even have a cry! I predict you will sail through it.

    Take a couple of scarce with you so you have a choice, and I’ll bet everyone at your office will want to see the scarf off anyway. Maybe give yourself permission to skip the office visit in case the shave-off is too emotional.

    Best of luck that it doesn’t hit you too hard. Everyone told me “Don’t worry, it grows back!” but I’ve been bald for months and I’m still not used to it.

    Take your time, Jackie.

    xo another Jackie!

  2. I know what you’re feeling all too well. For me, it was harder losing my hair than my breasts. It held on for a long time, but the taxol did me in. I wasn’t brave enough to go around bald; I just didn’t want the stares of pity, even though I’m sure my bandana wasn’t much better. It made me feel more comfortable. Give yourself permission to grieve; this is a big deal for a woman.

    1. Thanks both for your kind words. They gave me a real boost as I travelled to the hairdresser. Looking back, I think Tuesday was the hardest part. When you lose control and things start to fall out, it’s difficult to know how to react. I may have less hair than my fiancee now, but I feel happy! Your support means a lot to me. Have a lovely day, J x

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