Breast cancer lesson number 77: What happened when the wig went to town (with me in tow)

Today, I introduced Suzie to the world (for anyone not familiar with my furry wiggy friend, you can find out all about her in lesson number 57).

Image

Suzie did well. I am not sure we will make the best of friends (although I am trying) and I doubt very much that she will be accompanying me on many adventures over the coming months, but for her ability to make me blend in and mask the fact I have toxic drugs flowing through my bloodstream, she does deserve a gold star (or maybe just a nice brush!).

It’s amazing what a bit of acrylic can do to make you feel quite self-conscious. Strangely, while you could argue she makes me look more ‘like myself’ than I have done in weeks, I have never felt less so. I guess ‘like myself’ is now what lies beneath, not the pixie cut I left behind on the salon floor a fortnight ago.

When I’m in my wig, I feel like I am pretending to be someone I’m not and I am afraid of being found out. This is not helped by the fact Suzie doesn’t actually move naturally and makes me look a bit like a Wallace and Gromit extra than a real well-coiffed person. I feel like the hair is an act, when the hats and the baldness are now part of who I am. Suzie is also like a hot hairy shower cap (although I am told she’s pretty convincing) and, quite frankly, who wants to walk about town in one of those?!

To try and get used to Suzie, I tested her out on the nurses at the cancer day unit first thing (I had planned to put back-up hats in my bag, but left them on the sofa, so it was hair or no hair). It felt like a safe environment given 80% of the hair in there is probably acrylic. The nurse flushing my PICC line didn’t even blink, but I am not sure she recognised me, even though we laughed all the way through my blood test last week (when I was sporting a blue hat).

I am delighted to report I kept my hair on throughout the dressing change and the following journey into town (although at one point I had a burning desire to whip it off). I did nearly dislodge her once when taking off my scarf and I looked a bit like I’d been dragged through a hedge backwards by the time I got to my front door (thanks wind), but she did hold her own. And, for that, I will be forever grateful to the lovely Suzie.

Back home and back to bald and I couldn’t be happier (never thought I’d ever say that)! Even Duncan is starting to come round to the idea of me having less hair than him. They say blondes have more fun. I am starting to disagree.

While writing this post, I typed ‘bald quotes’ into Google (as you do!) and just have to share the quote that popped up when I did: ‘experience is the comb we receive after we’ve lost our hair’. I say bring on the comb, because my hair’s coming back…

Breast cancer lesson number 66: Always look on the ‘brighter’ side of life

What better way is there to spend an Easter Saturday than up a cliff on the Dorset Coast path? When the sun went in it was quite bracing, but with the wind on my face and running through my tiny strands of hair, it was a wonderful reminder of all that is beautiful and wonderful in the world.

20140419-173358.jpg

Standing on a cliff with no hair is number 17 on my ‘brighter life list’. I still have hair around the bald patches (although a lot less after my latest shower), so it doesn’t quite score me my first tick on the list, but as a dress rehearsal, it was pretty exhilarating. If you are ever presented with the opportunity in your life (and I hope it has nothing to do with illness), I would encourage you to get yourself to a coast path – and fast!

If today didn’t remind you of how happy you are to be alive, then make sure tomorrow does. My brighter life list is about seizing the day and not waiting for happiness to find me. I’ve spent too much of my time wishing my life away. Now I want to cherish every moment.

It’s time to stop dreaming and start planning.

Breast cancer lesson number 57: How to keep your hair when all about you are losing theirs

Cancer opens doors to rooms within hospitals that you would never know existed. Tucked away in the Orthopaedic Centre, with a corridor for a waiting room, the Orthotist’s office is one such place.

Image

Such was the secretive way in which this appointment was booked in the first place – the man who left a message on my phone requested I come to ‘patient appliances’ for a chat – I wasn’t even sure it existed myself. Why should an NHS wig referral appointment be surrounded by such mystery? And should a wig really be categorised as an ‘appliance’? Most appliances I know come with a plug, not shampooing instructions.

Sat next to a man with a walking stick, I started to imagine what might happen behind the appointment room door. And, I am rather amused to report that I will actually never know. This is not because I missed the appointment, but because my session happened with a wig fitter in the end, not the elusive ‘Orthotist’, in what I can only describe as ‘the wig cupboard’ next door.

The wig cupboard was like a hairy version on Narnia. Packed away in this little room were piles and piles of acrylic beauties waiting for their turn on my head. Having parked myself in the hairdresser-like chair, it hit me that I hadn’t really considered what style I might like to replace the little pixie to which I am now rather attached. Of course, Duncan requested a long, brunette style. (Not sure now is the time to request an upgrade that is not even close to my original colour or length, but you’ve got to admire him for trying!).

I needn’t have worried. A quick flick through the catalogue (NHS wigs may be free, but they are actually provided by a private company, so are great quality), was drawn to a pixie-equivalent cut in a spring honey colour. Her name is Suzie and I think I like her! She only needs washing once a month (with Johnson’s baby shampoo) and, apart from the fact she is very hot when combined with my full head of hair and a wig cap, I think we might just get along nicely.

I love the fact all wigs come with a personality. My head was turned by Faith, and I thought Sylvia would be worth a go, but Hayley, Kirsty and Linda didn’t get a look in. Maybe Suzie should become my new alter ego, not just my bald-headed disguise?

Image

Just for Duncan, I did try Brunette Scully for size (I am a bit shallow though as I dumped her without even asking her name). I am not sure the dark-haired look is for me, but am happy to experiment over the coming months. If you have any suggestions (pink, blue or otherwise) please do post here. I am only planning on going through this hair loss chemo thing once, so I may as well make the most of it.

So here is Suzie. Blink and you might not think she is anything other than a slightly longer version of my current cut. I need to play with the styling, but she’s pretty convincing for a bit of acrylic.

Image

I’m not worried about losing my hair (although I think I would be slightly alarmed if it starting coming off in the middle of town). I’m planning on embracing my baldness and making every day a mini-makeover day, with scarves and hats to match. But, for that one day when I might just want to look in the mirror and escape the thought of the chemotherapy drugs running through my body, there’s Suzie. And just knowing I have an alter ego to rely on makes me smile.

The big question is, will Duncan know the difference when he returns home from work this evening?