Breast cancer lesson number 63: You can be hair free and carefree


Ok, so hair free may be a slight exaggeration, but as far as I am concerned, a number two with a couple of bald patches is pretty much there. While I am not sure it is right that I should have less hair than my fiancée, I have to say, I like my head shape and, as haircuts go, it was pretty exhilarating. Who needs wig Suzie when GI Jackie is in town?!

Sitting in the hairdresser’s chair (not sure I should have chosen lunch hour at Canary Wharf but never mind), I didn’t feel at all sad. Funny as it may sound, I felt privileged to have the chance to experiment and liberated at the prospect. Four weeks ago, I couldn’t imagine having a pixie-shaped do, and I loved it. One month on, and all I could think about as the locks fell was how lucky I am to a) have a head shape that doesn’t resemble an egg and b) have so many wonderful friends and family all willing me on.


How did I prepare for my exciting turn in the salon? As well as a nice glass of wine last night to toast my old locks, I plucked my eyebrows. Now it may sound strange to be voluntarily attacking the hair that doesn’t want to fall out (yet). But, my view was that if my head was going to look a little naked, I best make an effort everywhere else. Why the leg can’t fall out first is beyond me!

This morning, after examining my bald patch, applying some eye makeup and adding a headtie, I met up with Duncan and headed for the clippers. My hairdresser was amazing. He tucked me away at the back of the salon and cut my pixie down to size (first with scissors and then clippers) before washing and oiling my head. It felt like a proper appointment. I even got time for a cup of tea. And, the best bit? It was free! I do think the lady sat opposite actually thought I was making a conscious style decision as I laughed through the whole thing. Her facial expression first had a hint of pity and then a hint of confusion (or maybe just fear). It felt good – and a little naughty.



Surprisingly happy with the new look (and the fact that I will be saving loads in shampoo and conditioner), I left Suzie in her bag and opted for a fun blue hat. On the train on the way to work, I found myself fascinated by the lack of hair demonstrated by other passengers (style choices I might add). I also had a burning desire to whip off my hat and join in. One thing I love about London is that nobody cares. They’d probably just think I was channeling my inner Jessie J.


The hat didn’t last long (lovely as it is, it just feels wrong wearing it indoors). My office were quick to embrace the new look and share in the excitement of the day. After that, it was au naturel all the way. Yes, people had a good look. But, the truth is, I don’t look ill. I just look like I’m making a rather bold fashion statement.

How do I feel now? I couldn’t be happier. I took control. I no longer have to watch the strands fall. Cancer can’t take what isn’t there and just knowing that makes me feel empowered. Plus the feeling of a light breeze on my head is unlike anything I have ever experienced. It soothes me in a way I can’t articulate. I’d say try it, but that might be a bit extreme, so you’re probably safer taking my word for it.

Today I was strong. I looked cancer in the eye and I took charge. I also discovered that hair is over-rated. It isn’t a part of who I am. It’s just a little nice-to-have. I will miss it, but I know I’ll be a better person for having lost it.

Coco Chanel once said: ‘a woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life’. It’s only now I truly understand the meaning of that phrase.

All I can say is, if it’s coming off, take it off. It may not be a haircut I’ll ever choose again, but it’s probably the best haircut I will ever have – and the one you will probably always remember.

Breast cancer lesson number 46: When you’ve got nothing to lose (except your hair), go for it!

I have a challenge for you. If there’s anything in your life you’ve always wanted to do, then find the time and the space to do it – and soon. Put it off no longer. I’ve just been for the shortest haircut of my life and, I have to say, I feel totally liberated. I’ve always wondered what I’d look like with a pixie haircut, and now I know. And, you know what? I wish I’d done it years ago.

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Ok, so having a pixie cut fours days before chemo may not sound brave or overly outrageous. After all, it was always going to look better than bald. But, having had a rather chequered history with anything shorter than a graduated bob, taking it off before cancer gets its hands on it was still a big decision (people forgive the cancer, but I think they’re less forgiving about elective style changes). This is something I decided to do, not because I wanted to make a statement, but because I want to keep the strands falling into my sleep cap to a minimum.

The last time I had hair anywhere near this short I was eight. Let’s just say it was forgettable. The local newsagents kept referring to me as ‘boy’ and, on a school trip down a mine, the guide asked me – otherwise known as ‘the lad’ – to assist in a demonstration. Sadly, at the beginning of the 1990s taking (and developing) photographs of virtually anything was all the rage, so there is a little too much photographic evidence of my basin look. I thought I’d never go back. I am so glad I did.

As my last hair appointment for more than six months, it was pretty special. Delighted that I have at last let go of the trusty bob, my hairdresser was visibly excited at the prospect of taking even more off. Getting an ‘it really suits you’ from the guy who has been cutting your hair for years – not to mention a quick head massage and a cup of tea – and then watching as his colleague complemented him on his snipping skills, is not something that happens every day (or even once in a decade for me). It felt good.

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Hair, we’ve had a good 32 years. I did once think you were a bit rope-like in consistency, and longed for a plait that didn’t look like it could moor a boat. I’m not sure the obligatory perm in my teens was a good idea. Growing my hair to the point at which I could sit on it was a bit misguided. Thankfully, the basin fringe was just a phase. And, having a four-hour trim with a hairdressing apprentice while at university, only to discover I had just 2mm less hair and roots dyed-in (can’t blame the apprentice, it was free) was a low point. But now, I appreciate you more than ever. I like your strength. I like the fact you’re a little bit of me. And, I hope that whatever grows back will give me as much pleasure – or at worst amusement (it could be grey, it could be baby curls, it could be me all over again).

While I felt a slight sadness knowing that I couldn’t book another appointment, and that the next time I would be here would be to let my hairdresser shave it all off (once the clumps start falling), I also felt a real boost. I’d had the confidence to do something different. If you don’t change a thing, there’s nothing to see.

They say if you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much room. I am ready to step out of my comfort zone – as long as I can bring a cushion when the edge occasionally becomes the sharp end!

This is one hairstyle that won’t be growing out. This one’s going to fall out. Wish me luck!