|Posted on 30 May, 2016 at 11:55|
My hair, a story in itself. I was born with thick dark hair, that went a honey blonde as a toddler. Then as the years went by, my hair grew longer and thicker. I liked having long hair as a child, I would wear it down, get my mum to plait it at night so it would be curly the next day. Any photos of me as a child, first thing you spot is my huge hair! Then as I got closer to my teens I wanted to change it. This is the age, where you want to be the same as your friends, and things that are unique to you, whatever they might be you often don't like. Mine was my hair so I would have it tied up most of the time (I was going through a rather embarrassing tomboy stage too). I'd plaster it down with a load of hair spray, I suppose you could call it the 90's take on today's wet look. I would wear a headband to keep it as flat as I could. Then as I got a little older I would straighten it, young people now would be horrified by the old straighteners, how they used to pull and snag at your hair, until GHD's came to the earth and became a life changer for hair straighteners everywhere. I would try to get my hair looking fine and sleek, to the point I would straighten it multiple times a day. It never looked like this because it just wasn't how my hair was meant to be. While in high school my mum started to book me in at her hairdressers and I would have my hair trimmed and always asked them to thin it out as much as they could, how ironic that back then I was trying to lose some of my hair, yet years later id be fighting to save it. As I got older still, I was allowed to have my first colour, this is where it all starts! Over the years I have been a variety of colours, copper highlights, bright post office box red in thick streaks (I didn't ask for this in my defence) plum, a dark brown that was almost black, a very light brown, almost blonde, back to dark and finally the Ombre look with lighter ends. Hairdresser's in the past would always ask "how do you cope with all this hair?", I'm sure they dreaded every time my appointment came round! Back then, it was a little unruly and it didn't really like been styled, cut it too short and it would just grow outwards, it seemed my hair just wanted to be big! But fast forward a few years and it was finally tamed, my hairdresser now, knows how to cut it, and she doesn't moan, not vocally anyway! I've kept it longer as this seems to keep it weighed down and prevents it from growing outwards. I've also found that doing less to my hair seems to suit it better so I let it dry on its own, then curl any parts that need it and that's it really until I wash it. So for the last couple of years my hair has no longer been the struggle it once was and I could say I was happy with it.
I think we all have a feature that is our trademark if you like, what people think of that associates with us, mine seems that it has always been my hair. I can see why, in younger years I was the kid with the big, thick hair. As I got older it was still part of me, my friend, miss J in our teenage years decided to style it to see how big it could actually go, I looked like a bushbaby in her words and I did, that has stuck since, so my hair has always had its own little nickname 'the bushbaby'. The night I met my partner he liked my long dark hair, he hated it when I had a fringe, hated it even more when I went almost blonde. So the hair as been a part of my life when I think about it, it was part of me.
When diagnosed with cancer, of course we all automatically think hair loss. I remember in one of my early consultations my consultant put it so politely "it may mean a change of hairstyle" as he sat looking at me with a mass of hair. However on my official results consultation he offered me the choice to use the cold cap. I was told it was likely to be painful by the head nurse, but I didn't care I had been given the chance and I was going do all I could to save it. Why did I choose to do this? The answer is quite simple. Why lose it if you don't have too?
Worldwide, millions is spent each year on our hair, whether that be at the hairdressers, hair products, hair colours etc, women have countless conversations with other women over their hair, deliberating over a change of style or colour. Its silly but we have a better night at a party for example if we feel our hair looks nice. Bride's to be have trials and spend out on making sure their hair looks perfect on their big day. If we have a special occasion we might have our hair done professionally as a treat to ourselves. Elderly ladies, even though they may be frail still make it to their hairdressers for a weekly blow dry. Top of our 'to do list' before a holiday is to get our hair done. We buy straighteners, curling tongs, flick through magazine pages looking for inspiration. If we have had a traumatic event in our life, like after a relationship break up, most of us women get off to the hairdressers or buy a home colour kit and go for a complete new look, washing that man out of your hair! Hair is a big thing to us, and men too they just might not openly talk about it or want to for hours on end.
Either way hair matters to us, so you can't just dismiss hair when it comes to cancer and just say "it's just hair" or it "will grow back". You could say in the grand scheme of cancer, when you have to face that you are having life saving treatment, does your hair really matter? So what if it goes? But you could dismiss lots in life and say it doesn't matter because I have cancer. But see what you are doing here? You are making life about cancer, nothing else matters because you have cancer. But that is so wrong. Everything does matter, every little thing about you or things you do matter. They are what keep your sanity through the cancer ride, they are your little fighting soldiers against cancer, they are what make you who you are. It is well known that cancer patients say the most traumatic part for them is losing their hair, the coming out part, the seeing yourself without hair for the first time, adapting to this, the physical reminder that is still there long after your treatment has finished. Yes hair grows back, but at around half an inch a month, so if you have anything from shoulder length hair, it is going to take a long time before you get your hair back.
I myself had a day of thinking does it really matter? I had told it would be painful, you are feeling low and you have the chemo on top of that, you do think can I face putting myself through that. My parents and partner knew I wanted to do it, but even they said don't feel that you have to put yourself through it. But then at an appointment with the nurses a few days before my first chemo, I asked if I didn't use the cold cap would I lose my hair, her reply "100% yes, don't use the cold cap and you will without doubt lose your hair" this was enough for me, hell no! I was determined no matter what I was using that cold cap. As it turned out I didn't find the cold cap painful, not even uncomfortable and it did save my hair, to the point where I had zero hair loss, I actually grew new hair so it got thicker, half way through my 12 chemo's I had to go up a cap size, I grew lots of new hair round my hair line which gave me a little fringe, when I had it cut for the first time when my chemo had finished my hairdresser confirmed that I had got lots of new hair throughout it. Now as silly as it might seem to some, I feel me and my hair are a little team, we have our own story to tell. My hair as always been a part of me but it is now even more so. I fought to keep it and it fought to stay. It kept me stronger through treatment because I felt and looked like the me I had always known. I could of said it didn't matter and not used the cold cap and lost it and worn a wig but it wouldn't of been my hair, I would still have to look at myself first thing in a morning and before bed and see the destruction cancer and treatment can do. Instead I chose to fight to save it, now other than my biopsy scar I have no physical reminders to myself of having cancer, I aren't having to spend months waiting to get back the hair that I had.
It isn't vanity wanting to save your hair and it outrages me that some people would even think it is, it is just preserving yourself through the strange, crazy time you find yourself in. It's taking control. It also makes it far easier for those close to you as they don't have to face seeing you different, they go through their own trauma seeing you lose your hair, it is worth trying the Paxman Cooling System for so many reasons. When my hair had stayed for a few chemo's my friend said "mate nothing could take out the bushbaby, not even cancer" and cancer didn't. Whatever you hair story is, why not do battle with cancer together? Be a team with your hair and both come through it together, there is over a 50:50 chance you can save your hair, as like I said earlier, why lose it if you don't have too?
Categories: Cancer and Me