It seems like a small thing to think about when you’ve recently had a cancer diagnosis: hair.
With my tumour gone, and the doctors assuming the disease is cured, I’m about to embark on the adjuvant therapy of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone therapy. These are all designed to reduce the chance of my cancer returning, and because I’m still young, we’re giving it everything we can.
And I’m stuck thinking about my hair. In a preparation for chemotherapy next week, I had my lovely hairdresser, Kama, chop off my locks. And I love it.
In March, when I had received a cancer diagnosis, Kama cut my hair so it would be easier for me to deal with after surgery, when I’d be sore and have limited movement in my arm (which, in the end, wasn’t even an issue). I loved that hair cut too!
March 2017 (after)
In fact, I definitely prefer having shorter hair! Look at this mop:
March 2017 (before)
So this process has made me realise a few things, and I want to thank Kama again, because her advice has made this whole journey easier for me.
Firstly, for me, short hair is way more versatile than long. That comes as a surprise to me. I haven’t had short hair like this since I was in preschool. I’ve always worn ponytails, plaits and pigtails etc. I don’t like hair around my face, so I’d hardly wear it down. Enter the mumbun! Now, with short hair, there are so many ways I can style it! It can be messy and full or body or slicked back, close tommy head. I can part it different ways, jazz it up with some clips or a headband, or little space buns if I’m feeling quirky. And these are things I’ve learned in just 3 days.
Secondly, I’ve learned that I’m not that attached to my hair. I’ve learned that I can cut it off, knowing it’ll grow back. I’ve learned that change isn’t a bad thing, even if it’s only really because of my cancer diagnosis that I chopped it all off. I’ve learned that it doesn’t really change the way I look and feel about myself and that it’s not my hair that makes me feel more or less confident in myself. At least, it doesn’t have to be.
So what does make me feel confident about myself? We’re often told that our hair gives us confidence. Maybe it does. Maybe I’m just trying to not let my hair change how confident I feel (here I might just add that I’m not that confident in myself; I’m trying not to let my hair change my confidence for better or worse). There is more to life than our hair to help us feel brave and proud and happy and positive in ourselves – we each have to find that in ourselves; we are all unique.
Thirdly, and let’s not ignore the elephant in the room: chemotherapy causes alopoecia. So, what would it be like to have no hair? Would I feel self conscious? Would people stare at me? Would I look weird? Would my kids be embarrassed to be seen with me? Would my husband obsess over my sexy bare head and not be able to keep his hands off me? When I think these things, I realise I am focussing on what others think about me, rather than what I think of me.
I can only control what I think about myself. And only what I think and feel about myself is what is going to give me confidence and joy and peace. I’ll have to find that within myself. I think some times it’ll be easier than others, but I’ll have to control my thinking to an extent in order to protect myself from that harmful negative self talk we often find lecturing ourselves with. Yes, that can be as difficult as it sounds. In my last post I wrote about things I focus on to help me through tough times. I’ll be doing a fair bit of that!
At the moment I am contemplating using a cold cap during chemotherapy, in an effort to save my hair. But the cold cap sounds awful. I am also contemplating letting my hair go. Shed the hair. Shed the experience of cancer and poison and the fear and anxiety that has gripped me the last couple of months. There is a wonderful woman in our community, who shaved her head to raise money for a local family in need. She said that shaving her hair off was a cleansing experience. She said this time of year, autumn, is the time of year to shed. Her words really spoke to me, and I’m thinking that shedding a bunch of crap in my life might do even more to help my health and happiness.
Chemotherapy is going to bring a range of unpleasant side effects. I’m not looking forward to the 12 weeks of treatment. Yet I am feeling really lucky because I only have 12 weeks of chemo. Some people have longer treatment periods and some people are on chemo for ever. I am one of the lucky ones. My hair will grow back (apparently finer and curlier and maybe even a different colour!).
I don’t really know what the point of this post is, other than to write about something that is heavy on my mind right now. For me, it’s about my hair. For you, it might be something different, something you are dwelling on and something you want to change, or not.
There are phases in our lives; we need to ride the roller coasters, the waves, the currents and take us where life leads us. Sometimes we cannot steer our course and we just have to coast along. Other times we can grab onto the rudder and steer like hell to end up where we want to be. But, the thing is, you need to be true to yourself and not focus on what you think other people want from you.
Not meaning any disrespect to anyone who has lost their hair with chemotherapy – here I am practicing what I might look like in the future. And it’s a look I don’t mind!
Thank you for reading. Bless xox
Interesting, Rebecca. I’ve had a chemo bomb and am having some problems with falling and thinning hair. It has hit my point of vanity fair and square. Cancer seems to have gone but it is the type that tends to return. Always thinking of you and Monte and your beautiful children. Go well, stay well. Love and blessings. Can’t wait to see some wig pictures. xx
Thanks for sharing your journey Bec. This post was really helpful for me. It reminded me how powerful negative self-talk is and how we actually have control over whether we do this or not. K xx
Hair-raising ?. Good for you – a friend of mine had all sorts of fun with wigs during her chemo – blonde all her life she went for black hair and still looked fabulous – I am sure you will too x
Thanks so much Vic. That’s a lovely image of you in your pink wig- sounds fun and exciting! I agree about the seasons. This is my winter and I’m looking forward to spring! Thank you xox
I love the metaphor of shedding during autumn. It conjures images of moving toward Spring – a time of rebirth and growth. You will soon have your Spring. In the meantime there is winter – a season designed for rest and to help us appreciate the wonders of the warmer seasons even more.
You’ve reminded me of a day where I participated in a fundraiser. I wore pink for a day, which included a hot pink wig. I wore it everywhere I went. To school to drop off and pick up my kids (where I became surrounded by curious happy children), to lunch with a friend (where I bumped into my remedial masseur and caused a laugh), and to an afternoon picnic where I was approached by smiling faces and was able to share the story of the charity. It felt courageous and slightly crazy (especially in the conservative suburb of Malvern) but it was fun and liberating too. Who thought a change of hair could create such wonderful memories. Perhaps if / when you lose yours, you might want to experiment with some fun coloured wigs too! There are some amazing ones!
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