13. The one about the hair

OK, so this post has been a long time coming, but I’m finally getting to the one about the hair. I think most people reading this know that losing my hair has been one of the toughest parts of this for me. But losing my hair actually hasn’t hit me the way I expected it to.

First there was the cut – having my long hair cut short was a big deal for me, but I actually had a blast doing it, and really liked having short hair! People said my neck looked longer, it certainly took less washing and styling, and aside from looking like Boris Johnson when out running, I think I generally pulled it off pretty well? And hey, no more split ends – winner!

But then it started to fall out – fast. And to be honest, this has been the biggie for me in chemo week 2. It’s all been about the hair.

It’s flipping everywhere

On Monday, I had my second chemo session. And as before, I went for a run in the morning to start the day strong. By the time I got back, I looked like Boris with crazy blondness flying everywhere, but I quite liked that – a quick shower and a two-minute blow dry, and the hair looked good as new!

But this week’s chemo was tougher than last week’s. By Monday night I felt tired, and Tuesday was only marginally better. Wednesday I felt slightly stronger, but my head felt tender and every time I put my hand through the Boris mop, it came out in clumps. At this point, I didn’t actually want to wash it – perhaps for fear of it all falling out in the shower, perhaps because the thought of brushing it was painful, or perhaps it was just the effort of having to do anything with it? But by Thursday I figured I had to wash it… and the result was shocking!

After that, if just got worse; wherever I looked there was hair – on my shoulders, on my furniture, on the floor, on my pillow, in the bathroom, in my food… this was getting ridiculous. My scalp was also continuing to hurt, and the whole thing was driving me nuts. My hair was falling out, I’d gone beyond being able to style it out, and my apartment looked like a gorilla’s barber shop!

So I decided to take control; rather than letting the cancer (or rather the chemo) take my hair (and my fighting spirit), I decided to get there first. So I shaved it off. It’s going to go anyway, and at least this way I get to have a thin layer on top while I get used to being “shawn the sheep”!

Better? Worse?

Well I wouldn’t quite say it’s better – there are still drawbacks. Because my hair is still falling out, what (little) is left is still painful as the hair follicles struggle to hold it. This means that every time I move my head on my pillow, my scalp hurts. So I didn’t get much sleep last night. But that’s just physical. The hair will eventually all fall out, my scalp with be completely bald, then the hair will start to grow back. And I’ll have all kinds of fun trying styles I never dared to think of before!

How I feel about me

The thing is, it’s not about the hair itself. It’s about how it makes me feel about me. If I’m not thinking about it (like right now, I’m sitting in a café in Amsterdam and not even thinking about it) it’s fine. But when I think about how I’ll feel in specific situations, that’s the hard bit.

Take last night, for instance. I went out for dinner with some friends. I tried a few outfits but didn’t feel comfortable – all I saw in the mirror was a thug. A skinhead. Despite many lovely messages from people saying it looked great, and how my head was a great shape, it made no difference because it didn’t change how I saw myself. I tried a headscarf but my scalp felt too tender. I tried a hat but my head felt too itchy. In the end, I opted to brave it with nothing. Just go plain and simple – a black polo-neck, jeans and bare the hair for all to see.

I was obviously conscious of it at first, but as soon as we sat down for dinner, Rob just leant across and whispered “you look awesome” and it immediately put me at ease. I didn’t even think about it again until I went to the bathroom later (and got a shock looking in the mirror!) Rob – you’re a star, a small comment but perfectly timed without prompt, it made a world of difference. xx

There are other scenarios which are on my mind, obviously. But I’m just going to take them as they come. At the end of the day, I’m still me – I’m still a crazy, adventurous, happy person, who isn’t going to let this beat her. There will be times where I take EVEN LONGER to decide what to wear because I don’t feel comfortable… there’ll be times where I won’t want to go OUT out, even if really I do, but I don’t feel comfortable about me, so I’ll stay in… and there’ll be times where I sound ungrateful for kind comments about how I don’t look any different, or having no hair doesn’t matter – I AM grateful, I DO want to go out, and I WILL decide what to wear (eventually!) – just bear with me for a bit and I’ll get there 🙂




12. Chemo 2 – was it as good as day one?

12. Chemo 2 – was it as good as day one?

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15. Chemo 3 – Saturdoom 

The docs all said chemo would get harder each time. So after #1 was fine, and #2 was tougher, I was expecting #3 to be a rough trot. But the first two days I felt fine – no nausea, plenty of energy, no headache, and nothing to really complain about. Somewhat surprised, I held off the blog in case the worst was yet to come.

Wednesday and Thursday came and went, still not that bad, and by Friday I was thinking “we’re onto a winner here!” as I still felt ok. In fact, I felt that good on Friday, I went out for long walk, went to the supermarket, twice (having forgotten half my list the first time), and did a whole heap of jobs before heading off to Schiphol to collect my Yorkie mates who were coming to Amsterdam for the weekend.

“So how are you doing? You look really well!” they told me, and I smugly explained how this week hadn’t been anywhere near as bad as I’d expected! We went out for dinner, I went off home happy, and even managed to polish off the Fat Rascal they’d brought over for me from Betty’s. Chemo 3? Tougher? Na…

Then came Saturday. I think? I didn’t see much of it. Perhaps the shortest day I’ve ever been up. Yep, chemo #3 hit me on Saturday, both barrels. Having had no energy all day, I finally surfaced at 6:30 with the sole objective of just doing something, anything, to ‘earn’ my dinner! So I walked down the road to meet the Yorkies (who’d been exploring all day), had some tapas with them, then left them to explore the nightlife while I came home and went back to bed. I think I was up for around 4 or 5 hours?!

Joking aside, for once in my life I’m doing as I’m told; listening to my body and when it says “stop” I’m stopping. I don’t like it, but if I don’t listen, I won’t have the strength to stand the chemo, my immune system won’t have the clout to fight off infection, and I won’t have the energy to recharge in week 2. So like it or not, I’m just biding my time until the fatigue subsides – lulling the monster into a false sense of security, ready to hit back strong next week.

On Thursday, I’m seeing the doc again for another checkup, and hoping she’ll say the words I want to hear just one more time before Christmas: “yep, you’re good to go again!” That’ll be the green light for chemo #4, the last hit of AC, the last of the nasty ones. It’ll mean I’ve nailed the first round without any holdups, showed cancer we’re tougher, fought back not hard but harder, and got to Christmas without any complications. That would be the BEST Christmas present ever 🙂

In the meantime, today is Sunday and I’m already bouncing back from Saturdoom – I’m up and about, meeting the guys for pasta in an hour and feeling positive and ready for recovery week.

Even on the tough days… cancer, you hit like a wuss 😉