It will grow back.
It’s just hair.
It means it’s working.
You might not lose it all.
When you find out you’re probably, almost definitely, going to lose your hair from chemotherapy, these are the things you’re likely to hear. And they’re all true. Yes, it probably will grow back, although there is a small, teeny tiny chance that it won’t. And if and when it does, it will no longer be my hair, it will be possessed. A frizzy, crazy, sprouting mass of gnarly curls, like Doc Brown in Back to the Future.
And yes it is just hair, but it’s my hair.
And if by working, you mean I am being poisoned substantially enough to warrant all my cells, healthy or otherwise, giving up, then yes, hooray it is.
And, absolutely, I might not lose it all. But then that would mean having my head frozen underneath a cold cap, and I’m too much of a wuss to stand the pain, so I probably will. But don’t get me wrong, I’m OKAY with all of that.
When my dear hairdresser started to cry, I cut her off. It’s fine, I said, really, I’ve had short hair before, I’ll have it again. Besides my hair was a pain in the arse at the best of times, and this was my time to start again. No more dye ravaged, chemically treated old hair but fine, new stuff, back to how it was when my mum used to say ‘if you carry on doing that to your hair you’ll ruin it!’. And of course, as Mums always are, she was right.
So when after about two weeks, exactly as the nurses said, my hair started to shed, I was okay. I had my wigs, my scarves, I WAS READY. A bit more hair around the brush, that was okay. A few strands in the sink, it’s all fine. Until I had a shower, lathered up and pulled out a whole thick handful of brown hair. Not a strand, a huge clump, that left me with a rather large bald patch on the side of my head. And that was it. Sledgehammer time. I WAS LOSING MY HAIR. MY LONG, BROWN, BEEN WITH ME ALL MY LIFE HAIR. And I cried. Fucking hell did I cry. No more trying to be brave, this was shit. There’s no sugar coating it.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had short hair before. But this was different. This wasn’t a hair style. This was hair loss.
But as ever, in these times of crap, you can either wallow, or take back control. So armed with his clippers and a bottle of something wet and sparkling, Alex and I started to chop.
First a bob, then a bit higher, and finally a Mohawk! Well a little one anyway. We laughed, then cried, and finally, a few hours and several layers of hair later, we were done. My hair was gone, well apart from a small fuzz along the top (which subsequently would all disappear in the next few days, leaving our pillows and bedding covered in the stuff), and it was finally time to wear one of my carefully chosen wigs.
Of course there’s lots of advice out there about wigs. Some say choose a wig that looks like your own hair. But the problem is, I couldn’t find one with the ability to stick up on one side, while staying completely flat on the other. Others say take this time to try something completely different. Me, I ended up with five wigs, all various lengths and styles, and yet wore the same one consistently until it practically got up and walked itself to the bin…
So what happened to the others, and why didn’t I wear them? Well let’s start with the long one with the hair missing at the top shall we, otherwise know as a ‘halo’ hair piece. The idea behind this one was simple. It was summer time, and to stop my head sweating I could wear this underneath a lightweight hat. However as we lived on windy corner, on windy Brighton seafront, the one time I did wear it, I was so afraid my baseball cap would blow off, I could never bring myself to wear it again. Plus when I looked in the mirror, without the cap, I felt like a cross between a long, haired hippy and a monk. And finally why would I go out in a manky old baseball cap, if I had such shiny, blow dried hair. I felt like a fraud. It was all just too stressful.
Then there was the most expensive wig. The one I spent ages trying on in the shop, and then took to my hairdressers to have cut to my exact specifications. I even had a fringe cut in, although why I didn’t just buy one with a fringe in the first place, I have no idea. And the problem with this one. It was just too damn perfect. I looked like I’d had a salon blow dry, even on a Sunday, and that’s just not me. I’m far too scruffy.
Finally after skirting a curly mermaid style, and a flapper bob, I found THE ONE. Mid length, light brown, slightly messy, and more importantly I felt like me in it. So the moral of this story, shop around, try, buy, return, do whatever YOU need to do to make yourself feel better. Wigs, scarves, hell I wish I’d been brave enough to just rock the bald. We’re all different, you just need to find your own way.
And you know what else. They were right. It did grow back.