I have never considered myself particularly vain. No more than the next person. Not straining to catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Reasonably happy with my laugh lines. Not a face full of makeup person. I have always believed that what lies within is so much more important than the exterior. That is what I try to teach my children (who are taught otherwise by so many fairy tales - ugly people are bad, beautiful people are good).
But I have to say, losing my hair was a challenge almost as great as being diagnosed with cancer in the first place.
And it was not just because I didn't look that great without hair. Let's face it, who does? I don't have a round face so I concede I may have looked a tiny bit better than some others, but still.
It was just that I missed feeling like myself. I have always had longish (shoulder length) hair. I felt colder with no hair. I had nothing to run my fingers through, nothing to fuss with. Nothing to wash and blow dry (well I admit that part was good). Nothing to tie back, or clip up.
When I wrote this post I was full of ideas for head scarves. In reality, I never wore a head scarf. Not once. I did wear hats, and I was given some lovely ones. And I wore my trusty wig. I have been wondering why, and I think the answer to the question is quite simple. I didn't want people to know I had cancer. You might think that is strange given this blog. It's not that my cancer was a secret. I just really didn't want the flash of pity I would see in people's eyes when they saw my hairless state.
So I went with the Big Con of the wig. And really it is amazing how many people did not realise it was a wig. Even now, people who have seen me regularly all year find out and can't believe it.
(My Wig Disclosure Policy was as follows: if someone who didn't know about the cancer (some clients, cafe people, school people) commented on my hair more than once (including comments like please tell me the name of your hairdresser), I would tell them it was a wig. I felt mean about this because I could see the surprise in their eyes but I think if someone has commented twice on how nice your hair is you can't keep up the charade of pretending it's yours. This situation happened to me just last week with the divine girls who run the before school program for my son. I could see them thinking: WTF? This woman we have seen three times a week all year has had chemo for cancer and wears a wig?!)
In fact as it turns out I never lost all my hair. Just about 90% though. And in the mire of chemo treatment you tend to lose track. But I never shaved it off. I just couldn't bring myself to do it. And it is true it does grow back very quickly. But the inbetween stage from pixie and cute to normal is just interminable.
I always said I could cope with hair loss if I kept my eyebrows. Then when I lost them I said I could cope with that if I kept my eyelashes. But they went too.
And do you know when that happened? In a cruel twist, my brows and lashes went, almost overnight, about 2 weeks after chemo ended. I had read that might happen but thought I would escape that fate.
I have learned that you really need eyebrows you know. They add definition and structure. I appreciate them more than ever now. Anyway they did grow back quickly. And eyebrow pencil works wonders although I am pretty sure you don't kid anyone with it.
So what now? Well, slowly slowly it grows back. I looked like Jean Seberg in the photo above for about a week. And now it is tufty, sticking outy, boofy and not that nice to look at. Or as my mother said, in that inimitable tactless way mothers have 'Why your hair looks just like your little brother's.' Who wants to look like their brother? I don't.
And so I still cover it up. Cowardly, I know. But my son still prefers me to have a wig on when we go out. And the least I can do is bow to his wishes for the moment.
For any of you reading who may be going through the hair thing, here are somethings I have learned.
1. Get your wig cut by your hairdresser. This is really important and they probably won't charge you for it (mine didn't). They can just make it a bit more uneven, a bit choppy. Much more realistic than the bowl shape most wigs come in.
2. Do not wash your wig. I haven't washed mine once. You may think that is disgusting but bear in mind I don't wear it to exercise, and it is thoroughly aired every night. If you wash it is gets that way too clean look.
3. Do not believe the hairdresser who sells you expensive 'post chemo' conditioner and shampoo. You don't need it. You hair will come back strong and thick and new. But do take colloidal silica. I have and it helps. It also helped my nails.
4. Don't listen to others about when and how to wear wig \ scarf etc. Do what you feel like doing. It's all about confidence after all.
And one day I hope that all chemo will not involve hair loss. And that will be so much better for all of us.
(Images Pinterest - but sorry have not saved pinners).