Updated: Feb 7
The majority of my googling, in the beginning, was about losing my hair, how to keep my marriage together, and survival statistics. These seemed to be the top 3 topics I researched and researched well into the wee hours of the night since sleep had become a thing of the past.
Before I lost my hair I visited a local salon that sold various support items including wigs and I tried on several. I wanted one that represented my current hair, I had an angled bob that was quite curly and dark. I found throughout the process I was emotionless, I just wanted to get one and have it and skip the then to now stages of baldness. Its surreal doesn't seem to sink in. I knew I wasn't the "rock a bald head" or scarf in public, I was proud and envious of all those who could. I wanted to look like me, pre-cancer, pre-chemo just as Amanda.
I was told it would be gone 17 days after my first treatment and that was exactly true. Once I started to feel the sensation of a tight ponytail and if touched would shed, I wore a cancer cap and didn't wash it. I still find it hard to believe that I went back to the salon and had them shave my head. They set me up in a private room, asked if I wanted to see it happen which to my surprise I did. I think I felt that if this was me, as a 37-year-old woman and going to be bald, I was going to witness every last hair fall. It was a brief moment of control over one aspect of my treatment. I reminded myself to "Just Breathe" and before I knew it I was walking out with curly hair gone, a bald head, and a wig that was the new temporary version of me. All I wanted was the reassurance of how I looked, that I was still me and when I asked my husband if he liked the wig he replied "ya". Ya, that's all. I remember feeling so sorry for myself on that quiet drive home. How was I ever going to find comfort in this new look?
I loved my hair, I always try and look my best. This was tough, physically I felt defeated that all of this was real, emotionally drained, and not able to process my feelings. However, I wore the wig, bought hats off amazon, and slowly started to figure this out. There are moments of the past 18 months that are very hard on the feelings, however, they are also very vivid. My boys 6 and 10 at the time wanted to see my newly shaved head. I wasn't overly comfortable so I decided I would just pull back my hat a little bit. My youngest was fine and even said it looked good. My oldest was not, he got anxious and told me it was disgusting and to never show him again. Deflated, any bit of courage or confidence I thought I had was gone. How could a Mom look disgusting to their kids?
That was the only time I purposely ever showed anyone my bald head. That moment played over and over in my head, I was hurt. I wore caps to bed, quickly threw my wig on if I heard the door or someone coming into the room I was in. It quickly became normal for me to wear it. I grew to love my wig, it was easy. Showers were quicker and with the wig or hats on I could still see myself. After showers, I would wrap my head in a towel like I did my whole life and always took an extra second to look in the mirror and think this is you, your hair could be wrapped up in that towel just like it always was before. I found comfort in seeing myself in those moments. I went through treatment in the winter, easy to wear a wig when it isn't hot and it can be accessorized with toques and headbands.
Chemotherapy kills cancer cells but also affects hair root cells, which resulted in my head hair, eyelashes, and eyebrows falling out. As the last of 8 treatments finished I had a few baby hairs starting. I lost my eyebrows and eyelashes 2 weeks after my last treatment. I coloured in my brows and mastered the art of false lashes. I didn't look like I had cancer.
I continued to wear my wig for another 1, 2, 3, 4 months more! The week of my 38th birthday and 4 months after my last chemo I decided that I felt like a fraud with my wig, false lashes, and coloured on brows and had had enough. I planned to get my very grey hair coloured and go without my wig to a birthday dinner with my friends and family. My hair grew in so soft, but sooooo grey. I didn't have this much grey before. I felt I could do short but I couldn't do short and grey. Having my hair coloured helped build my confidence in ditching the wig.
I dressed up my short hair with headbands that made me feel like it looked fuller. I used pixie cream to help style it and I never put my wig on again. However, I wasn't prepared for the change in how my clothes and accessories now looked with such short hair. Certain sunglasses no longer had the same look they did with my longer hair, some necklines were not flattering and the same for jewelry. I adjusted as you do through a cancer diagnosis. Every stage may feel like forever, but the only thing that never changes is the amount of change.
As my hair grew, week to week is very different. In the beginning, the growth is very slow. You master one style and the next week that doesn't work. Short hair is easy, they said! It always works, no pulling it up in a ponytail here. I also had 3 cuts, I continued to cut the back short avoiding a mullet look. I never touched the top because it grows the slowest. I continued to colour it dark and take good care of this brand new hair. A great bonus is if you had coloured or damaged hair, here is your second chance. Always looking for a silver lining. I tried a few products to speed up hair growth, nothing seemed to help. I found eating a balanced diet, taking multi-vitamins, and stimulating the scalp worked best.
For an update on my hair growth click here