Hair we go

Something strange happened. I was taking off my make-up recently at the end of a long day.

Make-up is the cancer fighter’s friend. It helps you to look kinda normal and feel good. It fills in the gaps, giving you eyebrows and lashes plus a healthy glow – all the things that go missing.

After my chemo hair loss, I stopped looking at my face too closely and put my make-up on using a rubbish tiny mirror. I didn’t want to focus on what wasn’t there.

Anyway, that night I was removing my make-up. The eyeliner was proving to be quite stubborn, it just wouldn’t come off.

I found a proper big mirror that was well lit. I stared at my eyes and rubbed harder. Then I realised that it wasn’t smudged make-up. Ohhh no.

Amazingly, it was my actual eyelashes. They’re back!!

I was so surprised to suddenly see them again. I thought that it would take much longer. Not only that but I also have eyebrows again! Even the hair on my head has started to come back thick and fast.

I now have a brown coloured scalp. It’s like snap-on Lego hair. It’s way too short to go wig-less. Besides, I didn’t choose to have this very severe hairstyle; this is what cancer did to me. That’s why I don’t want to be seen out in public like this. I’m sure no one would care if I did but that’s not the point.

The toxic treatment takes away much of your identity but it also gives you a chance to experiment. I think that why I’ve enjoyed being blonde. I’ve had fun being Raquel and Candice which came from the hospital’s wig man.

I decided that it was time to see what else was out there and went wig shopping. I tried on plenty of new styles but there was only one that I wanted.

So, what did I get?


Candice, Raquel, the new wig and Barbarella

I chose to be me again. My new wig is just like my old hair. A bit shorter and slightly lighter but very very similar to what I once was.

It feels much softer and more natural than any of my other ones and moves almost like real hair. For my fellow wig wearers – it has a monofilament top and comes from the Vicki Ullah Wig Boudoir – hey get me!

Right now, my new wig has no name. I can’t think of anything that seems suitable. Maybe it’s because this isn’t a new identity. This is me.

But, don’t worry, I won’t be putting the other wigs back in their boxes just yet. I’m now going to a part time blonde.

A letter to my cancer

Dear Cancer,

It was six months ago that we were reintroduced. I’d already got rid of you once and I can’t believe that you came back for more. This time I only had a fifty fifty chance of surviving. Like the flip of a coin. Well, heads I won.

After half a year of hell you are now just dust and dead cells.

You started out as ovarian cancer, if that wasn’t bad enough you took the liberty of spreading around my abdomen. It took a team of surgeons the length of an average day at the office to remove all visible traces of you. I imagine that the tumours have long since been incinerated. All that’s left is an awesome battle scar.

The next step was to kill off any lingering reminders of you. I had chemotherapy to destroy the teeny tiny cells that couldn’t be seen. On Wednesday I’m having the last of my six sessions

Like a coward you left me before the chemo had even finished. Repeated blood tests show that you are no more.

I’ve not just beaten you; I’ve proved just how much I want to live. My body hurt so badly when I woke up from the operation that I thought I was dying. I wasn’t.

But the drugs to deal with the pain almost killed me. They lulled me into a deep sleep. I quickly slipped into a happy bubble of unconsciousness and stopped breathing. I was only a few minutes away from my own death. But I fought back.

I wish I’d never met you. Okay maybe that’s only partly true. In many ways you’ve changed my life for the better. During the cancer treatment ten years ago I came up with a big list of things I wanted to do. Afterwards I went out and chased my dreams. The reality was even better than I dared to hope for.

So why did you come back? I thought we were done. I really didn’t need another reminder that life is precious.

When I was in the process of being diagnosed the second time round someone who should have known better suggested the cancer could be terminal. It wasn’t. She told me this devastating news over the phone. I was sitting on my bed on top of my pink stripy duvet at the time. As I cried my life didn’t flash in front of my eyes. Instead I saw images of my future, of what I was still to achieve.

I’m so angry that I’ve had to put almost everything on hold. Hey cancer – in a few hours I get my life back.

Over the past few months I’ve done everything I can to annihilate you. I’ve been having the maximum strength chemo cocktail. It’s been a marathon of pain, sickness and complete exhaustion but I haven’t considered asking for a lower dose.

Chemo has so many petulant demands. It wakes me up in the middle of the night. The poisonous chemicals make me run to the bathroom to throw up. I have no eyebrows now and only six eyelashes. I’ve watched my lovely hair fall out, there’s just a thin covering left to go. Then there have been the bugs, bacteria and infections. I never expected to have an emergency stay in hospital.

And yet, you haven’t managed to break my spirit. I’ve even been able to do some things which I thought were virtually impossible. Just days after my last chemo I managed to get to the Olympic Games. When the cancer treatment is over, I won’t collapse in a heap at the end. I’ll be flicking the V sign at you as I cross the finishing line.

Don’t worry, I won’t forget about you. How could I? There will be tests and scans every few months. When I go to hospital for the results I won’t be able to think about anything else. You’ll be constantly me on my mind.

However I refuse to be scared of what hasn’t happened. Because of you, I appreciate every moment. Well almost every moment. And so because of you I live.

I’ve now beaten you twice. TWICE. I want you to know that if you come back, I will beat you again.

Goodbye stupid cancer.


A turn for the worse?

Something has changed. Following each session of chemo you’re really ill for a while and then the symptoms start to ease. I had thought this was happening. I’ve had a good day or two but now instead of getting better, it seems like I’m getting worse.

I suppose I should’ve expected this. My body is taking a pounding from the poison that I get every few weeks.

I think that I may have an infection or a virus. In normal life it wouldn’t be a big deal but my immune system is compromised. Once again I’ve called on the services of James Bond. But to be honest it’s the painkillers which are helping more than a fictional hero with a six pack.

My digital thermometer has become a close friend. Constantly checking my temperature has got a whole lot more obsessive. If it gets much higher then I have to go to hospital. I suppose that I’ve been luckily as my chemo has been relatively uneventful so far.

When I first started having this evil treatment I was given a couple of medical cards to carry at all times. If I need to go to A and E these tell the staff that as I’m having chemo I have a high risk of something called neutropenic sepsis which is a MEDICAL EMERGENCY. You know it’s serious when the NHS spells it out in capitals.

As well as feeling rubbish, I don’t look too well either. My eyebrows are disappearing. You never realise quite how important they are in framing your face until they begin to go. One of them is fading faster than the other. It’s almost as if I’ve been on a dodgy stag do and it’s been shaved off, right in the middle of the brow.

I’ve tried using make up to disguise this but it doesn’t look right. So I’ll have to get myself an eyebrow stencil kit off the internet. And I need some fake eyelashes too. Right now I barely have the energy to buy them let alone use them but one day I will.

That’s what is keeping me going. Not the fake lashes and brows although they’ll go very nicely with my new big blond wig. No, it’s the knowledge that I just have a couple more months of this to go.

It could be so different.

If I hadn’t had that random pain just after Christmas and if mum hadn’t insisted that I got a second opinion when I was told it was nothing serious then my cancer may not have been caught in time.

I wouldn’t have this luxury of moaning about how awful the chemo is instead I’d be fighting for my life. I know this nightmare will be over soon enough and then I should start to feel better. Hopefully by this Christmas my life will be back to normal and the chemo a horrible but hazy memory.

Back to my old self

I have a hot date later today! 

I’m feeling both nervous and excited. By all accounts this man has made countless women very happy. I’m hoping he’ll do the same for me.

No, this isn’t George the doctor from the other day who made my healthy heart flutter. The person in question is the hospital’s wig-man. It’s time for him to sort me out.

I need to choose my NHS wig. I can only do this at hospital. Today I’ve got more breath tests plus the usual pre-chemo stuff.

My hair has been slowing thinning rather than falling out thick and fast. Sadly the bald patches are getting bigger. My comb-over is getting higher.

It’s incredible that my hair has lasted this long but I reckon that soon I’ll have to shave my head.

I want to get my wig while I’m still feeling kinda okay. Due to the relentless build-up of the toxic drugs I’m worried that in the next few weeks I’ll feel so horrendous I won’t want to get out of bed most days.

My wigs have been locked in a hospital cupboard just waiting for me. I picked out a selection from a catalogue a few weeks ago. I now have to fit them on and decide which one I want. They all look pretty much like my hair used to.

There weren’t many that I liked. It seems that the world of wigs is stuck firmly in the 1980s. If you want to look like Princess Diana then you’re in luck. I’m hoping that my wig will be more Duchess of Cambridge.

The hair may be taking a while to come out but the chemo really must be working its magic as my eyelashes and eyebrows are disappearing. I can disguise these with make-up. The loss of head hair is harder to hide.

I still have Barbarella, the blond bombshell of a wig, on stand-by so why do I need an NHS one?

As I start to feel more and more tired, my confidence is quietly ebbing away. I’m not really sure that I could pull off the Barbarella look every day. In the past it would be no problem. I’m quite outgoing, well I was. Since being diagnosed with cancer I don’t always have the energy to be the person I used to be.

It’s ironic that it’s going to be easier to wear a wig that makes me look how I used to even if I don’t always feel like my old self. But the chemo won’t last forever. In a few months, I may be bald but hopefully I’ll be feeling a lot more like I want to be Barbarella.