The hair falls out quickly.
Or I should say mine fell out quickly.
It started Friday morning with a few strands clinging to my fingertips.
By evening my scalp had begun to itch and tingle. It felt sore and raw. It hurt to touch it. I suppose that is caused by dying follicles.
Late at night or early in the morning I poured some organic almond oil in my palms and massaged it into my scalp to try to soothe my unhappy head.
In the mirror I spotted a stray curl. I reached to smooth it into place. The entire curl came out in my hand.
I put a Chemotherapy sleep cap on. It’s supposed to help.
Sleep never came.
By morning hair was coming away in clumps in my hand.
In the shower I shampooed and conditioned my hair with chemical free aloe vera hair products. Huge clumps of hair filled my palms and landed around my feet, covering the drain.
I cried, painful, soul wrenching sobs.
When I stepped out of the shower I continued by normal skin routine: toner, eye serum followed by eye cream, facial moisturiser, lip balm and sensitive skin body lotion and foot cream.
I was silent, shaking, on automatic pilot.
After I threw clean pyjamas on I rummaged around drawers until I found the hair scissors. I hacked away at my hair. In places there is less than an inch of hair on my head. I’ve never done that before, taken scissors to my own hair. My hair has always been an artistic medium for me but now it was dying. It has been sacred and now it was being sacrificed. It has been an integral part of my identity and now my identity was splintering.
For the very first time I can see my grey hair. Maybe I’ll post a selfie. I’m not sure I’m that brave.
I had an appointment with my therapist this morning. I burst into tears as soon as I walked in the door. I hadn’t intended to do that.
Cancer and hair loss is a weird thing. People assume it’s about feeling pretty or not feeling pretty but it isn’t that at all. Truthfully, I stopped feeling even remotely attractive on the day of my diagnosis.
In the beginning they talk a lot about hair loss and less about survival percentages and the myriad of other side effects that will make you feel totally crap.
They are trying to prepare you. You will never be prepared.
I know what you’re thinking. I thought the same thing too. I thought, for fuck’s sake, I’m not so shallow and vain that I can’t survive with no hair on my head for six months.
First of all, it’s more like a year and secondly, it’s not just your head. It’s everywhere, head, eyebrows, eyelashes, legs, underarms, your genitals.
And then there are the steroids which cause your face to suddenly become, round and puffy and cause acne and discolouration of the skin and mouth sores.
So when you look in the mirror you will no longer see you. You will have lost yourself to cancer. Psychologically, you’ll feel something pop and give in your psyche. You will begin the slow uphill climb searching for yourself because you will never be the same. Your life will never be the same.
But first you will grieve at a loss there are no words to describe and it will hurt.
I told my therapist, “Maybe we are giving birth to ourselves every single day with every single breath.”
While in Chemo I am dying. I am shedding old skin. The first time your hand comes away filled with hair it will suddenly become ridiculously real in a ridiculously surreal way. You have cancer.
So you see, it’s not about losing your beauty. It’s about losing yourself.
7 April 2018
Sussex Coast, England