One thing that is famously related to having chemotherapy is the loss of hair, bald people with scarves wrapped around their heads. This wasn’t something I thought of when I was told I had to have chemotherapy, but as soon as I started to realise it was happening, I worried about it a lot.
Before I started my cancer experience, I was a tom boy all over. I never used to wear make-up and only brushed my hair when my Mum forced me to do so, and well to be honest most of the time I pretended that I had even though I hadn’t and I’m sure my Mum knew that all along!
During my cancer treatment my hair had got in to a terrible condition, having radiotherapy on my head meant that I was only allowed to use baby shampoo to wash my hair, as I wasn’t allowed to use anything stronger. Also my hair wasn’t being washed as often as usual due to me not being able to sit up for very long. My head had become really sensitive to touch, which meant that brushing my hair had become difficult as any slight tugs on my hair pulled at my scalp and it was really painful. My hair had become really matted due to it not being washed properly, having not been able to use proper shampoo or conditioner and well brushing it wasn’t really any option either.
I remember one evening, once I was able to sit up properly my Mum suggested that she would tackle the mess that my hair has become and try to untangle all the knots. I sat for what felt like forever, whilst Mum tried to comb through my mangled mess of hair. Bless her, she was so careful and tried not to yank the comb through my hair, going at each tangle as gently as she could to try not to pull at my damaged scalp. After a lot of screams, ows and oohs Mum managed to get my hair to a point where it was manageable and where it looked like more of a hair style than a tangled mess.
When I started chemotherapy however, I started to lose some of my hair. In fact, I lost quite a lot. Every morning I would wake up, turn around and see clumps of hair on my pillow, I was moulting like there was no tomorrow. I was surprised at how much I cared about this, as I had never really cared about my hair before. I started to get small bald patches on my head and this really upset me, I was scared at the thought of becoming bald. My Mum always tried to reassure me and talked to me about the possibility of getting a wig made that I could wear once I had lost my hair. I remember thinking, ‘No, I don’t want to wear someone else’s hair I want to wear my own hair, why can’t I just do that?’
Luckily though, as I had always had immensely thick hair, my hair had just thinned. It literally couldn’t had thinned anymore without making me bald, but it meant that I had enough hair to constitute a ‘normal’ hairstyle. I could keep my own hair and not have to wear anyone else’s!
Since I was born, I have had a tiny cluster of white hairs, only about 4 or 5 of them and my Mum had always loved these. To her delight I did not lose these through my course of chemotherapy and still have them today, along with the rest of my hair that eventually all grew back.