Thursday, 24 February 2011

The Hair Thing & How It Happened

How it was...

During a whirlwind day of scary diagnosis, meeting hundreds of specialists, seriously freaking out, avoiding (in my case) or asking (in DadJokes' case) thousands of questions, you may be surprised to hear I was pretty consumed with the hair thing, even then.

This could have be in an effort to blank out the scarier stuff, it may be because I work in media and media portrays cancer as a bald episode with vomiting and sadness (very important tip, if you are expecting a medical result of any kind, no matter how unlikely worst case scenario is, do NOT watch 'My Sisters Keeper' 3 days before. It is a very good film, but it makes diagnosis infinitely and unneccessarily more terrifying.)

Or it could be because I am a 31 year old beauty editor, and woman I should point out, who was always all about the hair, it was long, it was happily curly or wavy, depending on it's mood, I had just fully mastered the tongs, and then bam! 'you will lose your hair'. This is not something I had contemplated, except when considering Gail Porter on the odd occasion and wondering how she goes through life bald and proud, and how I don't think I could. Turns out I was right.

Not all chemotherapy combination means you'll lose your hair. In my case however, the absinthe-equivalent cocktail meant there was no point even trying the cold cap, the best thing was to go for a shorter style to make the transition a bit easier.

So, a couple of days later I held back the tears, went round to the wonderful Claire Rothsteins house (she of hair angel, friend and wig expert status), who cheered me up as she gave me a 'Frieda' - hottest cut of the season, named after choppy, kooky supermodel of the same name.

I do realise I look saddest in this picture, but that's because the first cut is the trickiest - no going back you see, wake up call etc. But, I liked the cut. There's something of a release in doing a drastic hair thing, knowing you have no choice to make as such.

This cut lasted till one wash when I couldn't style it anything like Frieda. Useless at hair.

So stepped in Kenna of fame. He has been a long standing very good friend, opened his own studio (if you can get to East London, it is a lovely experience, and he's very interested and up on the NHS wig thing). he came to my place and gave me the best super crop ever. I hated it of course, it was pixie short and nothing like anything I'd ever go for, but after a few days (this one was easy to style), a hundred 'you should always have your hair like that' compliments I loved it, which of course meant I was getting more anxious at the inevitable result.

I had decided to try work again the week after, wanted to go in with my real hair, so obsessively tugged the sides regularly to check it was still going strong. I've said it before but I just couldn't imagine it falling out, couldn't see it happening.

This is what the literature said:

Hair can take 3-4 weeks to start to fall out.
Your pubic hair will most likely go first (result!)
You can lose 50% of your hair without anyone noticing.

So, two weeks after chemotherapy when I had my first sign (middle point, above), I thought I had a week or so left. Something of a shocker then to itch my head that evening and come away with 7/8 strands of hair. Result was immediate meltdown and lengthy discussion with DadJokes and Google on what to do next. Turns out Google not so helpful, but DadJokes infinitely more so. With no real info on how long the thing takes, how it happens (I had visions of clumps of hair on my shoulders at work) we plumped for an immediate grade 1 all over, and wig debut for first day back at work.

I'm not going to lie, I had come to love the pixie crop, the shaving was the worst bit so far, I blubbed, DadJokes blubbed, the cats were beside themselves with excitement, and I couldn't look in the mirror for a day. Turns out I was a bit premature too since the super short didn't entirely fall out for another week or so. BUT, definitely the right thing to do. It was the anticipation that was the worst thing - isn't it always?

I even got used to the GI Jane look, I still prefer it to the Richard O Brien look, and all this several stages of shortening means I know exactly what stages to look forward to when it does come back, and I'll LOVE every single one.

Now for the brave bit...I'll let the cat take the limelight!

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  1. I hope you don't think I'm a stalker for commenting twice on your blog in one day! But I remembered the feeling of waiting to press the button on my blog when I posted my baldy pictures and then the waiting for some comments afterwards. So just wanted to say that you look so mega cute both with the GI Jane look at the pixie cut. I'm sure you are really cute bald as well. Virtual hug, Kirsten

  2. Regardless of what hair style you have, you still look beautiful. You really are an inspiration to us all :)

    Amrita xx

  3. you look beautiful and you are being brave and funny in the face of something frightening. Well done Sophie, when can I come round and meet those cats? Oh and see DadJokes obvs, maybe we can recreate pub quiz round at yours? xx

  4. Come on Tash, get your act together. Next week. Do it.

  5. You still look beautiful and that is the god honest truth. My fave for grow-back time is the pixie crop. (Quel surpris!)

  6. You look beautiful ... in fact utterly stunning in all photos. No word of a lie xx

  7. I'm a fellow breast cancer survivor & I just found your blog - added it to my Blog List. Reading this post reminds me of ME in Sept 2009...the day I had to shave my hair off. (Did a mohawk! LOL) My husband was kinda annoyed telling me I was too all about my hair. But I truly was more upset about that than having breast the time, anyway. Thanks for this blog. I know it's helping others going through this, (as I hope my blog does as well, although it's now become more of a "quest back to long hair" & venting!)

    And you look beautiful & seem like a beautiful person inside too.