Today feels a little strange. I was supposed to be starting my chemotherapy this afternoon, so the date has been etched in my mind for several weeks. I have prepared myself mentally and emotionally for the poisonous onslaught of drugs into my system. I have dug deep and was feeling courageous in the face of known and unknown side effects. I even visited a wig salon in anticipation of the hair loss which my personal cocktail of chemo drugs make inevitable. (More about that shortly.)
Chemo can adversely affect your teeth and gums therefore it’s wise to start with a strong and healthy mouth. So I dutifully went for a dental check-up last week and ended up with having two fillings. Imagine my frustration – and pain – when I developed an infection in one of them. This flare-up has delayed my chemo until 4th June, provided the antibiotics have done their job of course. Much as I am dreading the treatment, this is simply prolonging the stressful anticipation. All my mental preparation seems to have reached its use-by date and expired, so I will have to psyche myself up all over again.
Meanwhile, I am passing the time by trying to imagine myself with no hair. This is the most visible, drastic and, for some, almost unbearable, consequence of chemotherapy. My hair is not exactly my pride and joy; it is fairly thin, flat and utterly uninteresting, but I am attached to it nonetheless and will be sad to see it go.
My expedition to the wig salon was, I must admit, a fairly disturbing experience. Nothing to do with the beautiful salon, the lovely staff and the high-end hair accoutrements they sell; it just proved impossible to find any wig that remotely resembled my hair and didn’t make me look like a television newsreader from c. 1975. Apologies to any 1970s newsreaders reading this. You looked great at the time, it’s just not a look I want to adopt in 2015!
Having initially been upset by the failure to find the perfect wig, I had a moment of deep and heartfelt clarity: why try to fool anyone, including myself, into thinking I have my own hair? Why not embrace this enforced make-over, and adorn my bald head with hats and scarves in patterns and colours that will brighten the world as I walk through it? And if people stare – which they might – I will muster a smile and think ‘This might look odd but it’s saving my life!’
This realisation felt good, really good. It felt empowering and positive – feelings that are all too hard to come by when you have cancer.
Of course, it may be easier said than done, speaking from my hirsute, pre-chemo perspective but I feel sure I won’t change my mind once my hair bids my head farewell. Besides, my little terrier Katy is far too interested in small, furry things to risk leaving a wig lying around!