Like many a canceree, I lost my hair during chemotherapy. I was forewarned by my consultant that it would happen, the nurse administering the drugs reminded me it would happen (“This is the one that will take your hair” she cheerfully told me, as she gradually fed the contents of a large syringe into my veins) and sure enough, out it came, strand by shiny strand. I have written about this in previous blog posts here and here should you be of a mind to read about it.
Now my hair is growing back and that is a good thing. My hair BC (before chemo) was shoulder length and dyed dark brownish-red. I occasionally wondered what was happening beneath the dye. I am 52 and my hair has been various hues – some more natural than others – since the age of 17, so I had no idea about my ‘real’ colour, although grey was the chief suspect.
Four months after the end of chemo and my hair is about an inch long and a mix of greyish and brownish. Salt & pepper, one might say. It is starting to look like a hair cut I have chosen, rather than grown-out chemo-baldness, and I quite like it.
I like having something on my head to wash in the shower; I like running my fingers through it; I even relish the fact it stays in situ when I tug on it. It’s like having an old friend back in your life, albeit one that has changed a lot since you last saw them.
I am now faced with some questions though: where do I go from here? Do I keep it short? If so, how short? Do I dye it again? If so, what colour? The general wisdom is to avoid chemical dyes for about six months post-chemo, so I have time to think.
Interestingly, before I was ill, I had already pondered if I should cut my hair short or stop dyeing it. Reaching ‘middle age’, for want of a better term, had set me thinking about how I was choosing to look and how the world was seeing me.
The age of 50, and its environs, is a watershed for many women and can be time of self-assessment, and I don’t mean just their tax returns. Some decide to go down the invasive route to de-ageing (injections, surgery and so on), some elect to mature as nature decides, others travel a path somewhere in between. Hair colour almost always plays a part in that debate. It can feel like the one thing we can’t – or are not allowed to – let go. You can be anything you like, except grey it would seem.
If I am honest, I probably wouldn’t have chopped it all off and ditched the dye by choice, but now I have the chance to consider this as a ‘look’. In reverse and in slow motion, as my hair gradually grows. And I can have a say in what happens next. I can press the ‘pause’ button at any time and stop at the hair length I like. And, during the whole cancer malarkey, when so much feels out of one’s control, that little bit of power is a marvellous thing.