Breast Cancer at 29 – REALLY?! Chapter 9
After the appointment with Dr Shah, whereby he had told me I would lose my hair, I became determined to lose it on my own terms. The thought of losing my hair became hurtful, like a stab in the heart; since I had always had long hair and had been working so hard to grow it for the wedding, it felt like I was taking a kicking whilst I was down. Still, it wasn’t going to be a permanent thing and I had to focus on preparing for the task at hand – evicting my squatter. So, the day after meeting Dr Shah for the first time, I made a decision. I was going to cut my hair short so that when it did fall out, losing it wasn’t as hard to come to terms with. Better still, someone could make use of my hair, so why not donate it?
Dumb Blondes – yes, they really named their salon that!
I had been into my favourite local hairdressers’ the day after seeing Dr Shah, to book an appointment to have my hair cut. They had been cutting my hair regularly since I had moved to Stevenage; they had also recently been cutting Mollie’s hair, so I knew a few of them quite well by then and they were so incredibly lovely. I called over the owner and explained the situation. I wanted to donate the hair before it was ruined by chemotherapy. I was quite matter-of-fact about it, explaining how I was going to donate it to the Little Princess Trust (I’d done some googling and decided this was the charity to work with) so it could be made into wigs for children who needed it.
This was my first experience of seeing someone’s genuine sympathy at the news – it hurt so much to tell someone outside of my family that I had cancer and would need to have my hair cut, but it needed to be done. I tried to be strong, but my voice cracked towards the end of the conversation. I also saw the ladies working in the salon looking very sad and I think this is what made it worse. The tears streamed down my face and I couldn’t get rid of them. I left and sat on the bench between the salon and the nursery (they were 100 yards from each other) and tried to compose myself. All I could think about was how bloody ridiculous this situation was and contemplate the true horror of it all. I still couldn’t believe it was happening to me. I think I must have cried every night that week in disbelief.
On the day of the port fitting, I had a chat with my parents and my mum gave me some great advice. It would be easier for Mollie to understand the change in my appearance if she was there, watching me have my hair cut and could see the before and after. That way she would know it was still me and would not be afraid. I decided then to take her with me on Thursday.
I tried to be brave, but I spent much of that morning in bitter tears. At 07:30, I took Mollie to the nursery and the staff could see I had been crying; there was that uncomfortable atmosphere you often see when someone is crying and no one wants to really pry or ask what’s wrong. I called the room leader to one side and told her the news; the lump in my throat came back, but somehow I managed to keep it down. She was very quiet and serious as I told her. I asked her to tell the other staff who worked with Mollie so that they knew we were having some difficulties at home and they could support her. Thankfully, Mollie, being only 18 months old, would not really be aware of these difficulties, but she would naturally pick up on a negative atmosphere at home. The staff were more than happy to help; they said if there was anything we needed, we just had to ask. Mollie was a full timer, so our fees covered full days and it gave me some relief to know that she would be OK while we sorted this out.
I told them I’d be back at 10 am to take her to the hairdressers and then I would drop her back at nursery afterwards. I was crying too much at home these
days to have her with me and Andy had said I needed to compose myself around her (i.e. not cry), so the nursery was the best place for her to be – somewhere positive and consistent. When we got to the salon, the owner was so nice and said she would get Chelsea, her daughter, to do Mollie’s hair cut. Chelsea had cut both mine and Mollie’s hair and she was very cheerful, so she made the whole thing much easier to deal with.
First, Mollie had her hair cut. She absolutely loved it – just watched herself in the mirror and babbled away in her cute toddler speech. We had a photo taken together and some big cuddles and then it was my turn. She plaited my hair, tied it and cut it off as per the instructions from the charity. I was surprised at how much hair was still left – it now just fell to my shoulders. Chelsea was shocked when I then asked her to just cut it short, like a boy’s. She’d thought I was only going as far as the initial cut!
Chelsea’s mum came back over and cut it very short, then styled it. Seeing that it still looked quite feminine, I felt better. She showed me how to style it while it was still there and we talked about wigs. I’d decided I was going to get a wig sorted as soon as I could; if there was anything that would keep me feeling normal throughout this whole stupid process, it’d be having long hair again.
This wasn’t going to be forever. It was just a stupid glitch. When I left the salon, I left for home, smiling and feeling confident and determined that I could do this – ready for what was coming the next day, my first chemotherapy session at the Rivers Hospital, Sawbridgeworth.