Jackie Scully, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2014, vividly remembers the day she started to lose her hair to chemotherapy.
For someone who didn't like her poker-straight, dry, straw-like pre-cancer hair, I am surprised that the day I started losing it should remain one of the hardest of active treatment.
I remember it like it was yesterday. I cried so hard that day when my bob went from being tuggable to coming out in chunks in a matter of hours. I cried as I saw a patch of baldness appear. I cried as I realised the visible effects of cancer were on show for all to see. I cried because I wanted to be in control of my body – and cancer had other ideas.
I felt well, but I looked worse than ever.
Looking back, I know those tears were a turning point for me. Cancer can take so much but, that day, I discovered there was nothing stopping me from taking something in return and lighting a candle in the darkness.
The day I got my head shaved
That's why I rushed to the hairdresser to get my head shaved (he even shampooed my head and gave me a cup of tea like a proper appointment). That's why I had a laugh at the hospital wig fitters, trying out my brunette alter ego. That's why I went to one of Breast Cancer Care's HeadStrong sessions to see whether I had a face for hats or headscarves. That's why I continued to shampoo my shiny bald head (one small act of defiance). And, that's why I went to Cornwall so I could stand on a cliff and feel the breeze against my skin.
I took control and, in so doing, I found the confidence to look in the mirror and smile back at the reflection before me. I have never been body confident, so it makes me laugh that I learned to love my imperfections at the very time they were even more visible.
How I came to love my hair
I am writing this as I sit in the hairdresser's chair (for the fourth time since chemo), waiting for the blonde dye to take hold.
I can no longer imagine being bald, or the days when my partner would find it hard to look at me. I don’t remember the time I set fire to my wig. And, I never think about the hair loss hats packed away neatly in the basement (my insurance policy).
When I look in the salon mirror I don’t see the woman who played it safe with the same bob for six years – the woman so busy rushing through life she’d forgotten to live.
I see someone stronger, happier, more confident and more adventurous – and I see the bold pixie cut that backs that up. I see a woman too busy having fun, exercising, volunteering and travelling to use a hairbrush!
It may be dry and straw-like hair, but it’s my hair and I love it.
It’s just a shame I had to lose it to find out how much.
Are you worried about breast cancer? We were there for Jackie and we’re here for you too.
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