How losing my hair helped me find my smile

Jackie Scully | 08 October 2015

Jackie Scully

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.

Jackie at the hairdresser

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.

Call our nurses free on 0808 800 6000 for care, support and information from day one.