Category Archives: Hair Loss

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

In my montage the other day, I missed a crucial part of my transplant tale. A superficial, vanity riddled part, but crucial all the same. My hair loss and how I am coping with it. I have obviously been through this process before, I lost my hair in 2013 and again in 2013 (not a typo) and despite my initial fear, I enjoyed being something of a chameleon with whatever was on or off my head. If anybody had asked me in 2014 what I thought of my hair loss, I would say that it turned out to be far better than I had anticipated. Fast forward to 2015 and I do not know how I feel about losing my hair. I can’t decide. Trust me, indesicion is something I am familiar with.

It took a while, but I had fallen head over heals in love with my new curly hair. Had the transplant not happened, I was just a few months shy of reaching my goal of a ‘do reminiscent of Michelle Pfieffer in Married to the Mob, post husband’s murder. But that was not to be.

In an attempt to take control of the uncontrollable, I had a friend shave off my hair, a day after it started to fall out with the greatest of haste on Day +12. It happened that quickly. Some members of the Network told me to wait, for they thought there was a chance I wouldn’t lose all of it, but the thought of leaving clumps of my hair all over Tottenham Court Road was too much to bear. 

In two days, my hair went from full and bushy to a Number 3 crop.

Why a Number 3 and not a full head shave? Well, on the advice of the lovely Macmillan Support workers, alopecia needs a helping hand. In order to lose my hair with the minimum amount of trouble, I needed to keep some weight so that it could fall out naturally. As naturally as chemically induced hair loss can be. So there I was on Day +12 with less hair than I had on Day 0, but still with hair. You will note from the complication above, the slugs that make up my eyebrows went absolutely nowhere.

Over the next seven days, my hair quickly left my follicles and made it’s way to whatever surface I was in the presence of. A lint roll proved to be an invaluable tool during this time, especially for use on my beds, and don’t even get me started on the power of the Electronic Power Sweeper… Mamma Jones likened the situation to having a black Labrador in the house. The fact I enjoyed pulling my short hair out of my head marginally dulled how depressing it was to see evidence of a hair massacre everywhere I went. Hair today, gone tomorrow.

  

The whole process took eight days. Eight long days. I lost the hair on my head and another area of my body, but it remained everywhere else. It’s not growing anywhere else, but sadly, the beard, moustache and somewhat dastardly, my sideburns remained. That’s right, sideburns. Unlike events of 2013, I kept my sideburns and more strangely  than that, my hair line. To all intents and purposes, I was bald, bar circular line from my forehead round the back of my head (along with the side burns and a few stray hairs). It was a style that screamed cancer. Squarked it, actually. Thus, it was necessary to get those clippers out one last time to remove my hair line and some of the sideburns, not all the sideburns as I do not want stubble on my face. The side burn issue is a situatuon most unfortunate. 

  
Once I was bald, and able to hit the streets, I encountered another hurdle, a daily hurdle. What to wear? In 2013, I think I found baldness something of a novelty. I enjoyed wearing my collection of wigs. At times, I found it fun. I do not remember feeling as self conscious about it as I do now. I am finding that with or without a wig, I feel self conscious. It’s not a dressing up game. I imagine the world secretly pointing at me saying that is a bad wig, or laughing at the fat crease at the back of my bald head. Early on in this process, I went on a day trip to Tesco, naked as it were and found strangers either stared at me, smiled and tilted their heads at me or worst still, tried and failed not to look at me. Either way, I felt their discomfort tenfold. Since then, whenever I am in public, I want to cower. 

I very much wish I could just say “fuck it” and embrace my situation and play with it. Do not get me wrong, outwardly, I do vary between my wigs and baldness and leave the flat, but I am never not aware of it. The Afro wig I loved so much before, because it was so obviously not my natural hair, has become something like a nemesis. I am prone to exaggeration after all.

I’ll let you into a little secret, when one finds themselves without any hair, it doesn’t change them. My brain still works exactly how it did before and I enjoy all the same things.  If I am in the comfort of my own home, I feel whatever normal is. Hair holds no secret power to my personality. Well, it doesn’t until I look in a mirror and I am reminded that I now look like Shrek. Perhaps if my weight was not so unruly I would feel better, perhaps if I did not have to worry about the next transplant or my finances or my future employment, and everything else that keeps me awake at night, I would be able to not care about my baldness.

A relative of mind told me that I should wear my wigs to ‘feel pretty’. Feel pretty? Is that to say that I am not pretty without one? Has having cancer made me inherently ugly or just uglier? On the other hand, a friend of mine, on seeing me walk down a street with nothing on my head but my headphones, donning my Raybans and a healthy application of Ruby Woo on my face said I looked ‘swear word cool’. I don’t think he adopts the belief that femininity and beauty can only be achieved with a full head of hair. But, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and there are a lot of beholders out there.  

The truth is, I see neither cool nor beauty when I look in the mirror. Yesterday, all I saw when I wiped condensation from my bathroom mirror post shower was Martin Sheen emerging from the swamp in Apocalypse Now. 

It’s an issue. 

It’s not an issue unique to me. Well, maybe not the Apocalypse Now bit. I read an article in Vogue Online last week about just this thing, hoping it would help me recapture the confidence I once felt (http://www.vogue.com/projects/13262618/hair-loss-women-cancer-chemotherapy-alopecia/?mbid=social_Instagram). It didn’t. I do not know how it made me feel, like a fraud maybe. I’m making all the right noises, doing all the right things, but the fakery does not seem to be working as much as I would like. 

Until I am able to pull my socks up, I’ll gently stroke the prickles on my head and marvel at my dazzling collection of wigs. 

   

EJB x

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Hair Cut I

The time came a few weeks ago for me to stop pretending I was Mark Hughes circa 1993, and have my hair cut.
If I am honest, I had been advised on multiple occasions prior to three weeks ago, to visit a professional hairdresser. It’s an important distinction because my last few hair cuts, if you can call them that have not been by individuals trained in hair. Trained in medicine maybe. Works in TV production for sure. But hair? Not on your life.

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The badly timed passport photo

My last proper haircut, in a salon was on the 9 August 2012. I had different hair then. It was long, thick and straight. Now, I have short and curlies. Thick short and curlies. Again, this is important to note because I have absolutely no idea what to do with curls.

I hate having my hair cut, I always have. Making small talk with a stranger whilst I am forced to look in a mirror, as people are blasting heat all over the place sitting on a pleather chair wearing a waterproof smock for an hour is hardly my idea of fun. If anything, it’s rash inducing. For this reason, I sought advice from my curly haired friends and made a hair appointment accordingly.

When my hair was growing back, I imagined my first real haircut to be a milestone. Unfortunately, my relapse and the knowledge that at some point I will be losing my hair again, sooner than I had hoped, put a slight dampener on the proceedings. The Hairdresser said things like “it will be so exciting to see this grow in” and “look at longer styles you like and we will aim for that.” I did not have the heart to tell him that I did not know how long this curly mop will last. Perhaps it’s because I am not ready yet to admit it to myself. Who knows how it will grow back?

Even though it was not the milestone I had hoped, it was a far more pleasurable experience and one that warranted a trip to Mac afterwards in preparation of my benefit claims. Crucially, he told me what I need to do to style my hair. I now have a diffuser and I know that Head and Shoulders is bad. One of the Blood Taking Ladies informed me today that I am still not using the diffuser properly, but my technique has improved in the last fortnight. Phew. I told her it is a work in progress and one very much dependent on the daily level of back pain and my ability to lift my arm above my head.

The long and short of it is that for the first time in a long time, I can actually tolerate my hair. I am embracing the curls, not so much it’s current volume in this humidity. There is a lot of volume today. I will continue to try embrace it, for as long as I have it. The news on the street is a new drug I have been prescribed can cause some hair thinning, so the curls may leave me even sooner than I had secondly anticipated.

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I tell you something for nothing, I am pretty sure I will regret that passport photo in three years time. I have it for ten.

EJB x

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Regrowth V

Since I last provided an update on the subject, I can confirm that my head is still producing coils. Many, many coils. Several coils of brown hair. Said coils, continue to grow outwards instead of downwards. As I am talking about myself, I do not need to be polite, but if I was being polite, I would say that my current ‘do has ‘volume’. If I was not being polite, I would say that it is a bushy mess that is nice to touch. One might be mistaken for thinking I have a perm. People have mistaken what is going on on top of my head as a perm. It is no perm. It is all natural, if you can say that something caused by chemotherapy, is natural.

I am still adopting the hair growth policy of Leave It Be. It will fall out at some point again, so I might as well use this time to experiment for the next time. All I know is that these curls cannot be styled, they cannot be blow dried. All they want is conditioner and liberal amounts of oil.

The coily curls are like Marmite, you either love it or you hate it. People give unsolicited opinions about it. They do it over lunch, having a drink, on the 7s and on the street.

Wow.

It’s cool.

Perhaps you should go to a hairdressers.

Gosh it is curly.

Can I touch it?

You might need to trim the back.

Clearly, I prefer one type of comment over the other, but the world does not only smell of roses, just look at myeloma.

It needs no more introduction. Birds could live in it.

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After spending an afternoon honouring the late, great Harold Ramis, I think personally think my hair is reminiscent of this;

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I am yet to decide whether this is a good or bad thing.

EJB x

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Regrowth IV

Relax! I know it has been a while, but it is fine, you can relax, my hair continues to grow back. My new hair is not relaxed. It is a curly mofo.

I am a cancer stereotype and my hair has returned curly. It is also thick, but that is no surprise, because it was coarse horse hair before anyway. My favourite party trick at the moment, designed to entertain myself and myself only, is to carry pens or pencils in the curls. I might experiment later and see how many I can fit in there. My head is rather large after all, so I predict I can hold at least three. I’ll let you know. Telepathically.

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Mamma Jones spied on these photos yesterday and appreciated the curls

I have been forced to discover that curly hair requires a different sort of maintenance than long, dark flowing locks. Curly hair does not like hair driers, nor does it enjoy being touched in general, which is difficult for me because I am always looking for something to stroke, even if that something ends up being myself. Anyway, both of these activities result in me looking like I have a single block of brown candy floss on my head. I was advised by the Macmillan Hair Lady to treat my hair like I am of a different ethnicity, and that I am doing. I had to do a Google search. This includes liberal applications of oil. Word of warning, do not touch any fabrics directly after applying for obvious reasons.

I am amazed by the speed in which my follicles are growing. As an exercise in narcissism, I just looked at some photographs of myself from the start of January and I am surprised by the growth. It’s a talking point. I can guarantee that somebody will mention it to me today. They’ll be surprised by the curls, just like I am. I will then have the same conversation with another human being. Mind you, better they comment on my head that my weight gain. Gross.

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Until Part V, this is Hair News signing off.

EJB x

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Regrowth III

Last night, in my not so sweet dreams, I dreamt that when in direct sunlight, the hair on my face appeared to be much longer than the hair on my head, I’m talking male hipster length of beard. It was a megamix of the Twilight franchise. Fortunately, this excessive hair only appeared when I was standing in the sun or on those frequent times when I stand under a fluorescent light. Let’s face it, this was not a dream, it was a nightmare. πŸ™€. Halloween came late for me. The scariest thing about my nightmare, is that I knew that the bristles were there, poking out of my skin even when I was in the dark, and for that there was no cure.

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Now, one should not read too much into dreams, I mean, I have no idea what the one meant the other day where I was on the 7s chatting my work shit, feeling happy. In the case of this particularly dream, I will hazard a guess and say that the unwanted regrowth on my chin, lip and general lower part of my face is making me feel self conscious, manly and ugly, and those do not a confident woman make. Well, that, or it could just be because I was looking at photographs of some fine trannys before I turned off my lights.

Damn you social networks. Damn you steroids. Damn you menopause. I think I really need to listen to some Shania Twain. If only I did not hate her music so…

EJB x

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Regrowth Part II

For most people in this fair land, hair grows. It grows and you have it cut, shaved, waxed or lasered. I am nowhere near the former, but I am most definitely in need of the rest of them, for my hair is growing back with a vengeance. Everywhere.

Everywhere I look on my body, hair is coming back thicker and denser than it ever has. Only on my head and on my brows is this a good thing. Okay, my eye lashes too. I appreciate that these are growing back, even though they currently look like I was a victim of a subtle practical joke involving a pair of scissors. Gone are my Chinese brows of yesteryear and in are black slugs. Maybe they are not slugs yet, but they are going to be something the TOWIE’s would be jealous of. I think the miracle gel known as Lilbrow assisted this framing device.

As for the rest of me? Well, save a miracle, I am not far away from a five o’clock shadow. If the hair on my head grew as fast as the hair on my chin and upper a lip does, I would be an almost happy women. At some point in my future I would like a man to stroke my face and then cover it in gentle kisses, but the mood will be somewhat ruined when the mythical man encounters my whiskers. Oh and my fingers and toes…. I really do not know why anybody would need hair here, but my body has decided that I do. I really do not want to look like Robin Williams. The fault belongs to drugs I fear. Steroids and chemo. Life may be easier for a man, but that does not mean that I want the appearance of one. It’s a shame. Any man, would have to be a brave one/have an unfortunate fetish.

The hair on my head is progressing nicely. I have discovered that grey hairs grow faster than my dark shade of brown ones, but even those now cover every part of my head. We are almost at the stage where my ‘do looks optional. We all know it is not, but right now, I thoroughly enjoy stroking it. It’s like having a rabbit on my head. A nice, soft rabbit. Who knows what next month is going to bring? A yeti?

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Wig Maintenance Part II

Once upon a time, I used to wash my hair frequently, I will not say that I did it daily for that would be a lie, but I would wash it and it would be clean. I was not a fan of the process. For obvious reasons, I do not need to wash my hair at the moment. It is almost liberating. Forget washing and going, these days I can throw a wig on and hop, quick, and step it out the door. The mirror next to the front door facilitates this.

The problem with wigs is that even if you alternate between a few, you still have to wash them. If you do not wash them, they start to smell like dog, or a well worn coat which you wore whilst swimming in a sewer. Surprisingly, they can also greasy. Due to monetary constraints, none of my wigs are made of real hair. So, what is one to do with dirty fake hair?

The first answer is put it off. Leave them and pretend they will clean themselves. I did this for a good month.

The actual answer or answers is Google and Pantene. I used both. And let me tell you, as I stood over my bathroom sink, trying not to feel my back, it was perfectly clear that a wash they did need, if the dead fly was not evidence enough.

Many people, and I mean two people, have asked me how one washes a wig. Well, based on my two attempts, I give you some expert guidance below:

Step 1: Fill the sink with warm, but not hot water, ensuring that you put the plug in, otherwise the sink will not fill. Add shampoo. Any brand will suffice.

Step 2: Add brushed wig and get it wet. The water will make it wet. Use your hands for this. They too, will get wet. After a minute of prodding, drain the sink and admire all the dirt clinging to the bowl and wonder where all the grit came from. Take a photo or two.

Step 3: Put the sodden wig in clean water and prod some more. After a minute of prodding, drain the sink and admire all the dirt clinging to the bowl and wonder where all the grit came from. Feel slightly ashamed.

Step 4: Repeat steps 1-3 with conditioner, because the task at hand is mindless and easy, yet, technically, you are still achieving something you can blog about/work into a conversation when people have asked you what you have done with you day, that is more interesting than saying you drew a few Santa Claus’ on graphics paper whilst watching television.

Step 5: Place wet wig, now smelling of clean smelling chemicals, in a towel and gently pat. Or in my case, leave the towel and wig in the bathtub and forget about it.

Step 6: Leave to dry on a wig stand. Warning. Do not place on a low windowsill when they is a puppy in your house, as it will be mistaken for a scary threat and said puppy will get territorial.

Step 7: Wear and pretend you have real hair again when your nose catches a whiff of shampoo in the wind. The wig will appear to be brand new all over again, only this time, it will not smell like plastic. Feel super sexy. Get it dirty again.

There you have it. A lesson in life. Pictorial evidence to follow. Please note the colour. It is a clear example of my approach to cleanliness.

No need to thank me.

EJB x

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Regrowth

With hair loss comes hair growth, unless you are an ageing man, have permanent alopecia or have had successful laser hair removal, but in the world of strong chemotherapy, hair loss almost always is followed by hair growth.

In some ways, this is a marvellous thing worthy of celebration so great, one goes out and buys a bottle of Pantene. Fantastic. In other ways, it is a hindrance and has one covering their face with a brown bag as they go out to buy Veet facial wax strips and new tweezers. If they are a female conforming to society’s expectations that is. Men might buy shaving foam.

I am not quite at the Pantene stage yet, but there is hair beginning to sprout from my skull. Prickly hair. I was told not to expect any growth for three months, so I am pleased with the prickles, which appear to be growing by the day by the nanometer. It totally looks like I have cancer.

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My facial hair growth on the other hand? Well, put it this way, at this rate, I could soon look like Brian Blessed.

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Patchy

Now then, this particular round of chemotherapy, as well as making me lose my stomach lining, has also made me lose more hair than I have ever lost before. That’s not hard, I suppose, but I somehow feel like an old pro when it comes to this. Been there. Done that. Shed the tears. I might not like it, but there is something familiar about it, like a bloody nose.

The hair loss was expected and it was no where near as traumatising as it was the first time around. I do not like the end result, but as I have said many times since I entered the hospital, ‘I’ve lost it once, and I’ve seen it grow back. It will grow back’. It will grow back.

For those of you who have never personally endured hair loss, let me tell you something, it does not fall out evenly. You do not fall asleep with a full head of hair to wake up looking like an egg. It is slow and it is even. It is not a cheap haircut. My head currently looks like it is covered in a patchwork quilt. I described it yesterday as a pattern that would have been great on a jumper three years ago.

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A Medically Trained Person shaved my head for me on Monday, however, I suspect now that he should have done a grade zero, instead of a one, if that is what it is called, I’m used to scissors, for I am still shedding. My face has permanently looked like I have been sat in a hairdressers for six days now. It’s amazing that even after the head was shaved, the volume of hair that has managed to appear on my skin, down my cleavage and in my bed. It’s everywhere. I have had to get my bedding changed twice a day because of the prickles from my bristles. I may enjoy pulling out my remaining hair, which makes my bed and surrounding floor look even worse, but I think this is just hurrying the process along. I do not find it soothing. Not at all. That would be perverse.

I am not allowing myself to touch my eyebrows. My chin? Sure, all the time, but I absolutely do not want to antagonise those furry bad boys. Ideally, they need to remain and so far, their are standing firm. My eye lashes on the other hand are not quite so steadfast.

I am not completely hairless yet, and I doubt I will be. It would appear that the hair I would benefit from losing, remains. I just investigated what was happening up my nostrils for example and I can confirm that they still have their own inbuilt central heating system.

I think it is only appropriate for me to add that the head was not the first place I began to lose my hair. Veet. Veet.

EJB x

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The Wire Haired Fox Terrier

My hair is growing back. It’s a true story. I was told it would and what do you know, it is.

I was also told that it would come back wonderfully soft, like babies hair. This is not happening. No. Perhaps the reason for this is because I failed to lose all of my hair, or perhaps it is because I am genetically cursed to have hair so coarse that it resembles the coat of a wired head fox terrier. That’s right, I am walking around with a dark shade of brown head of animal hair on my head. No amount of conditioner can hide the fact that I have a thickening rug of short and curlies visible for all the world to see. My long hair hid the fact that my hair has the consistency of straw, but now it is short, there is nowhere to hide. There is also, nowhere to hide my grey hairs. Apparently, I have more than I thought I had, though, I suspect my eyes are lying to me on this subject.

It is fortunate that I do not have a significant other, because if I did, they’d obviously had the constant desire to touch me, and if they ever accidentally stroked my head, the wire carpet would cut their hand. So… Small mercies, lads.

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Pubes with Headphones

Thanks Mum. Thanks Dad.

Oh well, it’ll all come out again soon. It’s a shame then, that I currently require a hair cut. The bits at the back are bending and I really do not have a clue what to do about it. Ah, the stress. Ah, the vanity.

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