Tag Archives: appearance

The Cancer Look

Having cancer and dealing with said cancer, is a very personal journey. As the days since my diagnosis have rolled into years, I am occasionally surprised that having cancer is nothing like I thought having cancer would be like.  I am comfortable with that small epiphany until embarrassment catches up with me and I realise that I once thought it was something far more definable. By the way, I should explain that I do hate to use the word ‘journey’, because it makes it too easy for people to mistakenly conjure up an image of me on a metaphorical  road to some sort of luvvie duvvie infused, spiritual enlightenment. In my head, the word ‘journey’ simply means that I manage to keep moving forward, albeit slowly, in spite of what is happening with My Myeloma. How I achieve that and how I appear whilst doing it, is my own private business (the fact that I choose to share it is neither here nor there). In truth, I am not completely comfortable using the term ‘cancer’ to describe what is wrong with me. To me ‘cancer’ is an umbrella term that covers a whole host of nasty, sinister things, which present themselves in a variety of shapes and sizes. I have Multiple Myeloma and yet, my explanation of what I have when strangers ask, rarely gets beyond the term ‘cancer’.Approximately   5000 people in the UK are diagnosed with MM annually.  In my very personal journey, I have come to the conclusion that even though it accounts for around 1% of newly diagnosed cancers, myeloma is a relatively small community; the way in which  myeloma sufferers cope, behave, look and feel, will always an individual’s experience. There may be similarities between patients, there will always be some similarities, but I strongly believe that each ‘Journey’, so to speak, is unique. 

There is a problem with my idea of having a personal, private and an individual journey. It’s a big problem. My Myeloma can never remain wholly personal or private because I exist in a world where other human beings exist and I have to exist with them. These human beings of which I speak, are a diverse bunch, many of whom have not had to experience cancer first hand (lucky so and sos), but they will still have their own perceptions of what cancer is, based on what they have seen and believe to be true, they will in turn apply this to me. Diversity is so prevalent in almost every aspect our society, that it is disappointing that the archetype or quintessial idea of what having cancer looks like is so flawed. I love a sweeping statement and I just made two. I cannot understand why in an educated society such as ours, the general and embedded consensus of how somebody with cancer should behave or look, is so simplistic, and for want of a better word, wrong. 

Cancer was not on the syllabus when I was at school, and to my knowledge is not studied in schools today, and so the general (mis)understanding of it, must stem from elsewhere. But where, oh where?

Cancer, that umbrella term for nasty and sinister things, is in itself diverse. A quick Google search tells me that there are currently around 2.5 million people in the UK suffering from cancer. Another Google search states that there are over 200 types of cancer, and believe it or not, some of those do not involve lump, tumours and remissions.  I may be preaching to the converted, but while we are on the subject, ‘chemotherapy’ does not stand for one drug and one drug alone, nor are the side effects of the variety of chemotherapies always the same. I still have my eyebrows. I say this because I once saw a procedural police drama in which the murderer was caught because she had eyebrows, which meant she could not possibly have had the ‘chemotherapy’ she claimed to have had and thus was exposed as a fraud and murderer. Brilliant deduction.  If only it was that easy. Cancer was not on the syllabus when I was at school, and to my knowledge is not studied in schools, and so the general (mis)understanding of it, must stem from elsewhere… The entertainment industry and the media in general can be blamed for almost every ill, but more on that later.

I cannot attest for the accuracy of the statistics I have quoted, leave that to Cancer Research UK, but the numbers should be big enough to prove that one size does not fit all. Put it another way, if a mad scientist put 50 healthy men in their 30s with brown hair in a room, you would expect their individual differences to quickly become evident. Yet, if the scientist put 50 people with ‘cancer’ in a room, my experience tells me that the majority of people would  expect them to act and look the same. I do not know why this should be, or at the very least, why I feel so strongly that this is true.   

I am not one to brag, especially not on this point which makes me see red in capital letters, but I am constantly being told that I do not look like I have cancer. You don’t look like you have cancer. I hear it so often, it almost feels that it has become my own personalised greeting. My world is fairly isolated, so perhaps it has simply become the fashionable thing to say to anybody and everybody, and I am being too sensitive. Instead of saying “hey there chickpea, nice bum”, every Tom, Dick and Harry are telling people that they  do not look like they have cancer. In the 90s there was heroin chic, in the 10s, there is this. It’s this season’s hottest look; baldness, blubber and lipstick. Today for example, on the last day of September, I was in a room with a number of people also with cancer, and two of them, separately, told me that I did not look like I have cancer. I shook my head. What does this phrase even mean? How should I look? Should I remove my smile? Is it a compliment? Should I be flattered? Most days I assume it must be a compliment and it is what I get now instead of “you look nice today, Emma”. Then there are other days when I think people use it as a backhanded compliment, and it is alternative way of saying “good God, you’re fat.” Once, a beloved family member, over dinner, told me that she thought it was strange that I had put on weight post diagnosis, when it is the norm for the opposite to happen with cancer. I was then questioned as to why I thought I was an exception to the rule. I do not think there is a rule. Horses for courses. Needless to say, it was a conversation that made me feel real swell. 

Comments like the ones I have mentioned above, even if they stem from a compassionate place, make me think badly about myself. It is not because I feel like Quasimodo, I don’t. They make me feel like I have done something wrong with regards to my treatment, and that by not looking ‘ill’, I am a liar, a fraud, a hypochondriac or worst of all, it makes me question if my treatment is working. It’s not a feeling I need, especially whilst stuck in this current twilight zone. If I try really hard, squint and look back over the past three glorious years, I think there have been times in the hospital and out of the hospital; with cancer patients and with normal folk, when I have felt penalised for looking the way I look. I do not know why. Whilst waiting for my last clinic appointment, I surveyed the faces of the thirty plus people waiting with me to be seen at the myeloma clinic, and I could not tell who were patients and who were family, and neither would I want to. The room was full of people of various ethnicity, age, size, hair colour and personality. Some people looked out of the window, others look at their phones, one person read a book, I started this blog. The only assumptions  I made in that room were regarding the couple who failed to say “thank-you” when I opened the door for them, and a woman who made me climb over her legs and belongings to get to my appointment. Maybe I did not look like I had cancer, so they thought they could forget their manners?

Essentially, Cancers, plural, are complex enough without applying stereotypical and superficial views of what somebody with cancer should look like. It does not afford the people who suffer from cancer and their plight the respect they deserve. It garners sympathy, sure, but it cannot create true empathy.

Apart from seeing two of my grandparents die from cancer, my pre myeloma experience of cancer was slight. My impression of a non-elderly person having cancer was unrealistically pieced together from various media portrayals of what cancer is: films, television programmes, cancer charity adverts and newspapers, all played their part. It was a picture that usually involved weight loss, looking tired, general frailty including looking pale, vomiting, hair loss hidden by a pale coloured scarf and finally, remission or death. Despite the current trend for adapting Young Adult literature on this subject to the big screen, it is a perception that remains, even among patients. In the modern press for example, if somebody famous displays one or two of these symptoms, usually the first three (for few people care to vomit in front of their neighbourhood paparazzo),  gossip columns become awash with speculation that the person in question has cancer. Just last week, I saw two such articles about two different actors. Is it the new body shaming? Although many people with cancer do suffer from these side effects, it is wrong to think all sufferers experience a similar path. I understand that not everybody in this fair land is medically trained (I am not), and thus without a knowledge of a patient’s medical history and blood results, what are people left to judge a person’s health by if not their appearance? It’s an attitude that creates an artificial and incorrect hierarchy. Looking like you do not have cancer, doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t. D’uh. Insufferable presumption. 

 Jackie Collins, the famed and saucy author, sadly passed away last week following a ‘secret’, six year battle against breast cancer. As well as the traditional obituaries, I read one article in which the primary focus was not on her lifetime achievements, but that in the immediate weeks before her death, she showed no signs of being unwell, let alone have a terminal illness, and most of all, she did not look like she had cancer. I know a text message style abbreviation for what I think of this and it goes something along the lines of, what the fuck?  I’m a lady though, so I will just SMH.

The coverage introduced a further element to my latest pet peeve. It looked beyond how a cancer patient should look, and they should look and dress in whatever makes them comfortable, in case you were in any doubt.  To me, it raised how one with cancer, granted one far more serious than my own, should act. Take the terminal side of things out of this, and I ask of you, how are cancer patients supposed to act? Is there a general expectation or standard that should be applied to sound an alarm if somebody is acting ‘too normal’ or having too much fun? Should us poor sufferers spend our time between bed and the sick bowl or can we work, go to the pub and see our friends and family?  Is it too much to assume that they can do whatever the hell they want? We may have some things in common, but we are not clones of are respective diseases. I will put my hands up and say that in my pre myeloma past, I bought into the ‘cancer’ stereotype that provokes me so much now. I had seen Beaches, Stepmom, Erin Brokovich and even Sex and the City to name but a few, and I believed that that certain things did always have to happen with cancer and the limitations encroached were endless. There will always be limitations, but it is a ridiculous notion and one I am ashamed of once believing. It is a belief as ridiculous as me saying I know what consumption looked and felt like because I have seen La Traviata. Twice.

In the world of My Myeloma; a world where I do not feel well most of the time; a world where I take 40 pills a day to keep me moving; a world where I have to fight with my body at least five days a week to get out of bed; a world where I wear make up and wigs; a world where I control who sees me and when they see me; in this world, I think it is perfectly evident that I have cancer. Of course I would say that, I am with me all the time. I see and experience everything, objectively or not. It is my very personal and private journey after all. 

One day, I hope to be able to block out the comments that frustrate me, or at least learn how to tolerate them. In the meantime, from the bottom of my inferior vena cava, I hope that you never look like you have cancer. Whatever than means.

EJB x

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Made Up

Lipstick brings joy to my face. Foundation, a  splash of Touché Éclat, a sheer eyeshadow, a bit of eyeliner, a tot of mascara and little something something on my checks, apparently brings the life to my face.

Making sure I wear lipstick has been a cardinal rule of mine since My Myeloma began. The only times it has been broken, if you exclude the morning run to the shop, has been during periods of hospital admittance, days of the steroid crash and during Transplant Number 1 The Second when I felt it would be inappropriate to whack on some matte lipstick for a 0.2 mile walk.  I’m no Gwen Stefani. At that time, I also stopped wearing make up because I just found it became too cumbersome, when I was only leaving my bed for 30 minutes a day and lifting a blusher brush felt like I was bench pressing whatever is considered a heavy weight to bench press.

I do not know what I envisaged for my appearance during Transplant Number 2.  Comfort would be key of course and the outfit would have to be put together to allow for easy access to my PICC line and the minimal bearing of the arse crack. Next to that, because I knew I would be sitting on a bed for much of the day needing comfort, on a cancer ward, I concluded that wearing a wig would be unnessary. I originally wrote ‘redundant’, but that is very unfair for all those people, who I once was, who  wear their wigs for themselves. As for the rest,  my vanity must not have as much hold of a over me as I once thought it did, because I really did not give my hospital appearance and attire  any thoughts other than the  practical ones I mentioned above.

Well… that was until people started telling me I looked ‘unwell’. Or ‘tired’. Or ‘tired AND unwell’. Or when they avoided all niceties at all and said I look ‘awful’.

Why I wondered? Why in a matter of days had I gone from looking non descript, I had a ‘great’ on 10 July, to an ‘awful’? The answer, I pondered, has something to do make up. I stopped wearing the stuff at some point over the weekend when I forgot what which one was my right hand. In truth, I should have stopped wearing it a few days before that when I dropped the Chanel Blusher in the dog’s bed.

It begs the question, did the chicken come before the egg? Did I look awful when I stopped having the energy to put my make up on, or did I look awful because I did not have the energy to put make up on? Do I look tired because my neutrophils have dropped from 3.3 to <0.1 in a week or do I look tired because I stopped wearing my make up? 

I imagine it is a combination of the two, but I am certain that a man  going through what I am, would not have experienced such a vocal change in perception about his appearance to the extent I did,  just because I happened to stop wearing make up at the same time I started to go downhill. I asked Mamma Jones about this today and she cannot be objective as a mother and just said that I ‘looked like me.’

Two days ago, despite assuring a Medically Trained Person that I felt exactly how I had, for better or for worse, for the previous few days, I was referred to a Senior Medically Trained Person because I looked like I was ‘struggling’. I think this translates to I had some eye bags. Yesterday, a nurse who had not seen me for since Friday told me that I looked ‘worse’. Would I have looked better if my eyes were brightened by mascara? Was it worth me even asking? 

Would I be in my own bed now if my physical appearance hadn’t ‘deteriorated’? I am still eating, drinking and temperature free. Would the need for this current precaution had been less pronounced if I had been able to put a bit of effort into my appearance? 

Is wearing make up as a young female cancer outpatient and looking ‘normal’ an expected pre-requisitite to make the other patients’ and the staff’s day more palatable? I am certainly more comfortable when I can give my face  the time it needs.

Are all the make brands and their advertisers correct? Do women look better with make up on? Do I look better with make up on? I have been financially unable to purchase a daily ointment from MAC since Christmas and my cheekbones have felt positively non-existence since. I am used to be being told that I ‘look good considering’ and there is the frequent surprise of ‘you don’t look ill’. Complements I would not have, if I were to lay my face bare with it’s menopausal skin and hair, blotches and wrinkles.

Has putting the brush down been too much of a shock? Inwardly, over the last week I have felt grey, sunken, like no part of me has any definition whatsoever and I am in dire need of fluids. Was my war paint shielding others from this struggle? No about of make up could beauty up my blood results, nor could it stop me from wanting to sleep in the Day Clinic.  Using the term ‘decision’ loosely, but how much was my decision to stop wearing make up until I felt able to apply it better than my three year old niece the removal of a mask?  And how much of that decision made me look worse than I feel? 

Most importantly, I always considered myself something of a light make up abuser, but given recent comments, just how much have I been wearing? 

💅🏼💋💄

EJB x

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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 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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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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Wig Maintainance

The one and only benefit to being a baldy unless you are Bruce Willis, is the speed with which one can get dressed. Not having to wash and manage my wonderful, former mane has saved about an hour per wash (I don’t want people imagining that I was doing anything wonderful with it, like brushing it 100 times, I had a life, that was simply, necessary drying time). These days are quite different, I can officially was and go. In and out. The introduction of fake eye lashes to my regime may change things slightly, I am told they require precision which I do not have, but for the moment, when I have energy that is, I am speedy as my foundation brush strokes will imply. Speedier than I was anyway. I still have to decide what not to wear.

I had failed to recognise something however, when it comes to my new regime. It is a relatively simple thing. The guidance came on one side of A4 after all. The simple thing is, washing the wig or in my case, wigs. Until today, I thought that the need to do so, had not yet arisen. I was contemplating it, but it was not yet something I felt was sufficiently urgent for me to spend my energy credits.

The majority of my wigs are straight and in terms of cleanliness, I am looking out for two things; grease and smell. I have not witnessed either. Today, I witnessed something else entirely, deep within the depths of my curls and that my friends, is the little known problem of the dried spider. In some territories, I believe they call it the candied spider, due to the sticky surface which imprisons the spider in the synthetic weave before it is placed in a hot room in front of a window in the middle of summer to die. If you are still uncertain about what happened this morning, let me enlighten you. As I repositioned my wig on my head, I discovered on the fringe, to the left, something that resembled a knot, but it was actually a long gone to the after world spider. An animal. In your real hair one gets lice. In wigs, you get dead spiders. Apparently.

Clearly, I am now concerned that my wigs are mass graveyards and I will be attempting to rectify that in the near future, if I feel that way inclined. However, I am well aware of who I am and my limitations. So should you be. The most recent evidence supports my recent theory, that I am, one big, dirty, rat bag. It’s not because I have cancer.

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Exhibit A

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Exhibit B

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Fugly

Last week, I recounted a story where I accidentally flashed my left bosom at my nurse, which caused me some embarrassment. I did say this in the blog, but I was not embarrassed because somebody saw an illicit part of my body, I have myeloma for goodness sake, so that sort of thing really doesn’t matter, and hasn’t mattered for a long time. I was embarrassed because my well self, would never let myself get into that sort of situation. When I say situation, I mean, my well self, would never allow a stranger to see me in elasticated trousers, sans confidence with my booby hanging out.

Whilst I am aware that the body is just the body, I want and expect mine to look a certain way, in order for me to feel a certain way. My transplant, and if I am honest, aided by my eating ability on VDT, has zapped all comfort and confidence I had, away. I have become embarrassed to see people. A cleaner in the hospital asked me at the weekend whether Big Sister was my daughter… She just about summed things up.

I sit and hope that my transplant has temporarily banished my myeloma, whilst I sit and curse the fact that my transplant has made me feel ugly. Spending a fortnight in my pyjamas, slowly balding, looking grey, immune to weight loss, has done absolutely nothing to boost my confidence. Nothing at all. I do not feel 29. I feel old and irrelevant.

It seems strange that given the seriousness of my procedure and my illness, that I have found time to worry about my appearance, but I have. I am vain. Since I was diagnosed, I have worked with the changes imposed upon me, and made the appropriate concessions, but I have not been able to do that in hospital. There is no need for accessories in here. I have looked like a slob the whole time, and I cannot express how excited I am about getting dressed today. I’ll be putting clothes on and maybe a bit of make up, and a wig. Not quite sex on legs though. Not even, for I have not shaved my legs for 10 days. I thought the chemotherapy would deal with that for me, I was wrong.

I also thought that the Melphalan would do something else for me, it failed…. I am absolutely flabbergasted and disappointed to announce that I have not lost any of my VDT/VTD weight during my transplant. In fact, during the eight days I could not eat nor drink, I lost nothing. I thought weight loss would be my payoff for having to go through my transplant, I was almost promised it. I was wrong. Instead, I got to listen to a nursing assistant compare the size of a blood pressure cuff to the size of my waist. Thanks. I felt like a princess.

To improve matters, and by that, I mean to assist My Myeloma in its quest to turn me into a fetish, I have lost my hair again. Not all of it as I hinted above, just the majority of the stuff that had regrown on my head. In nearly all the places you do not want hair, my hair remains.

Oh, and for some reason I am leaving this place with some very dry skin. Just to top me off.

This was not the long spa break I pretended it was. I may have been given a fitness regime (on my request), had a number of alternative therapies and met with an inept dietician, but I do not feel cleansed.

What am I saying? Sexy, everything about me so sexy. I don’t even know why I got. I really hit the spot.

EJB x

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