Tag Archives: Vanity

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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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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The Six Year Old Boy

For the last few days, my new hair cut has reminded me of something. Something familiar, but I hadn’t quite been able to put my finger on the cause of this recognition. And then, this morning, as I was trying to motivate myself to function, it came to me. It was in my room the whole time… My new hair cut reminds me of me, aged six, when Mamma Jones chose to have her two daughters looking like sons. See?

Not much has changed to be sure.

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Liberated?

The day has come. The day I always knew was going to come has come. The day I never wanted has come. I have shaved off my hair.

I should probably be clear and say that my head shaved looks better than what I have been sporting for the last ten days, and that is in public. One can only imagine what Housemate was greeted with every morning (yes, if I got up before he left for work) after I had slept on the balding mess. The pragmatic side of me knows I had to take this step, if only to save my kitchen floor from becoming a carpet. I am thankful to the person who did it, finally. I will no longer wonder what I will look like with a shaved head, because I have seen it. I will no longer wonder, at least not for the foreseeable future, how long my hair has left because it is gone.

I have prepared and prepared for this moment, and I have tried to put it off for as long as possible, but the sad truth was, that today, it was too far gone. The cyclophosphamide, that I did not need, had done its job, well at least some of it, and the only way for me to regain control was to shave it.

The act of doing it was fine. I was with Big Sister. I was brave and I knew it had to be done. I do not feel brave now. I do not want to be brave. I will deal with my new look because I have to, my circumstances and my dogged determination to make the best of My Myeloma dictate that. I do not want to look like this. I have listened to and been appreciative of other cancer patients tell me that the experience is not that bad and they have felt liberated by it, but I do not want to feel liberated. Sure, I am going to save some time in the morning and save a bit of cash on hair products, but I do not want to look like this. My name is Emma Jane Jones and I have luscious long locks, that is what I recognise. When they went, I had a bob and that was fine. I don’t recognise myself today in the mirror. I have tried to not look in the mirror. My thoughts and my mind are the same, but the packaging is different and today, I cannot reconcile the two. I don’t want to look like this.

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The evolution of my mane.

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What is left

I don’t want people to tell me that I look good or that I can pull it off, because I know that I would look better if I did not have a shaved head. I would also be upset if people did’t say these things by the way. There is no escaping that fact. If I am perfectly honest with myself, at certain angles, let’s say 80%, I have a double chin. Said double chin cannot be hidden when one has no hair. The hair itself is quite thin, so for extra vanity points, there are clear areas of scalp. Hmmmm, scalp. If I was a blondie, this would not be an issue, but alas, I am far from blonde. I also have masculine features. It’s a true story and unfortunately, they cannot be hidden without locks either. I fear I look like Haemo Dad, but he has more hair. I am going to need to be on the ball with my makeup; runny mascara and lipstick crud at the end of the day will no longer be permitted. I am angry with myself for thinking it, but I know for sure now that I will have to win any boy over with my wit and my wit alone and that evidently does not go far. I don’t want people to feel relief that they do not have to be seen with me on their arm. In my life, I have been fortunate to have run my hand through some very soft short hair before, and I expected my hair to feel like that. It doesn’t. It feels like a mass of ingrowing hairs. Maybe it needs to be longer. The icing on the cake was the family dog’s reaction to my new ‘do. She just kept licking my ears and the area behind my ears. I think a Bischon Frishe my have a limited IQ.

With no make up, no filter, after a dose of thalidomide, I look like this:

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I repeat that I know why I have a shaved head and I know that I had very little choice in the matter. I also know that it will get better. I know my reaction to it will get better. It’s just one of those cancer related things that sucks.

I am vain, and my feelings about my hair are influenced by how I want people to see me. Despite my double chin and my masculine features, I liked the way I looked. I will have to learn to like this and I dread to think just how obsessed I will be about finding my new comfort zone over the coming weeks. New clothes are bound to be involved. Jewellery too. Perhaps some make up. As with everything else, I will not let it defeat me and I will find a way. I will find a way because I have to, just like everything else. I am just giving myself a moment to dwell. Dwell on the things it has changed and the things about me I will miss. Everybody will know I have cancer now. Well, everybody outside the London Borough of Hackney. Maybe it will make it easier to get a seat on the bus.

Everything will make sense again, and it will get off to a good start this coming Wednesday when my good friend Iana, who likes his hair more than I liked mine will be shaving his hair off for Macmillan. We were supposed to do it together and this had been planned since October, but I was a wuss and kept putting it off until I could no longer put it off. So, in short, to support me, he has decided to Bic his head. I personally cannot wait. The link to his Just Giving page is below, please dig deep. He’s had long hair, cut by his Mum since he was 13. Do not think this is a token exercise just because he is a boy. It is his armour too. Neither of us are celebrities doing this for publicity. We found our own inspiration. I should add that all previous donations have already gone to Macmillan. I swear.

https://www.justgiving.com/shavingmyhairwithEJBones/

Oh, and if you are still in two minds about donating. He made a video about us. It will win you over. It won me over. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NtJ4RTVMPE

Apologies if I have previously posted this, I have tried and tried to remember whether I have, but I just cannot recall. Bloody drugs.

And finally, due to IT issues, I wrote this blog yesterday. I fear that the self loving through retail therapy will start today. I want to feel pampered.

EJB x

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Silver Linings

My hair is falling out, again.

I knew it would. I was more than prepared for it when I thought I was having my transplant. Get it all out the way in one go I thought… After all, I was fortunate enough to have kept it for so long.

I am not having my stem cell transplant now am I? Unfortunately, nobody told the cyclophosphamide that. My hair is falling out again and given everything else that has happened this week, the chances of just a bit of thinning, is slight. Especially when this just happened when I brushed my teeth.

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If some good had come out of me having the chemo, you know, like getting better, I wouldn’t mind. No good has come from this though has it? It is October all over again.

I am now going to lose my hair, for it to grow back, for me to lose it again if I have a transplant.

I hate it. I hate this. I hate.

EJB x

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Short Bed Hair

Apparently, this is what happens to short hair if your body allows you to toss and turn in your sleep.

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It’s a whole new experience. And before you say anything, yes, I forgot to wash my makeup off last night.

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Baby Steps

There comes a time, I assume, in every vain cancer patients journey, when they have to give in to the inevitable. I know that in a month or so’s time, I will lose my hair. I have been losing my hair since October.

I kept onto the length for as long as possible, but I fear that since the hair that fell out in the Autumn started to grow back, I had become one of those people who needed to be told to take the plunge and cut it off. It is thick on top, by varying lengths, and straggly on the bottom.

I cannot remember the last time I had short hair. I think I was probably a morbidly obese teenager, not doing well with boys, but doing well in her A Levels. I just wanted to get the last bit in, so you know that I was once a smarty pants. Whilst we are on the subject, did you know I won an award for my results? Good times. Where was I? Yes, short hair. If I was really brave, I would shave it off now. I am not really brave.

I want to know that I can have hair at varying short lengths. I am not a hair stylist. My ability to style my hair is limited to a brush, hair straighteners or a top knot. Thus, I am less worried about the total baldness, than I am about my vanity at it growing back. Plus, without long hair, what the devil am I going to play with when I am talking to people. Can I go four days without washing short hair? So many questions, with no answers.

Yesterday, I took a small step to answering some of my questions. GKD came round and to repay the dinner I cooked, she cut my hair. I can no longer tie my hair up. It’s at a length that shows off my sideburns. Sideburns, by the by, Mr Darcy would be jealous of. It’s a length that is not of my choosing.

I am not in the situation where I can have long hair. I have known this for a long time. There is nothing to be done about it and I need to stop dwelling on it. My luscious, long locks are no more. They had gone a long time ago. And this is what I am left with:

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I kind of like it.

EJB x

Oh, and in answer to my question about playing with me hair. Stroking the short bits at the back is quite soothing.

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Sweet, Sweet Vanity

I always knew I had narcissistic tendencies. I like a mirror, providing the reflection is just of my head and shoulders, the lighting is complementary and my body is tilted just enough to show a little bit of collarbone or would do if I was naked. I like photographs too, providing it is just of my head and shoulders, the lighting is complementary and my body is tilted just enough to show a little bit of collarbone or would do if I was naked. My Myeloma has made me realise just how self loving I am, when I am not worrying about death, the majority of my concerns are about losing my identity, the things I like about me. My appearance is the main issue. I am not deluded, I do not have a great deal to work with, I look too much like Haemo Dad to be a beauty, but I work with what I have and most the time, I can pull it off, even with the stomach. Lipstick helps. Lipstick will have to be my saviour when I am bald with a prickly beard.

These thoughts must have been going through my mind for a few weeks, because I was just going through my camera roll and I have come across several photographs of myself pouting. Perhaps I wanted evidence of my hair and colour before they disappear with strong chemotherapy. Perhaps I was planning to make a collage for my Mum. Perhaps I just wanted to look at myself.

Think I am exaggerating? Think again…

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Secretly angry

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Seductive work mode

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Bad hair for a large person

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Come to me please

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Thin hair. Thin hair. Thin hair. Pale lips.

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Animal. Wild animal.

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Wearing an animal.

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Lipstick error. Not through snogging.

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Steroid face. Bloated steroid face.

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Farmer’s wife

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Shiny Instagram

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I’m not really sure what is happening here.

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Somebody is tired, and maybe a little bit nauseous, oh and constipated. I just love chemotherapy.

I wonder what it all means…

I am so sorry that you had to see this, but I thought it was only fair that you see what I put up with.

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