I had always wondered what I’d look like bald. In fact, I had considered doing charity head shaves on several occasions, so the initial news that my chemotherapy would result in hair loss was not as devastating as I know it is for some women. I liked my shoulder-length hair, but after more than 20 years with broadly the same style, I was excited to have a change.
Thinking that short hair falling out would be easier to deal with than long sections, I went to get my hair cut short.
“Like Judi Dench,” I told my hairdresser.
“No – you’ll look more like Emma Watson,” he retorted and persuaded me to have it dyed a bold coppery-red.
The outcome was great; everyone said the short cut suited me so much better than the long bob I had carted around for a quarter of a century. Another bonus was that I was about to save a fortune on haircare.
At chemotherapy, you are offered the ‘cold cap’ treatment. By making your head extremely cold during the infusion, the idea is that you might lose less hair. Most people say it doesn’t work, and I didn’t bother, but I have met a couple of women who did keep their hair through it.
After two weeks, nothing seemed to be falling out; I was starting to think that I had escaped. My teenage daughter groomed me like a monkey every night, seemingly disappointed as she pulled the brush through with no joy.
But by three weeks, hair was detaching itself with glee. If I put my hand to my head, about 100 hairs would come out like a little doll’s wig. After a bath or shower, there would be a thick carpet of red hair left behind. It got too much when every meal I served was garnished with at least a dozen hairs on each plate.
My hairdresser had already volunteered to shave my head any time if I wanted, so I trooped on down and sat through a rather surreal hour of different types of clippers and razors, hearty banter and the inevitable feelings of loss. Suddenly all the hairdressers in the building were commenting on what a great head-shape I had and how it suited me. Well I suppose you would do that, under the circumstances.
Four months later, I now only occasionally wake up in the morning thinking I have hair. My top item is a purple merino wool skull cap that I wear all the time; it’s designed for mountaineers and the like, but it has great temperature control. In winter, I’ve worn various woolly hats over the top, and have occasionally gone to the supermarket with a bald head and drawn-on eyebrows.
I didn’t get a wig, because everyone in the know said it was itchy and hot, and the price was fairly off-putting. But now, I wish I had, just to have an extra option, or for a smart occasion where you want to blend in with the crowd.
Now it’s summer, I have tried scarves a few times but I don’t really like the feel or the look; I prefer to wear a cloche straw hat, the purple merino cap or go bald. My arms and legs are super smooth and, down below, I have a chemically-induced full Brazilian. I have found it grim with no eyelashes to catch tears nor eyebrows to catch any beads of forehead sweat. However, at long last my hair is starting to grow back. It’s white and I think I’m going to look like this little monkey before too long.