OK, I’m going to tempt fate MASSIVELY here, but I think there’s a good chance I could avoid having to wear a syrup. I am tentatively overjoyed, if such a tautological thing is possible.
Bit of a contrast to a couple of weeks back, before the second chemo, when I woke up on Saturday morning and pretty much a handful of hair came out from my head. At first, it was from underneath at the back, where the cold cap probably didn’t reach, but there was quite a lot of it. Then it started coming out from the top, in multiple strands. And that bit of my head had definitely been sub-zero. Uh oh, I thought, this doesn’t look good.
It doesn’t matter how much everyone knows and expects that chemotherapy usually equals hair loss, when it starts falling out, it’s extraordinarily distressing, and a real shock. Especially as I’d gone through the discomfort of the cold cap and had been doing everything right – my mummy bought me silk pillow cases as recommended for less friction, and I’d barely brushed or washed it. I was quite discombobulated all day, and really tearful. (Apart from when I texted my friend S and she sent back a picture of her four year old daughter with an Elvis wig on.)
Over the next few days, there was more hair loss. It’s worse after the weekly hair wash I’m allowed, when I have to manage the disposal of the equivalent of a hamster. I went on the brilliant Breast Cancer Care forums and has a look at some posts on hair loss and the cold cap. The consensus seemed to be that the cap can work really well, but thinning is to be expected, particularly on the crown. Fabulous, I thought, at best I’m going to look like a monk. Or the Bowyers man. Or Terry Nutkins.
DH, sweetly, bought me a cashmere-mix beany. I left a message with the Wig Lady, who I had been avoiding for weeks. (I am clearly in denial: usually people sort the wig out pre-chemo. Some apparently even get hooked on buying loads of different ones cheap from China on eBay. I admire this, but cannot yet empathise with that particular shopping addiction).
And I started coming to terms with yet another layer of ego being stripped away. I’ve always been known for, and proud of, my long red hair. Now it’s short red hair (although oddly, the stuff underneath where the cold cap didn’t reach first time is coming away black – it’s been fried by them chemicals!). Soon it could be former hair. So my sense of identity is getting a bit of a bashing.
The hardest thing of all was knowing that if I did lose my hair, that would be the end of pretending that days between treatments were normal, to myself, DH, the kiddies, or anyone else. I would feel like, and look like, a cancer patient. And that, as you know perfectly well by now, is not The Pinchy Way.
I went ahead with the cold cap during Chemo Deux anyway, using a slightly larger cap despite my pinhead, so it reached further over the back. I was feeling pretty low on the day, after waking at 3am and not being able to get back to sleep, and the reality of the treatment not being a one-off kicking in. So having a -5.5 degree head when my hair had already starting falling out was whatever the opposite of the icing of the cake is. (I can only think of ‘nail in the coffin’, but that’s maybe humour of a slightly too dark shade).
But I think, I hope, that things appear to have plateau’d. Not stopped entirely, but sort of stabilised. I am moulting, like an old dog. I find hairs everywhere, including in most of my cooking, on my shoulders, the kids, and on the side of the bath (urgh!). DH has asked me to make special mention of the plughole. And hair wash day is still like a satanic rodent drowning ritual in the bathroom.
It’s just about hanging on in there, in other words. And yes, it’s a bit thin right on top, so I can only hang round with people less than 5′ 8″ tall now, obviously. But it’s not coming out in clumps, and I am still this side of looking like Britney when she went mental. And I still haven’t spoken to the wig lady…