Carol’s Story – By March the mousy, grey, blonde was back in abundance
I was diagnosed with breast cancer – I had previously lost my husband to cancer, but, somehow, it didn’t worry me too much. Interestingly I just looked at it as a hoop I had to jump through in my life. When I had the operation to remove the lump and 19 lymph glands I knew I would need radiotherapy but hoped I would not need chemotherapy because I wasn’t keen on losing my hair. When I got the pathology results of the lump my oncologist confirmed that it had spread to just one of the lymph glands. His recommendation was chemo and then radiotherapy. Suddenly the hoop got a bit bigger! He did warn me I might lose my hair and also my finger nails but that there were ways that might help by using a cool cap during the chemo. At that appointment luckily I was given a leaflet about Jasmin’s Cancer Hair Care.
Suddenly I knew I needed all the support and information I could get about the chemotherapy and its effects. I looked on the internet and found out that I might not lose my hair if I used the cool cap during each chemo session. I phoned Jasmin at that point and she came round to my house one evening, talked me through all of the likely effects, how best to deal with not only losing my hair but possibly losing my eyebrows and eyelashes (which I hadn’t even thought about before).
When I started the chemo I talked with the nurses about the use of the cool cap and felt it wasn’t for me. After being on Warfarin for 6 months previously I felt the cold more anyway and the thought of sitting for 3 hours with a freezing hat on my head scared the hell out of me.
By the second session my hair had started to thin so I went and did what Jasmin recommended and bought a wig, which almost replicated my hair, from a lovely specialist shop in Ware. The staff there were really helpful and gave me lots of hints and also a mobile number where, if anything went wrong with the wig, even at weekends, I could contact them.
By the third session my hair started to look pretty ropey, particularly across the top, so I called Jasmin and she came straight round and cut it all off. Surprisingly I didn’t look as bad as I thought I would (but I still wore the wig!). Over the remaining chemo most of my body hair disappeared (including some off my face which I had previously had waxed every three weeks). My eyebrows and eyelashes thinned but, to my joy, didn’t completely disappear. Mascara and a nice eyebrow pencil kept them looking reasonably normal.
The positives from all of this were suddenly I didn’t spend any time in the morning doing my hair – I just stuck the wig on! Equally I didn’t spend any money getting my hair cut (it used to cost me £35 each month so that was a great saving). The negatives were I started to hate the wig and only wore it when I could be seen by the public. Occasionally I forgot and went out to the dustbin etc without it – I think the neighbours got used to it. When I went to work I took it off as soon as I got in the office. I’m not quite sure how it happened but another positive was that it became a chance to try out various hair styles and colours. When I got to work one day we had a discussion about the wig and they suggested looking for another style. We went on-line and chose a few completely different styles. I went straight to the wig shop that weekend and changed from a mousy, wavy short hair “oldie” to a lovely chestnut, straight jaw length bob! Everyone said it really suited me so I boxed the other one and never used it again. The only trouble was when the wind blew I looked very disheveled!
The chemo finished in early August and by the end of November my hair had started to grow back. I was off to Thailand for Xmas so made the decision to dump the wig – I had a trim on my new hair, that even though short, made all the difference. What a feeling of freedom that gave me. It was brilliant.
But that’s not the end of the story. By March the mousy, grey, blonde was back in abundance. I can only describe the way my hair looked as like a new born baby with wisps of hair going in all directions. I called Jasmin and she came round with wonderful natural colours to get my lovely chestnut back. She also did some styling to make it look a bit better. From that point on it grew into a horrendous mop of tight curls. Where did they come from? Then I remembered a picture of me as a baby – a mop of blonde curls! I called Jasmin again and she helped to straighten the curls and, again, she gave it some style. One of the negatives about having breast cancer has been the emergence of lymphedema in my right arm. One of the issues of that was I needed to have light hairdryers and other implements to ensure no great strain on the swollen arm. The best way I found to straighten the curls and do the styling was by use of a drier to get the hair almost dry and then to use a hot brush to do the rest. That worked for me and meant my arm wasn’t over-used.
Without Jasmin and her team I’m not sure I could have got through the hair issues. She quietly gave me information and support and held my hand through the whole process.
The one thing I learnt from the whole process was that everyone’s different and there are always positives in what seems to be a negative scenario. I’m almost back to where I was a year ago now (apart from those wretched curls) and the year seems to have gone very quickly. No I don’t particularly want it to happen again but at least I know Jasmin and Cancer Hair Care is there if I need help and support.
Next planned review: February 2020