One’s changing relationship with one’s wig

Now that my hair has started to grow back post chemo, I can’t wait to ditch my wig.

Since my operation in December I’ve been wearing the wig less and less and now I’m looking forward to the day when, instead of transferring it from my head on to the mannequin’s head where it rests when I’m not wearing it, I assign it to the back of a drawer. It’ll likely be another couple of months, though, before that actually happens.

The wig took some getting used to when I first started wearing it (Learning to live with a wig), but I soon grew to love it. It was liberating. I could throw it on, give it a quick brush and I’d be ready to leave the house. Nobody – other than those I’d told – would know I had cancer. With a wig, I could pretend things were normal. I felt I was in control.

Now, nearly eight months after my diagnosis, seven months after my first chemo session and more than two months after my last, I’m getting a little tired of pretending. More than that, I no longer feel I need to pretend. I’ve long since come to terms with the fact that things are not normal. My breast cancer is now part of who I am and, rather than embrace the wig, I’m starting actively to dislike it. If I’ve been wearing it out – and I do that less and less – I whip it off as soon as I get back home.

My operation on 19 December was the turning point. I could hardly move for three days after the op and disguising my bald head was the last thing on my mind. I didn’t care who saw me bald – I had more important things to think about (Feeling a million times better than this morning, but what a struggle) – and I didn’t wear the wig for the five days I was in the hospital. I never wore the wig at home anyway, except when people visited, so when I came back from hospital and was essentially housebound for a couple of weeks, before I knew it three weeks had gone by with me having worn it only a couple of times. After that it seemed strange putting it on at all.

Since the death of my dad* almost four weeks ago (In Glasgow again, but for the saddest of reasons), I’ve spent a lot of time indoors in Glasgow in the company of close relatives. I didn’t really wear the wig much there either. And those times I did wear it, it inevitably ended up being passed around for all and sundry to try on!

Back home in south London, it used to be that if someone came to visit or knocked at the door, I’d rush to put the wig on. Now I just throw on a beanie hat… or if one isn’t handy, I don’t bother. The window cleaner, delivery men, the electricity meter reader… they’ve all seen me bald, and of course haven’t batted an eyelid. And if I go out for short periods locally – driving the boys to school, popping to the shops, going for a walk on the common or going round to a friend’s house – I just pop on a hat and go. It’s only when I go out for more prolonged periods that I wear the wig.

At this stage, I have a layer of hair on my head that’s around a quarter of an inch long. It looks ok, if you like the Sinead O’Connor look. It’s very, very soft, like a baby’s hair. I’ve been told it’ll soon go fuzzy or wiry and at that point you get it cut and it then grows in thicker. It’s VERY grey, although there’s also some near black in there as well. I don’t remember my hair being that dark. That said, I’d been colouring and/or highlighting it for so long that I’ve forgotten what colour it was originally. My eyelashes and eyebrows have also grown back, the latter really thickly.

When I’ve seen women in the past with hair like mine, I’ve always thought “Oh, there’s someone with cancer”. I now realise it’s more accurate to think that it’s someone who’s had, rather than got, cancer. By the time your hair’s that length, you’re through the chemo and probably also most of the rest of your treatment.

I’ll spend the next few weeks – or perhaps months depending on how it goes – deciding on such things as how to have my new hair styled and whether to have it coloured or leave it grey.

IMG-20160202-WA0009There are other questions to consider, too. What do you do when you go back to work? It could be a bit embarrassing to go from wearing a wig one day to sporting your original hair the next. And what if the wig really is nicer than your own hair?!

I still have plenty of time to think about it all. In the meantime, my niece Shereen has come up with a novel, ultra-Glaswegian alternative to the wig. Very becoming, don’t you think?

*I have a story about my dad and the wig, from my visit to Glasgow last November (I love Glasgow, but it’s not Geneva). I’d got up one morning and it simply did not occur to me to put on the wig or any other head covering. I was happily having breakfast with my mum and dad in the flat they’d been living in for less than a year when I realised this was the first time they’d seen me bald. Bless them, they hadn’t said a word. I apologised for not warning them in advance and explained that I was used to going bareheaded at home, to which my dad replied: “That’s nice, because it means you must feel at home here too.” He was right, of course.

 

 

December 19th – it’s official

I’m pleased to report the date of my operation has been confirmed for December 19th.

Calendar on white background. 19 December. 3D illustration.I heard on Friday and since then I’ve felt a lot calmer. This was something I’d been worrying about since it emerged that while the medical team who’ll be doing the op were all available on 19 December, the facility where the breast surgeon wanted to do it appeared not to be (Immediate reconstruction – the decision is made). I can worry for Scotland and, believe me, this particular concern has had pride of place at the top of my personal worry league for the past week or so. Now it’s settled I can relax (!).

Regardless of whether my final session of chemo goes ahead this coming Wednesday or not, the operation will be within the recommended period of three to six weeks after finishing chemo. If I do have the final session, the op will be three and a half weeks after finishing; if I don’t, it’ll be five and a half weeks. The decision hinges on whether the chemo-induced problem with the nerve endings in my right foot (An “excellent response to treatment”) has got any worse since my last session. The decision will be made at the consultation I have with the oncologist tomorrow afternoon. Strange as it may sound, I’ll be gutted if we skip the final session.

The hospital where I’m to have the operation – right-side mastectomy, right axillary lymph node dissection (removal of the lymph nodes from the right armpit) and immediate breast reconstruction – is further away from home than the centre where I’ve been having treatment so far. The fact we have a date is more important than the location, however, and, to be selfish about it, I’m not the one who’ll be doing the travelling to and fro during the 5-10 days I’ll be in hospital after the op! I’ll advise my husband and boys to view the travelling time as an opportunity for some dad and lads bonding ;-).

I’m flying back home to London today after a fab few days up in Glasgow seeing family and friends. I’m pretty sure I’ve put back on some of the weight I’ve lost since being diagnosed in just three days up here, what with the multiple sessions of coffee and cakes with friends, lunches out, and – because a trip to Glasgow wouldn’t be complete without it – Sunday morning breakfast of sausage, bacon and eggs.

des wigI’m leaving Glasgow a lot poorer financially; the card school with my dad and five brothers last night did not go my way. But it was lots of fun. I laughed ’til I cried when my youngest brother (yes, the one who shaved my head the last time I was here – Thanks, baby bro!) decided he should try on my wig. It then ended up getting passed around among various other brothers and the nieces and nephews who were there too. It was good to laugh. It took two decades off my youngest brother but I can say with every confidence that it looks much better on me than it does on anyone else! Thank goodness for that. Happy days indeed.

I love Glasgow, but it’s not Geneva

So I’ve swapped the flight I had for Geneva early next year for a flight to Glasgow tomorrow. I was due to go skiing with friends at the end of January – we’ve been going every year for a while now and, yes, I did appreciate how lucky I was to be able to do this – but instead at that time I’ll be recovering from a mastectomy and preparing to start a course of radiotherapy. How’s that for a change of plan?

skiingI love going back to Glasgow. But much as I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone and to being fussed over by my lovely mum and dad for a few days, I’d still far rather be going skiing. That’s not so hard to understand, is it? This will be the first time in 10 years that my girlfriends and I won’t have done this long weekend (or short week if you’re to accept my husband’s interpretation of it!). It’ll save my dad some money as it’ll also be the first time in 10 years that he hasn’t treated us to the first round of apres-ski beers! I’m hoping there will be other years.

It’s not been an easy week. I’ve been worrying about when my operation might be (Immediate reconstruction – the decision is made) and I’m completely paranoid about whether this nerve ending damage in my right foot is getting any worse (An “excellent response to treatment”). Pun+is+pun+anyone+for+tennis_05103a_4294438Watching Federer beat Djokovic at tennis at the O2 Arena here in London in the ATP World Tour Finals last night was a welcome distraction. I’d bought the tickets months ago and the boys and I were delighted to find out on Sunday it was these two who’d be playing on the evening we were going.

So Glasgow here I come. I’m already bracing myself for losing at the card school my dad, brothers and I have got planned for Saturday night. On the bright side, no matter how much I lose, it’ll be a lot cheaper than a skiing holiday!

It’s a small world

It turns out the chemotherapy nurse who looked after me today today grew up in Bearsden, just a couple of miles from where I grew up in Glasgow and did her training at our local hospital, Stobhill.

3573639714_cb48ccd55b_zI’d already found out at my first chemo session that the catering lady is from Springburn, an area not two miles away in another direction,

Small world indeed!

No need for any comments about us coming down here, taking all your jobs…