Everyone I meet in the medical world of oncology is pleasantly surprise at how much hair I have left. Especially if they see me from behind. The back of my head is still quite thick with grade three stubble. Of course, it hasn't grown since I shaved it all off in May, but there is a lot of it still there.
The top and the sides however, are more scalp than hair. Not completely who-loves-ya-baby, snooker ball bald, but very, very, very sparse.
But elsewhere on my body I'm fighting a losing battle.
In the early weeks of treatment I was furiously paying attention to all the hairs on my body and 'testing' their resilience to the chemo by seeing if I could pull them out. But nothing seemed to be properly falling out other than the hair on my head hair and pubic hair. Even my leg hair, while I boast about not shaving for three weeks at a time, would still grow, just a lot, lot, slower than normal.
Only now, the peripheral hair loss has crept up on me. My arms are strangely smooth and I haven't noticed the faint shadow of facial hair on my upper lip for ages now. My leg hair, while still struggling to make an appearance about once every three weeks, is thin and faint where it used to be thick and resilient ater years of razors.
(This makes me sound like I am normally as hairy as an ape. I'm not. I'm just your average brunette doing the normal hair removal thing. Female readers will be nodding in empathy right now. The men out there may be slightly shocked, but I assure you boys, this is NORMAL. )
I'd also thought my eyebrows and eyelashes were safe from loss. They seemed to be holding on so strongly in the first two months that I reckoned I'd be ok. My initial tactic of dealing with the baldness was (Hat)+(More mascara and eyeliner than I'd normally get through in a month), but if I lost my eyelashes, how would that work?
For several weeks now my eyebrows look washed out and my eyelashes look increasingly absent. Looking up close in the mirror and you can see how the eyebrows have patches where there is more skin showing through than there should be. It ends up making my eyebrows look a little grey in tone from a distance, rather than dark brown.
As for the eyelashes, I permanently look like I've just come out of a good cry because the lack of lashes means the lids look puffy. Or just that you see more of them than normal. I'm not sure...
They look shorter, but I know all that's happened is they've thinned out considerably. On the lower lid, the lashes are further and further apart from eachother. I'm wearing make-up less and less because putting on mascara only accentuates these massive gaps between lashes. Plus, when they fall out, they fall out individually. Unless you have mascara on, in which case, I suspect they're more likely to fall out in small clumps.
And then, when going through my ablutions at the weekend I noticed that I am down to three solitary looking pubic hairs. Three? That seemed sadder and weirder than none at all, so I plucked the survivors out in a fit of pique (not so much plucked as eased out - they were clearly destined to go anyway) and am now bald as a baby down there. It's freaky. I hate catching sight of myself in the bathroom mirror. I now wear underwear in bed, not something I've done in a while.
So as I count the remaining hairs on my body and peer at my eyes to see if I have lost more of my brows and lashes, I wonder if the final treatment will finally beat me in terms of losing all my hair. Will my remaining eyelashes make it? Will my brows more or less hang on until they start growing back again in four weeks time?
Don't miss Anne-Marie's Remaining Hair vs Chemo, the Big Match. Live, via the web, over the next month.