Monday, October 22, 2007

The fall and rise of my hair

Here, in all it's glory, is the progress-report-in-pictures on my hair.

A topic of much discussion and consternation over recent months, you'll be glad to know I've kept the shots limited to chronicling the hair on my head.

The Beginning:

I was searching for a photo that would have been taken around the time of the tumour taking hold - unbeknownst to me of course. This shot is from our office Christmas Party in Dublin so it was mid-December 2006 (this year we're going to Barcelona - tumour free I hope). If I look a little out of it, blame the Guinness...

The Chop:

May 07 - The haircut to start me on my way. Post lumpectomy and pre-chemo. Short and practical, less actual length to lose when it goes. Now it's starting to grow again loads of people are telling me they preferred this haircut to my long hair. However, I'm think I'm a definitely died-in-the-wool long hair girl. Especially now I've been through losing it all. When I finally get my hair long again, it will be a sweet, sweet day.

Re-reading that last line makes me feel really vain. It's not vanity though, it's a part of your own self-image, which when removed, does start to pick at the seams of how you think of yourself. And maybe it's a little bit of vanity too, it cannot be denied.

The Bald Patch:

Three weeks after chemo one, watching it widen on a daily basis, it starts to go. I remember I felt ready for being bald. But I had not prepared myself for the physical act of losing it. That was far more difficult than I expected, and I can only compare it to when blood flows freshly from a cut and you feel physically shocked when you look at it. Hair loss on this scale is not natural, and the mind finds it hard to deal with. Especially when it gets so bad you have to hoover the bed every day.

The Shave:

Late May 2007. Giving in to the fast approaching reality of baldness, the irony of this shaven head is that it looked, for a little while, intentional. People who knew me but didn't know my recent diagnosis were not sure how to react. People who didn't know me assumed I was some left wing bohemian with lesbian tendences or a right wing skinhead. (It got worse - people who were under six and stupid shop assistants thought I was a man.)

The Plucky Chemo Victim Look:

This was taken in August 2007. I was at the lowest ebb physically speaking and it shows in my puffed up face and straggly baldness. It was about this point that I fell down the stairs, nearly breaking an ankle and appearing on national TV in the process. Not a good luck for the cameras.

The Alien:

September 2007. Playing around with the computer effects on Photo Booth, I get the Roswell alien makeover. Somehow, an altered form of reality seems far more attractive when chronicling your own freakishness.

The Fuzz:

Late September 2007 with baby chick fuzz emerging. I have hair, I have hair! Everyone I show it to is not as excited as me. Some people can't even see it, which is not very encouraging but reflects quite how finely tuned I have become to the inner workings of my scalp. To me, half a millimetre of fuzz feels almost like being Rapunzel.

The Second Coming:

Early October 2007. The hair is not discernibly longer, but it's gaining ground. My head looks darker and it feels thicker to the touch. Another 'batch' of hair has pushed through underneath the first layer of fuzz and the whiteness of my scalp is starting to get covered up.

Turning up the Volume:

Mid October 2007. Look at the light catching the rim of hair around my head. Rather than just having a 2-d patch on my scalp, you can actually see the volume. Admittedly it's only 7mm long or so, but every millimetre counts.

The Parting Shot:

Late October 2007. In this shot you can just about see that the hair is much thicker. It's over a cm long by my estimation (I am so close to using my desk ruler to certify this but that does just feel rather pathetic) and you can see how the hair pattern is beginning to emerge with a natural parting thing starting to happen at the front area. R ruffled my head the other day and was actually found to exclaim how long it's getting. And he usually just spends his time teasing me about how ginger (not true) / grey (too true) / curly (not sure yet) it is.

I've decided I'll do another hair update when I have my first haircut. I am sure that the power of charting my hair loss/growth is in displaying the shots together, not on intermittent posts. I'm thinking of formatting the whole thing as some sort of electronic flicker book...

But given the scary fact that hair grows at the rate of about half an inch a month, this may be a little while yet.

Here's another scary fact for you - My mother announced to me this weekend that she read somewhere that chemotherapy doses are worked out by establishing how much of that particular flavour poison it would take to kill you, and then only giving you 95% of it.

A fact that screams Daily Mail, so I'm not sure I believe it, but there were times when it felt very credible indeed.


Kim said...

I am so glad you posted this. I think it is so helpful to other women going through this to see what it looks like. It makes it much less scary, I think, to see other women handling it as well as you have!

Anne-Marie Weeden said...

Glad you like it. It was much harder to share the hair progress photos when I was in the middle of it all. Now that it's growing, and I generally feel I'm 'winning' again, it's predictably a little easier.

Frankly, I can't stop touching it I'm so pleased with having hair again. Running my hand over my head is getting to be a real habit.


Anonymous said...

I just finished going through the same thing, losing your hair is terrorfying.. at first, you think.." I can handle this, its only hair" and then once that part begins and gets wider and wider, your heart breaks. I have never been vain, but losing my hair changed my entire outlook on life-it was devistating. Everyone who knew me was scared of me, (thinking I was going to die any moment) and those who didnt always either gave the "pity" looks or the "are you contagious?!?" looks.. and both sucked. I finished treatments labor day weekend, and saw the peach fuxx oct. Now I have about two inches of weird curly hair- and I bet your at the same level as me in hair growth! Post some more pictures of your new progress, I bet Im not the only one who feels assured in the fact that we are not alone out there dealing with this. Its a horrible experience but people need to see the light at the end of the tunnel and realize that its just a few bad months, and everything grows back eventually.. slowly... but it will and is growing- I even have eyebrows now!

Anne-Marie Weeden said...

Eyebrows are good..... as is hair.

If you track the blog to more recent posts, there is another update on hair in Feb:

And yes, mine is unruly as hell. I'm not sure if you'll get the reference, but I currently look like a bad photocopy of an eighties singer called Lisa Stanfield. I have to smear it with wax every morning to get it to 'sit down'. It's not curly so much as wiry and tough. Mmmmm.

Still, it's good to have hair again... and I'm glad yours is coming back too.