As of this month, I am 5 years out from the end of my cancer treatments. I’m not going to go too much into that time, you can already read a lot of my thoughts about it here (and I mean a LOT. It goes for pages and pages and pages!).
I’m really feeling like it’s all behind me now, and so many of the last little annoyances of that time have also past. On my last checkup, my oncologist asked if I was still getting jabs of pain in my surgery site, which made me realise I WASN’T getting pains in my surgery site anymore! I had for years after the treatment, but it too is now gone. All the nausea associations I had built up during chemo have also passed. For a long time I wasn’t able to wear hats, or eat ice, or smell buckwheat heat packs without feeling nausated because they reminded me of chemo. But that’s all out of my head now, and it feels good. It took years, but we humans can heal from just about anything given enough time, right?
I also feel braver about it all now. I went into a stage of denial for a while after treatment where I didn’t even want to remember that time or anything about it. But I’m more willing to embrace it now and say, yeah, I went through that!
And in the spirit of that emotion, I’m here today to share photos of me during treatment.
And yes, that will include a photo of me, bald.
It’s as much of a hair diary as it is a treatment diary!
When I was told I’d be doing chemo and losing my hair, I decided that was a good time for me to do all the weird and whacky things I had often thought about doing to my hair but hadn’t done because I didn’t want to ruin my long, healthy, natural locks with the chemicals.
The Journey of Selina’s Hair!
This is me pre-treatment. I had already had my lumpectomy surgery at this point, and had just had it confirmed that I would definitely be doing chemotherapy and losing my hair.
Here I am, looking completely au naturale, running out the door to the hairdressers to go crazy on my hair. That’s about the longest my hair ever got, which reached down to the base of my back when straightened. I had actively been trying to grow it as long as possible for years, and was even part of some “Long hair” communities that share tips on how to make your hair grow really long!
About five hours later, I came home from the hairdressers looking like this-
That’s just straight bleached out, and the ends that got destroyed in the process cut off. I let that settle in for a few days. I went into some kind of weird identity shock because I just didn’t associate myself with being blond, so it was very strange to see myself that way! I just didn’t feel like ME anymore. Still, I wanted to continue the hair experiments. Not long after, I went back and got a nicer style cut and some toning done that ended up like this-
I had some time between surgery and the start of chemo while all the treatment plan and so on were worked out, and some other pre-treatment tasks were taken care of, so when regrowth started showing, I dyed it all pink with a bottle at home.
I’ve always wanted to be a red-head, so I decided for my next stage I wanted a more natural but bright red color, and shorten the length again. Somehow the hairdresser interpreted it like this-
I didn’t mind though, because it made me look like Freefall from Gen 13 ^_^
It also felt really nice to have dark hair again! I think I’m truly a brunette deep down in my psyche.
When it finally came time for my first chemo treatment, I got my hair cut down again, all the way to this-
It took 3 weeks after my first treatment for the hair to fall out, and it pretty much went all at once when it did. You could literally pinch a bit of hair in your fingers and pull, and it would just slide right out of my head. I maybe had a week after that before I was completely bald (I did shave it as well myself once so much had gone it was patchy).
How did I look bald? *Big deep breath* Okay, I said I’d share a photo, so I’ll to share a photo. Eep!
I spent maybe 6 months like that. This photo was right at the beginning of my treatment. I’m not going to share a photo of me bald at the end of my treatment. :p Both are bald, but at the end I was also looking a lot less healthy and that was my lowest “bleh” time mentally as well.
I never did get a good quality wig because they are so expensive and I couldn’t afford one at the time. It was winter so I mostly just wore beanies and hats. I did get one cheapy wig which I sometimes wore with a hat as well to make it look better. By the end of treatment I was SO SICK of wearing hats I couldn’t wait to have some hair back. I was so eager to get hat free, I started doing so when my hair was still very, very short growing back. I look at photos from that time and am a little shocked that I was gutsy enough to go out in public with such short, short hair :p
After three months after treatment, I had about this much hair back. It started out really colourless, greyish, and thin.
About two years after treatment, my hair had thickened up again, and had the most glorious curls! The red colour is from dying with henna, not natural (still continuing my desire to be a red-head!). It felt like it was taking a long time to get anywhere, but I think it was a bit like planting a tree in the garden- it takes a while for the roots to establish themselves (or the hair to thicken up), before they shoot upwards with growth (or downwards for hair!).
Five years on, my hair feels much the same it did before chemo. It’s only just reached about mid-back length, and is thinner than before (but I blame that one on childbirth!). Most of the curls are gone, straightened out with the weight of the hair. I’ve gone back to my pre-treatment hair care regime, using only natural products (like Henna), not much heat styling, and only occasional trims. I wonder how long I can get it to grow this time?
But the very best part of all, is that I feel like ME again. I loved having pink hair, or pixie cut hair, or curls, but this is me, and something I realised is it that I like being me!