5 Years After Cancer

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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!

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About five hours later, I came home from the hairdressers looking like this-

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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-

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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.

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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-

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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-

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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!

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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.

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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!).

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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!

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56 thoughts on “5 Years After Cancer

  1. Sarah Bennett says:

    Selina, I didn’t know. I loved reading your story and am so glad that your treatments were successful and that your still here with us making beautiful art for the world! Sorry if you find me stocker-ish. I just love ya!

    • Debbie says:

      My name is debbie, I too have recently been diagnosed with cancer, I’m 57 and these coloring books have gotten me to a better place. I can’t thank you enough for your story. I sit quietly and color, and for that time, I don’t think about not having hair, or chemo, or the cancer at all. Thank you so much

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Wow, what beautiful photos and what a success story. How wonderful to hear you are healthy and strong! Your bald picture is beautiful, and I think it really conveys the strength in you. You look ready to take on anything and fight a battle like no other.

    Congratulations on 5 years cancer free. If you have a moment, please spare a thought to my aunt’s sister who is about to go through yet another surgery and chemo treatment after years of fighting Hodgkin’s and now breast cancer.

  3. Tonya Clariday says:

    i loved your story and the pics are AWESOME you were beautiful bald, soooo glad you are with us today, you have been my fantasy artist idol since i first saw your artwork and i feel very blessed to have gotten time to chat with you, you will never know how much it means to me. LOTS OF LOVE, LIGHT AND BLESSINGS

  4. Toria Mason says:

    Aw, you look adorable in ALL the photos! I especially like the pink and dark/magenta. You definitely rock the fun colors! 🙂 I think it’s great you chose to have fun with a bad situation. You’re such a strong woman and such a huge, huge, huge inspiration! And I’m so proud of you and admire you for having the guts and strength to be able to post this! I’m sure you will touch so many lives with this! 🙂

  5. Kerrie Rusk says:

    I will echo what others are saying – You are beautiful in all of the photos. Congratulations on your 5 year anniversary! Many hugs!

  6. Lorraine says:

    Hon you are so beautiful with or without your hair and such an inspiration to each and everyone of us…we can all take a bit of strength from your story sweetie…Thanks so much for sharing…♥♥♥

  7. Denise says:

    Selina……… you are beautiful! Hair, no hair, blonde, brunette, pink! Wow!
    I am so glad you shared this story and pictures of you. What an inspiration! You know… I like the third picture of you with the light brown hair .. the one before the pink. That color and cut is adorable on you! I am glad you feel like yourself once again…….. !!

  8. Ch'kara SilverWolf says:

    Wow Selina, every stage of hair was beautiful – but OMG the picture of you bald it is totally awesomely beautiful. You remind me of the girl in one of the Star Trek movies – I think it was the first one – there was the most exquisite bald girl in it.

    You should be so proud of your journey.

  9. Rev Maggie says:

    Selena, you look lovely, does not matter about the hair. That is an extension of your “being”. You have a beautiful heart and soul and a gift from the Goddess to do the beautiful artwork you do. I use to use henna on my hair. If you want to make it grow faster, then try this. it’s how I got mine to grow fast while in the Navy. My hair went from shoulder length to end of my back……..
    On NEW MOON get it trimmed half inch all the way around every 3 months. It works, but it has to be on NEW MOON before it starts to grow……I use to color my hair all the time, but my roots showed too fast and I was unable to afford it any more, so I let it grow natural. My hair in front is white now and I have embraced My Crone Years……I love my hair now, and when In sunlight it gleams like snow!

  10. LunaBlue says:

    thankyou so very much for sharing your journey, the pictures are wonderful and you look amazing in all of them. I love that you went out and did what you wanted to your hair, that was awesome. Congratulations on your 5 years. xxxxxx

  11. Alicia Cooper says:

    Selina, you are one very beautiful and brave soul inside and out. Even as bald, you were very very beautiful! Thank you for sharing your story with us, I am glad that you are so healthy and happy today! <3

  12. Parveen Talati says:

    Thank you so much for sharing Selina! Seeing how you have progressed is incredible, and you look beautiful is every picture! I am so glad that you are happy!!!

  13. Saskia says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I can imagine how it must have felt to realize you were going to lose your hair, and I admire you for making the best of the situation. You look beautiful and strong in each and every picture. I’m glad to read that after 5 years, your’re still ‘clean’ and creating wonderful art!

  14. Rositsa 'roz' Zaharieva says:

    Selina, I admire you for your courage and spirit considering what you’ve gone through (of which I honestly have no idea but assume it must have been very, very scary among other things)! I wish you the best of health for many, many more years to come!

    You look fantastic with that Freefall look 😉

  15. Margaret Henderson says:

    Selina, I am amazed at your strength & courage. I did not know that you had been through this awful experience but am as awed by your sharing this as I am by your artwork. You are an amazing woman and we are all so lucky to have you here sharing your life with us in so many ways. You look awesome in all the photos, your inner light and strength really shines through. Blessed be.

  16. Giovanna says:

    Sel, you are beautiful with and without hair. I have to say that I think the bald picture of you is breathtaking. I love your long hair (I am envious of it really, lol!), but there is such a quiet beauty in your no hair photo. Thank you for sharing your journey.

  17. katerina says:

    Thank you for sharing Selina its takes a a brave person to go through chemo and also share , you looked beautiful throughout your ordeal , i cant even imagine what it may have felt for you going through this, i’m happy you are well and healthy now ,you and your hair look beautiful and i think if i ever decide to color my hair i think i may go through natural henna process sounds more gentle for hair than all that peroxide stuff, take care xoxo kat

  18. Valerie Long says:

    What a wonderful blog post and timeline of your journey! I, too, love the pics of the bright pink, but you’re right that your natural hair and the henna color look lovely. And you’re beautiful, with long hair, short hair, or no hair – you’re still beautiful. 🙂

    Congratulations on being 5 years post-treatment! That’s a great milestone. 🙂

  19. Kama says:

    What a beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing. I am sure many women will benefit from reading about your experience and seeing the picture. You are beautiful at every stage.

  20. Liz says:

    You are so beautiful!. I am 2 years past my chemo treatments for ovarian cancer. I just went bald most of the time. It was liberating really. You looked amazing before, during and after . You are an amazing woman. I love it when other survivors share their journey. I had a facebook page called Liz Hoppe Pehle Fight Like a Girl ……. If you are interested.

  21. susana says:

    You are a beautiful, powerful, brave and corageous goddess Selina. An inspiration and an example of hope to us all. And you are very special.
    I´m from Portugal, and I´ve been a fan of you and your art for many years ago, since I saw Moonlight Mermaid on the web.

    Thank You for your testimonial, I felt honored for reading it.
    Wishes of Happiness and Light to you and your family.

    Sincerely
    Susana

  22. Sonya Kent says:

    Dear Selina, I have read about your illness, of which I think u have been really brave, it must have been very upsetting and hard for u to cope with at times, I must say though, on every picture you look very beautiful, even when u were bald, and I admire the way you changed your hairstyle along with your treatment, showing others what a brave an talented young woman you really are 🙂 forgive the pun, hats off 2 ya, its good to see u r well, and your lovely hair has grown back again. Hugs Sonya xx

  23. Rhonda says:

    TY Selena for sharing your journey with us.I think you are beautiful in every picture.I think it looks good short.But its also pretty long.I thank God you are now cancer free.I also love your artwork.Its as beautiful as you are.

  24. FD says:

    It’s true what everyone has said, that you are beautiful no matter what hairstyle, including bald. You have a genuinely beautiful face and, funnily enough, being bald and short-haired actually emphasised your features. Thankyou for so honestly sharing your experience like this, I am sure you have given hope and encouragement to others who have gone through or are currently going through the horrors of chemo.

  25. Lorna says:

    Dear Selena
    I came on to your website today to leave a heartfelt thank you for your beautiful Mermaid Oracle artwork, I use these cards regularly and find the depth of your imagery always encourages a new facet of myself to emerge – thank you
    I am also touched you are sharing your cancer journey story; I am approaching my 5 yr sign off too and know how these years of deep transformation have been invaluable to my deepening understanding of all I am. I appreciate your sharing and acknowledge the courage it takes. I am grateful you are still here doing what you do and that I am to be so touched, inspired and supported by you and your offerings
    Take care – Lorna xxx

    • Maggie Brown says:

      I want to say Congratulations to both of you for being SURVIVORS! It is a very rough road to go as I have seen several at a distance. It takes a super strong Warrior Woman to survive it and move on with your lives. Bravo for you both! I have had the opportunity to join a couple when one of them survived Cancer. Better things ahead. Remember, your breasts do not make the woman who you are. What makes us is our individuality and what we have inside us, our spirituality and kindness to others…….
      Brightest Blessings to you both!

      Rev Maggie Brown

  26. Anand Patre says:

    You are an amazing brave women! Now you look more beautiful, you here sharing your life with us that’s showing others what a brave an talented young woman you really are, indeed you are an inspiration to people who are suffering with such diseases … Be happy always
    .. . Anand patre

  27. Deborah Lynn Carder-Betz says:

    I just read this, and you look great with no hair even!
    Thanks to God. . .you made it through all that.
    God Bless.
    I however, would NOT look good bald.
    I am getting older, and after being sick the other year my hair (long, straight, blonde) down my back that I had put up on my head is now in a BIG tangled KNOT.
    I CANNOT do anything with it.
    I was seeing what you had done.
    I need some ideas for covering my head when I FINALLY have the courage to cut it all off.
    Can I buy scarfs shaped for covering heads? OR the like? Do you know?

  28. Hedgewytch says:

    I kinda fell off Livejournal so I lost track of you for awhile there I’m sorry. I just read through this and think you were so brave and strong through all of this *Hugs*
    Those pictures show me that with or without hair whatever the cut and style you really are a beautiful person inside and out.

    I’ve died my hair for years and when I decided it was time to stop I know discovered lots of white hairs that came in that I hadn’t noticed before. It made me sad that my original beautiful colour is lost. But. I am very lucky that I have hair and have not *touchwood* gone through the terrible trauma that is cancer though I have friends that I’ve been through it with.
    We can play with our hair and do what we feel whenever we want and what I am and am sure you have now learnt from all of this is that every moment is precious and we should live for today enjoy what is in our life now and not be afraid of doing what we want and seeing who we love as much as we can while they are here and love each other with all our faults and foibles and enjoy life 😉
    Sorry I rambled on a bit
    Love light and laughter
    Amanda
    x

  29. fawndra says:

    I want to thank you for sharing your story and pictures of what you have gone through. You are a beautiful and amazing person. Thank you so very much

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