Helen is one of the stars in ghd's You Are Not Defined By Your Hair campaign and was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014. Here, she tells us about her experiences of losing her hair and finding the right wig.
Working closely with Breast Cancer Now, ghd has created a campaign, You Are Not Defined By Your Hair, that offers expert guidance and beauty support for women being treated for breast cancer and who have been treated in the past. The campaign features video tutorials offering styling advice for women recovering from treatment-related hair loss.
In this blog, Helen tells us her story and explains why she wanted to be involved in the campaign.
Coming to terms with losing my hair
Being diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2014, at only 34, was a complete shock. I had about a month and a half to come to terms with it while I went through fertility treatment before starting chemo and the thought of losing my hair was never far from my mind.
I decided not to cold cap, as it's not guaranteed to be successful and I also hate the cold! If my hair was going to fall out, then so be it. I had my hair cut short and bought scarves in preparation. I also went to wig shops, but it felt so daunting walking in there with so many different styles and colours to choose from. I didn't know where to start and every one I tried on just felt like a wig and looked like a wig!
Instead, I stuck to scarves while my hair was just about holding on. Even after I had shaved it off, my hair was so patchy I continued to wear scarves. While I was in hospital for a week with neutropenia, my NHS wig arrived.
Even having tried it on with a supposed wig expert, it still looked awful - I felt like it aged me by 20 years. I wore it maybe three times, trying to make it work for me, but in the end I clean-shaved my head so it wasn't patchy and embraced the bald head through the rest of my treatment, which thankfully worked for me. So much so, people thought I had chosen to shave my head and didn’t realise I was ill.
Sharing my story
When Breast Cancer Now and ghd got in contact with me to ask me about my experience of hair loss and wigs, I was happy to tell them my story. I know that I would have appreciated seeing videos of tips on what to do with wigs. If ghd could use my experience in making this campaign, I was happy to help if it meant helping others like me going through cancer and hair loss.
I spent a couple of days with Zoe, firstly the wig shopping day and then the day of the shoot. This time, wig shopping was a different experience, and straight away I felt a lot more confident in the wigs I was trying on. We were looking at my old hairstyles and taking it from there. Zoe was explaining how she would cut them and style them to fit me better and make it not so wig-like.
The day of the shoot I was a little nervous, but being with Zoe made it a lot easier, we had a laugh together and going through the process of making the wig look more like your natural hair was really insightful.
I had no idea about going to get a wig cut at the hairdressers or using products in it to take off the shine and make it look more natural. These were all things I wish I had known when I needed it; I could have been a lot more adventurous with different styles too, if only I had known all this before!
Wigs can be fun
I really hope that ladies, young and old, find the video and information helpful during their journey through chemo and hair loss, and it helps make their experience a little less horrible.
Go out and enjoy trying on wigs - make a day of it and have fun, take them to your hairdresser to cut into a better style for you, look after them and you will have a much better experience and more variety of how to dress your head than I did.
Just because you have cancer, you are still you and you are not defined by your hair. So make it an extension of your personality, experiment with different styles and have fun with it. I didn't feel I got that opportunity, so make use of the tools available for you from Breast Cancer Now and GHD, and go get your wig!