When Ann lost her hair due to chemotherapy, she found it difficult. Now it’s grown back, she’s planning on shaving her head to raise money for Breast Cancer Now.
Losing my hair changed my identity
Six years ago, I began chemotherapy for breast cancer. I knew I was likely to lose my hair. I did try the cold cap, it soon became evident that it wasn’t going to work for me.
On Christmas day 2014 (also my daughter’s fourth birthday) my hair stared to fall out in clumps every time I put my hand to my head. I squirrelled it away into my pockets for fear of spoiling the day for my family.
In the New Year, following my second chemo session, I took the decision to have my head shaved. There were tears and a sense of being forced into an identity I had never wanted: that of the cancer patient.
The experience is humiliating
One of the things that makes hair loss so difficult to those going through chemotherapy is that it makes the cancer diagnosis visible, turning private struggle into public spectacle. At a time when we have so little control over our physical being, hair loss feels like the ultimate humiliation.
Yes, there are choices in the form of wigs, scarves, hats and makeup, but they are scarcely choices we’d like to be making.
By the time I had finished my final round of chemotherapy, I had lost pretty much all the hair on my head, face and body and had become a pale, anaemic shadow of my former self.
At this low point, I attended a wonderful Younger Women Together weekend organised by Breast Cancer Now, which was both informative and supportive at a time when I needed it the most.
Now I am going to revisit that experience
Six years later – on 1st January 2021 – I am planning to shave my head to raise money to support Breast Cancer Now’s £1,000 challenge for secondary breast cancer research.
For a second time, I will have to go back out into the world and face people’s thoughts, questions and assumptions about my lack of hair. And it’s not because I’ve been diagnosed with a recurrence or with metastatic spread or another form of this dreadful disease. But that’s the point.
Right now, I’m still in good health. I haven’t had to pull those headscarves and caps out from the back of my closet where I’ve been holding onto them so as not to ‘tempt fate’. I haven’t had to face devastating news from an oncologist or surgeon. I haven’t had to explain to my loved ones that my cancer has become incurable, though I’ve known, seen and followed those who have.
There are so many ways of supporting Breast Cancer Now
Right now, I’m one of the lucky ones. This is the least I can do to show my support for people facing secondary breast cancer and for the research that enables them to live and thrive. And with the challenges imposed by Covid-19, there’s never been a better time to take action.
My advice to anyone thinking about fundraising for Breast Cancer Now would be to go for it! Let’s use the extra time we may have gained due to Covid restrictions to do something significant.
There are so many simple things we can do at home to raise money and, thanks to social media, we don’t even need to leave the house to gather support.
In 2021, I will wear and share my shaved head with pride.
Join Ann and sign up to the £1,000 Challenge and bring us closer to the day where everyone with secondary breast cancer lives and lives well.