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Monday, November 21, 2011

Hair 2

As anticipated, three days after the initial fall-out, a Sunday, I have my morning shower to wash my hair. My follicles dislodge at an alarming rate of knots as I smooth my palm over my scalp.

I decide to see how much will come out and persist with the smoothing, a part of my brain repenting the waste of water but what to do? Chris has told me that this is a tested repertoire.

My shoulders are covered in hair and bits are all over my face so I have to spit them out of my mouth. The dislodged hair collects at the plug hole forming an interesting pattern. It's pretty disgusting really:

Here is what it looks like:

When I emerge, I believe I look like a baby orang-utan - what do you think?

A baby orang-utan


It's embarrassing to report but you need to know that it's not just the head on my hair that has started to defoliate. There's a bit of DIY Brazilian happening in that part of my bodily geography I shall call 'Antarctica'.

Let's face it: the narrative of this illness is about the effects on a human body and I'm afraid, not everything about anatomy is pleasant.

'Antartica' itself has been the site of some strange developments of late as well. Unusual rivers occur out of season. There are remarkable deluges that are difficult to contain. Do you understand what I mean?

Part of me recognises what's happening. Chemotherapy is foisting me into menopause but this is no glacial shift. It is the sheaving of a continental shelf, a movement as massive as the separation of Laurasia and Gondawanaland. My Pangaea is being cleaved and reinvented.

As it is, I want to go to the shops, so I think I'll wear the wig, but the remaining hair still hurts like hell. I try a hat but that hurts too so in the end, I opt for a scarf.

The thing I notice is that I'm not self-conscious at all. I don't know why. I know I'm going bald, but all in all I seem to be handling it well.

That afternoon, Al and I are invited to the Neil's for drinks. The Baddileys are there and we have a lovely time, sipping wine with interesting conversation. No one comments on my scarf and I'm grateful that I am not required to reveal my shredding pate. (I tell you, I have classy friends!)

I have thought that 'Alopecia' sounds like a lovely girl's name, up there with 'Anesthesia' (wasn't she a daughter of the Tsar?) Soft, piquant, almost graceful. But the reality is, it's an unpleasant sight.

And so today, it is time, I realise for what is left on my scalp to be pruned and manicured. There is nothing that screams 'SICK!!!!' than a nearly-bald head.

Through the day I work on a painting.

Louisa comes to take me for a coffee.

I go for a 10 km walk, feeling the strongest and most normal I've felt for weeks.

I return home to dine on a fabulous Turkish meal, prepared by my beautiful friend Nim. (Today is her birthday, and she still found time to cook for me - even cutting the fruit salad into heart shaped pieces). Oh my god. Can I feel more blessed?

And then it is time.

I tell Ben that he can neaten up what's left and the boy runs off to grab the clippers. We go into the bathroom where Ben is chafing at the bit to do the deed.

As Al supervises, Ben gets to work and he is half way through before we realise: "Eek! Those aren't our hair clippers. It's the dog clippers". I realise that Spunky is observing the proceedings with a judgemental eye. No wonder!

Disgusted I dispatch Ben to get the human ones and, as the job progresses, I watch as I move from baby orang-utan to Mao Tse Tung to Egghead.

Here is barber Ben at work:

When he is finished, I reckon I look like a Choc-Vanilla Chup a Chup.

If only Deborah Kerr were alive we could romp around the room singing 'Shall we Dance'.

The amazing thing is that afterwards, Al does something unexpected. He puts his mane of hair forward and says "Go for it".

"NOooooo!" I shout. "You know how you are about your hair!" It's true. Throughout our marriage, Al has been obsessive about his hair style and, especially, containing the ravages of balding.

In fact, when we first met, he had this disgusting rat's tail which didn't last long once we got together - there was a ceremonial pruning that was universally applauded by his friends. (With one fell swoop of a pair of scissors, everyone of them acknowledged that Al had truly met the girl of their dreams... hahahaha).

So for Al to shave his hair is truly incredible.

We get to work with the clippers and I have to tell you, I haven't laughed so much in ages.

Al says: "Moral Support, Bronny!" And besides, he says, he's always been curious about what his head looks like.

But half way through, he observes that his Grandad shaved his head once too - and it never grew back.

It's true. Al's granddad was as bald as a badger. "Why didn't you tell me that!" I say. "I would have tried harder to stop you!"

But here's the thing. Once you start shaving your head, there is no going back. :))

Just look at Al shaving himself:

I see a remarkable resemblance to this picture of Spunky having HIS shave a few weeks ago. What do you think?

And so, here we are. Alan and I. On the night of our ritual shaving. It's a shame Harry has gone down the Coast or else we could have had a family pic:

What is there to say but: "Shall we dance?"


  1. You humble me and amaze are just beyond words!
    Another milestone, but not as traumatic as it could have been, because of your grace, acceptance and humour....Ben made a great job......and how much does your man love you Bronny!
    The good thing is that your scalp will be fair less tender now it is clipped and stripped
    (I still remember the days when we had our ladies where the equivelant of a gel ice pack head wrap on Chemo days to prevent follicular damage...not sure that it worked that well)
    The beauty of a time like this though, is that you get to lavish your scalp with all of the attention that hair would normally steal
    I am going to have to ramp up the K's are putting me to shame lovely one
    Thank you so much for continuing to share your journey.....I lool forward to buying your book and reading it one day in the not too distant future
    Much love and Pink Power coming your way, to go with the heart in your fruit salad
    Stay strong and happy lovely one

  2. Alan is truly an amazing hubby to you. Glad to see that you can at least throw some fun into the equation.

    Linda C

  3. I can't stop chuckling and smiling for you Bron! That does seem like the wrong thing to say - but you'll know what I mean I'm sure.
    And Al... What can I say... YOU'RE A CHAMPION!!!
    C xoxoxox
    PS - This smile will stay on my dial all day. :D) (that's my double chin)

  4. You and Al are both amazing. You're both lucky to have each other x

  5. wow you are all amazing. no resemblence to the dog shave at all.

    i don't know if it is true or not but they say it grows back thicker than it was prior to shaving and even sometimes a different colour. have you lost your arm, leg and facial hair as well. so brave.

  6. btw no resemble to that baby orangutan!!!