Hair-less

Hairdresser

Today was the day.  261 days since I last had a hair cut.  261 days since my lovely hairdresser cropped me to chemo chic in preparation for the great shedding.  Co-incidently, today has also been my first non hospital related trip out since last week’s surgical shenanigans.  And what finer way to spend my first outing, I ask you?  Two delicious cups of coffee, endless chatter from my darling hairdresser (who’s official verdict on my hair was ‘It really is mad, isn’t it?’) and an hour of feeling utterly normal.

I am seeing him again before the Captain and I take to the waters and head off into the wide blue yonder for a few months.  We have plans for a few highlights and colourful whatchamacallits.  Meanwhile, here is the finished result as promised.  Pleased does not come close:

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Little Miss Tall & Curly

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It is a novelty for me have to have curly hair.  What am I saying?  For sometime it has been a novelty for me to have hair full stop.  But while I am delighted at the regrowth, I am less delighted and the sheer bonkerness of my current head covering.  It really is mad.  And nothing I do, not brushing, not washing, not any attempt at styling, makes the slightest bit of difference.  So my plan for sometime, and I think you will agree, it is a cunning one, has been to simply avoid mirrors.

This has worked well.  But the time has come when something has to be done.  The reality is that, for all its madness, my hair is still not very long.  Which is why I have not taken this course of action before.  Finally though, I have made an appointment at with my hairdresser.  It will be 261 days since my last appointment.  It is a personal best.  I am really hoping he can make something of the mess that now sits on my head.  He is a magician so I have good reason to hope.  I will of course, post photos when done but you will have to wait a while as it will not be until after my boobs have been trimmed.  Boobs first, hair second.  It is the rule.

Meanwhile, I have been having a lovely time over on picmonkey.com making collages of my hair regression and progression since my last cut.  Enjoy.

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L-R 7th June, 20th June, 29th June 2016
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L-R 10th July, 5th Aug, 11th Sept
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L-R 2nd Oct, 4th Nov, 25th Nov 2016
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L-R 4th Dec, 22nd Dec 2016, 9th Jan 2017
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L-R 31st Jan, 13th Feb, 4th March 2017

Travelling Oop North

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Scene: Famous Northern tea shoppe; me sitting at a table; The Captain ordering at the counter.

Waitress: All I need now, Sir, is your table number?

Cap’n: Ah. It’s one of those in the window.

Waitress: The long window?  With several tables?  Could you help me out at all?

Cap’n: My wife is sitting at it.  She’s the one with the severe haircut.

He is very rude.

In Pursuit of the Hirsute

eyebrow

Today marked a moment in our household.  It was the day I brought out the razor for something other than my wickedly tenacious leg hair.  My arm pits were in need of a trim. This was probably a matter of opinion and not normally something I would announce to the world but it has been nearly five months since I last performed this task.  So I feel an announcement is excusable.

My eyebrows have also been remarked upon.  Yesterday they drew positive comments from two separate sources.  I had been remiss in noticing their reappearance so scuttled away to a mirror to establish that they are indeed looking perkier than they have of late.  If thin eyebrows are a measure of insanity then I am heading into the realms of the compos mentis.

The Captain and I have been engaged in hot debate about my other hair.  The hair on my head, not elsewhere.  Stop sniggering at the back.  Its wispy, fuzzy, odd length bits and pieces makes me want to take the clippers to it.  It is after all, approximately a centimetre in length on average.  ‘You’re quite thick in the head,’ as the Captain put it.  And we all know cutting hair makes it grow, right?  Could it be that this is an old wives tale?  Surely not!  Anyway, anyway, anyway.  My reasons for trimming it are simple.  It looks stupid.  There is no guarantee that cutting it will help with this but it may remove some of the wispy.  But the Captain will not hear of it.  And will therefore not do it.  And I am not to be trusted with sharp things alone.  Sigh.

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11 days post last chemo

To hurry or not to hurry…?

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Since my hair began to make an appearance once more, lots of people have very kindly pointed me in the direction of all manner of hair products that pretty much promise to turn me into a Rapunzel lookalike in a matter of days.  Ok, I may be exaggerating a bit there.  Maybe.

However, it did get me thinking.  And googling.  You see, I tend to believe that most things are best left to nature.  But then again if I took that approach with cancer I would be dead.  So what do I know?  Obviously my guts cannot always be relied upon.  Instead, I decided research was the way to go.

Nioxin is mentioned a lot when it comes to hair regrowth.  You can buy it easily enough and many hair salons even offer it as a post chemo treatment.  So I looked it up on Google.  I typed ‘Nioxin’ into the search field and in the drop down menu that followed ‘Nioxin ingredients toxicity’ popped up.  Obviously I clicked it.  And this was the first hit.  Alarming, isn’t it?  Especially this bit:

Please Note: Friends of the Earth, Health Care Without Harm, the Environmental Working Group and the Breast Cancer Fund have formed a coalition in an effort to convince the cosmetics industry to stop using certain chemicals in everyday consumer products, chemicals known or suspected of causing cancer, birth defects and other negative health effects. 1,4-dioxane, often called dioxane is one of these chemicals. This a byproduct of the process (ethoxylation) used to convert sodium laurel sulfate into sodium laureth sulfate. There is a concern that the sodium laureth sulfate in some Nioxin products may be contaminated with dioxane. The manufacturer neither confirms nor denies the presence of this contaminant.’

There also seem to be quite a few dermatitis type side effects listed elsewhere which, given my propensity to such things, makes it seem like a really bad idea.  I do not much like the idea of DNA changing ingredients either.  So one to give a miss to, I think.

Another major contender in the encouraging regrowth is Regaine.  I found it very difficult to track down the ingredients to this product.  And I am always suspicious when companies are not upfront about what goes into their wares.  Eventually I did find them listed and while Regaine does not contain parabens – hurrah – it does contain Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT).  Which you just know is going to be another nasty, don’t you?  Well, a potential nasty at any rate.  Take a read of this:

‘Long-term exposure to high doses of BHT is toxic in mice and rats, causing liver, thyroid and kidney problems and affecting lung function and blood coagulation. BHT can act as a tumour promoter in certain situations. Limited evidence suggests that high doses of BHT may mimic estrogen, the primary female sex hormone, and prevent expression of male sex hormones, resulting in adverse reproductive affects.’

Now, it is true that I am not a mouse.  Or a rat.  But I really do not like the sound of that.  Admittedly I found this quote on a website that is fairly unhelpful in listing its references so it was hard to check up on the quoted research.  However, this website lays out the case both for and against BHT as a carcinogen.  It is well referenced and clearly shows why there is controversy regarding this ingredient.  Personally, I will choose to avoid any product with BHT, or its close friend Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA), as I really do not want to put stuff either on my head or body that I am unsure of.

So on the whole, I think I am going down the au naturel route.  My hair will grow in its own sweet time.  It is true that the Captain has taken to calling me Stan.  As in Laurel.  He seems to think my fuzzy bits on top and lack around the sides give me a Laurel-esque look.  But if I am Laurel, that makes him the rather more rotund Hardy.  So that would be another nice mess I’ve gotten him into!

Fluffy

brillo

So far, this cycle has been harder than all the others.  I have had the return of symptoms not seen since cycle one (take a bow nausea and diarrhoea).  The fatigue has been building to almost unmanageable levels.  And the psychological shenanigans that have been going on in my head do not bear contemplating.  Much of this has been down to an emotional turbulent time that has been unavoidable, some of which I mentioned here.

The Captain has been away plying our trade at a canal festival and I have missed both him and it very much.  This particular weekend has been a highlight of our year for a long time.  It marks the beginning of the end of the season and the last time we see many of other trading friends until the following one.  I know there is always next year but I have missed this one a lot.

But in the midst of all this gloom, there is always good news.  First of all, my belovéd macbook has resurrected itself!  Five days in a large bag of rice seem to have done the trick and it is now working.  Relieved does not begin to cover it.

Most excitingly of all, however, is that I have begun to grow hair again.  This makes me feel quite smug.  Like I have really achieved something.  Why it should start now, while I am still actively receiving treatment is beyond me.  Occasionally the demons hit me and tell me it is because the chemo is not working.  However, there is no evidence that this is the case so in my more rational moments I chose not to believe it.  Especially as I really rather like it.  I am like a soft, fluffy brillo pad.  The growth is uneven.  As in some follicles have given birth to strands that are edging towards an inch in length.  But these are isolated, not patchy.  So the effect is weird.  But it does feel nice.  The wind can not exactly whistle through it yet but I have taken up with shampoo again.  A little prematurely probably, but I do not care.

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Family Likeness

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Scene: The bedroom.  The Captain is getting dressed.  He pulls his trousers up to beyond his waist, cocks his head and grins inanely.

Me: I wouldn’t do that.

Cap’n: No?  Why not?

Me: It makes you look like your Dad.  Not a good look.

The Captain rubs my head.

Cap’n: You are not in a position to talk.  Have you forgotten your Dad was bald?

From somewhere a comedy drum snare booms out.

 

More about hair

sheep

At the risk of becoming a hair bore, I still have things to say.  I continue to find myself shocked by the outworking of the delights of chemo and hair.  For example, I am still, STILL having to shave my legs.  This seems grossly unfair especially coming hard on the heels of the gradual thinning of my eyelashes.  But what is even more bizarre is that this morning I found an inch long hair growing out of the centre of my neck.  In the region of my adam’s apple.  I mean, what is that about?  This is something new.  Trust me, I am obsessively familiar with all the facial hair I sport and this one is a very unwelcome addition.  All my others have gone the way of my other hair.  Even the moustache so lovingly referred to by the Captain.

Perhaps it is something do with altitude?  The further up my body, the less prolific the hair.  Glancing at another area, the Captain said: ‘It’s not exactly a Brazilian is it?  More like a near neighbour, an Ecuadorian perhaps?’  Not sure it will catch on.

While on the subject of hair, the lovely Adam completed his Brave the Shave challenge yesterday and we were there to cheer him on.  It is still possible to sponsor him so please consider doing so: https://bravetheshave.org.uk/shavers/adam-gompertz/.  My treatment has been greatly assisted by Macmillan as every Breast Care Nurse I have seen, and continue to see, is funded by them.  This is much the same countrywide.  Without Macmillan’s sponsorship, Breast Care Units would be very different places.  So thank you, Adam, people like you are making cancer treatment a much better experience than it would otherwise be.

BTS11

Look Good Feel Better

lippy

Today was a bit of a treat.  It is no secret that I am fond of a bit of lippy.  I have become fonder of it since my hair fell out, bizarrely.  I am not sure why that is.  A shift of focus perhaps?  Back to today.  I had a date.  With make up.  As in going to a workshop rather than lunch with a transvestite.  Not that that I wouldn’t enjoy that too.  There is a lovely organisation called Look Good Feel Better who organise skin care and make up sessions for women undergoing treatment for cancer.  It was set up in recognition that a cancer diagnosis can not only have devastating effects on one’s self confidence but also that new tips, tricks and skills may come in handy.  Skin dries out, dark circles arrive, rosacea or acne can make an appearance.  Then, of course, there is the whole How To Pretend Your Eyebrows And Lashes Still Exist.  A skill most make up tutorials do not cover, strangely.  All this is delivered by make up artists in the company of other women and each participant is given a substantial goody bag with which to work.

My session was at my treatment hospital and my biggest challenge was getting from the car park at one end of the hospital to the workshop room at the other end.  To say I was out of breath when I arrived would be an understatement.  Thankfully talking was not required.  In total there were seven of us.  Three more had been expected but had not arrived.  The two hour workshop was a mix of demonstration, hands on and DIY with as much or as little personal support as we wanted.  Over the time, we gradually went through a complete skin care routine followed by full make up application.  The transformation by the end was quite remarkable.

We all worked from the goody bags: a leatherette bag the size of a substantial toilet bag stuffed with products and literature.  They did vary and were allocated to us based on skin tone.  Mine included the following:

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  • Yves Saint Laurent Paris 125ml eau de toilette: £77 House of Fraser
  • Lancôme Eau Micellaire Douceur Express Cleansing Water 200mls: £23.50 Boots
  • Lancôme Tonique Douceur Softening Hydrating Toner 200mls: £23 Boots
  • Estée Lauder Take It Away Eye Make Up Remover 100mls: £20 Estée Lauder
  • Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturising Lotion 50mls: £18 Boots
  • No7 Colour Calming Primer 40mls: £10.50 Boots
  • Clinique Line Smoothing Concealer 8g: £17 Boots
  • Max Factor Colour Adapt Skin Tone Adapting Make Up Rose Beige 34ml: £9.99 Boots
  • No7 Translucent Perfect Light Loose Powder 20g: £10.50 Boots
  • No7 Pink Blush Natural Blush Cream 3g: £8 Boots
  • No7 Stay Perfect Trio Eye Shadow Palette Cappuccino 3g: £9.50 Boots – no ingredients list
  • No7 Stay Perfect Amazing Eyes Pencil Blackest Purple 1g: £4.48 Ebay – no ingredients list
  • Rimmel Eyebrow Pencil Dark Brown 1.4g: £3 Sainsbury’s – no ingredients list
  • L’Oreal Lash Architect False Lash Effect Mascara Midnight Black: £6.34 Extras
  • No7 Precision Lips Pencil Soft Blush: £6.75 Boots – no ingredients list
  •  Avon Colour Indulgence Lipstick Hibiscus: £8 Avon – no ingredients list
  • No7 Moisture Drench Lipstick Rose Blush: £9.95 Boots
  • Look Good Feel Better Eye Shading Brush: £6.99 Look Fantastic

The total cost, had I bought it all from the retailers listed, came to a staggering £275.50!  Of course, there is much that I would not have bought.  For instance, only the products in red text appear to be parabens free.  And I am trying to avoid parabens because of the potential link to hormone receptor positive breast cancer.  Being able to try all these products with the help of make up artists on hand was a fantastic experience though.  I am reasonably confident about applying make up generally but since starting chemo I have developed dark circles under my eyes, my eyelashes are thinning and while my eyebrows are holding up pretty well, I do not know how long they will continue to do so.  We were recommended Rapidlash serum to promote eyelash and brow regrowth but at £40 I may hold fire for now**.  For dark circles applying red lipstick as a correcting concealer is worth a try while rosacea responds well to green primer.

For me, the foundation was too heavy.  I prefer a tinted moisturiser rather than a full coverage cream but for dodgy chemo skin this works well.  I also found the eye liner too hard for use.  To get any kind of line I had to press so hard that my eyes became quite sore. Given that my eyes are sore much of the time, this is not as dramatic as it sounds but a softer liner would be my preference.  The Hibiscus lippy was fabulous though and may just sneak through my parabens ban!

I am delighted to have taken part and thrilled with my freebies.  My only wish would be that the many parabens free cosmetics companies springing up would get onboard with Look Good Feel Better and promote their products through the goody bags too.  If you are eligible but have any hesitation about going, I would thoroughly recommend it.

**UPDATE: Rookie mistake.  I should have checked Amazon.  Much cheaper there!

 

Braving the Shave

Badge_Bravetheshave-1

No not me, sillies!  Been there, done that, have no need for razors.  Except for my legs which continue to sprout undergrowth.  Rude.  No.  This is about a fab all round bloke who just happens to be a friend of mine.  He has very gallantly signed up to Macmillan’s Brave the Shave initiative.  I am delighted my new look is inspiring imitation, which is of course, the sincerest form of flattery.

Let me introduce the amazing Adam Gompertz:

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Adam is a petrol head, a blogger, a vicar, a whisky drinker, a talented artist and a bloke who is kind and makes me laugh.  He also has a top quality wife who is more #wonderwomaninacassock than human.

So his locks are going.  I am assuming the facial growth is also going but this has yet to be confirmed.  Please consider sponsoring him to do this.  Macmillan is an organisation very dear to my heart.  Their support during my Dad’s last days was immeasurable and I have found myself the recipient of their knowledge and care during my own cancer experience.  I am so grateful to people like Adam who are doing this sort of thing.  Incidentally, while beating the fundraising drum, my best mate is hosting one of Breast Cancer Care’s Strawberry Tea Parties in a few weeks time so huge thanks to her too.  Without Breast Cancer Care, who I rely on daily, this whole thing would have been much harder.  If anyone local also fancies doing this I would be happy to donate some jam.

Anyway, to the important bit.  To sponsor Adam, go to his Macmillan page here: https://bravetheshave.org.uk/shavers/adam-gompertz/  And all should be self explanatory.  Thank you.