Cancer, chemotherapy, hair loss. Standard. These three things appear to be inextricably linked which is strange because it’s not actually true.
There are hundreds of types of chemotherapy, all with different side-effects and hair loss is not always one of them. Some chemotherapy’s cause heat in the body, which causes the hair follicles to open and the hair to fall out. Some chemotherapy’s cause cold in the body meaning that doesn’t happen.
So why do people always connect the two? I think it is because people have the ‘heat causing’ chemotherapy when treating breast cancer. As Breast Cancer is the most common in women and the poster-child of cancers, this has become the ‘normal’ image we all accept and expect.
These ‘cold’ chemotherapy’s come with their own additional side effects, mostly in the form of nerve damage. Your nerve endings become so damaged and hypersensitive to cold, it meant that I couldn’t even walk down the chiller aisle in a supermarket because of the painful reaction in my nerves. If it was cold outside, I would be in pain. If something was cold to touch, I was in pain. I could not drink cold or room temperature drinks as the pain the nerves in my throat was unbearable and made my throat feel like it was closing causing a gag reflex – warm drinks were fine thankfully.
Of course you still get all the added, expected side effects like nausea, sickness, fatigue, digestive problems, insomnia, etc… We all have these joys in common.
The problem with not losing your hair when you have cancer is that people don’t realise you have cancer. Even when they know you do have cancer, it’s like they forget. It can be genuinely shocking. How you feel and how you ‘should’ look are poles apart which somehow creates a disconnect to the reality. If I had a pound for every time I heard “but you don’t look ill???” It makes it even harder to acknowledge the truth of what is happening, for others and for yourself. Sometimes I just wanted people to acknowledge how crap I felt without me having to explain
“I am far sicker than my long flowing locks allow you to believe.”
I remember someone saying “How come you haven’t lost your hair? Obviously your chemo isn’t very strong.” Cue internal crying and tending to the metaphorical kick in the stomach, whilst outwardly I tried to explain the differences.
I am thrilled that I didn’t have to deal with losing my hair. Obviously I can’t imagine truly what ladies go through when they lose their. I would most certainly be devastated, feeling like I had lost an irreplaceable piece of me. But just because someone doesn’t ‘look’ a certain way, doesn’t mean they aren’t still fighting their fight.
That probably goes for everyone and everything actually!
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