THE BIG SHAVE
My hair, other than being my security blanket to hide my insecurities behind, was always one of my favourite features. It was thick, messy and wild at times. I loved it.
Strangely the thought of shaving my head didn’t bother me as much as I anticipated. It felt like one thing I could control in the shitstorm I was now a part of called ‘cancer’. I like control... The more you read about me the more you will realize this… #controlfreak
I have read a lot about women who struggle with the hair loss more than the cancer diagnosis itself. Everyone navigates their way through this space so differently, I will fill you in on what this experience was like for me.
TAKING THE CONTROL BACK
Personally I didn’t want to experience my hair falling out in clumps, so before I started losing any (and I was told due to the AC chemo I would most certainly lose it) I decided to shave it. The big day was set, I had all kinds of mixed feelings about it, but I knew it was going to be a good experience once I got over the initial shock of it. I read a post on instagram once by an inspiring woman who said every female should experience shaving her head at least once in their life. I’ve toyed with it over the years, but always backed out. Not this time, bye bye ego, no chance of pulling out this time.
I’ve got 2 children, a 6-year-old son Smith and a 5-year-old daughter Vogue. They were excited! I didn’t tell them initially it was because of the cancer and chemotherapy. I told them that I wanted to shave it. I made it exciting for them which made the whole experience much more enjoyable and relaxing for me. Though my daughter desperately wanted to shave hers too (adorable), but when I told her we weren’t going to shave hers, she started crying…See pics below, those tears are NOT because I shaved my head, they were because I wouldn’t let her shave hers! Haha
The kids gave my hair a good brush before we started, we set up in our lounge room. My husband was the one who was going to do it and away we went.
I think I squealed with anticipation, nervousness and the unknown. But I knew I wasn’t going to look in a mirror until it was over.
Hearing the kids reactions and watching my brothers face as it was happening was quite surreal, however nothing prepared me for that moment where I first looked into the mirror…
EMPOWERMENT BEHIND THE BALDNESS
I saw myself, unfiltered and raw. It was as though I was looking at myself for the first time in my reflection. Like I was peering directly into my soul. It was intense in the best possible way. A moment I will carry with me always.
Even though my head was bald I could not stop looking at my eyes. It really caught me off guard. I’m so grateful I had that moment captured. The imagery still gets me every time, the emotions come flooding back as I relive it time and time again.
How had I never ‘seen myself’ until this point? I was 36 years old and I felt as thought I was quite in touch with myself.
That moment truly was a life changing experience that I will cherish forever. It felt like an awakening.
ACCEPTING MY INSECURITIES
It’s not all peaches & cream of course, I felt in some ways not as much of a woman, less feminine and not very sexy at all. The thought of having sex like this was upsetting at first. Would Luke look at me and still be attracted to me? Sure he knows I’m strong and the same person I was beforehand, but that’s different to being physically attracted to your partner… I’ll do a separate blog post talking about this in more detail soon.
I could no longer hide my insecurities, they were exposed for all to see, mainly myself. Whilst this was challenging and every time I walked past a mirror or saw a photo of myself it was a shock!
Sometimes it still is… it’s like I forget at times that I have cancer and then I walk past a mirror and I think to myself “oh yeah that’s right”. How am I in this situation again?! Just one of the many times where you wonder why you’re here, living this!
It was extremely empowering however to overcome these things over time. I learned to accept my double chins, my overbite, my not so perfect teeth and large gums and my sideburns. I’m not in a place of loving these things yet, however I have accepted they are a part of me and that I do no need to hide them to feel good. I guess in some ways accepting myself at my rawest and prior to this what I thought was my ‘worst’ state was what ended up bringing me a lot of peace.
Going out in public was another thing. I expected people would give me sympathy looks and react differently. I felt a little uneasy about it at first to be honest. I think also because I never thought I would have chemotherapy if I found myself in this situation. So I felt somewhat embarrassed ( not sure if that’s the right choice of words) that more ‘alternative’ thinkers would look at me as someone who just went down the ‘normal’ way. Not knowing that alternative is how I really am in my core. It was through a lot of research and difficulty that I came to the decision of having chemotherapy.
In fact the reality of how people dealt with it was nothing like I anticipated.
However I am blessed to live close to a town called Daylesford, where most people are so kind and loving by nature and there are quite a few hippies (no offence) who would choose to shave their heads.
People accepted me, some asked to touch it, which I was fine with, while others didn’t act differently at all trying to make me feel comfortable no doubt. All reactions were fine by me. It gave me more confidence to keep it bald and not try to cover it all the time. It was also quite nice feeling every little part of my bald head when the wind picked up, or on a sunny day. I was enjoying the sensation of it.
I thought I was going to be wearing headscarves every day and bought so many of them before starting chemo. However with my newfound acceptance of myself and the lack of reactions from people I quickly decided I didn’t want to wear headscarves too often. I WANTED people to see a young person going through chemotherapy. To remind them it can happen to anyone. Most of the time I didn’t wear any make up or put any effort into my appearance. This was part of me accepting myself in my rawest state. I chose to do this in the docu-series and in all of my daily interactions for myself. At times I questioned myself, looking at my videos knowing I wasn’t getting a flattering angle would briefly make me upset. Very quickly though I reminded myself that this was what it was all about. It had to be real, not filtered, that’s what I wanted.
Other than my newfound self-acceptance, which did take some time. Not having to shave my legs, armpits and groom my lady bits was an added bonus (there’s got to be something right?) Plus when I had hot flashes not having hair on my head was fabulous!! The last thing I wanted to do was to put anything on my head.
6 months at a minimum of being low maintenance was something I’ll never forget. Maybe the hippies have it all right!! As I would literally get up, brush my teeth; wash my face and I’d be ready to go. It was extremely liberating.
MY GUILTY PLEASURE
One of my favourite past times for some reason is scrolling through old photos of me with hair. I always end up at my last instagram post (on my @nomadstyling) page where I was talking about doing international workshops. I have hair, life was normal and then BOOM, the next post is me bald with cancer only weeks later. It’s a weird experience, looking at it, scrolling between the 2 posts in disbelief. It’s like I have lived 2 lives in some way.
I also like creeping on other women going through cancers pages. I like to see the person they were before the cancer. Because my ladies… THIS DOES NOT F**KING DEFINE US! Don’t forget that! It changes us for life no doubt, but it does not define us. I refuse that notion.
FOLLOWING WHAT FEELS RIGHT FOR YOU
As far as the head shaving goes, I understand this won’t be the way for everyone however it’s what worked for me. If it makes you feel good to wear a headscarf, some earrings and make up, DO IT. I certainly did on occasions and it did feel nice. I felt more like my old ‘normal’ self momentarily.
Do whatever you need to do to get yourself through the day. Cancer can at times feel as though it has stolen your identity. It seems to take things away from you. I do think it’s important to take a bit of the power back however you see fit (tell me it’s not just the control freak in me?).
With every ounce of my being I believe that a positive mind frame can help your healing so greatly. So do whatever you need to help put you in a positive place.
Allow the negative thoughts to come, ride the wave of emotion, then release it and keep going.
You got this!