Excuse Me While I Go Crop-Dust My Chin

Excuse Me While I Go Crop-Dust My Chin

Way back in January, while recovering from my de-boobing surgery and trying to get my head around the months of cancer treatment that were lining up on my doorstep, I found myself making lots of lists.

Lists of potential side effects, lists of products I needed to buy, lists of things to avoid on chemo and lists of emergency supplies I needed by my bedside night and day. In amongst all that scary prep work, I vividly remember trying to push through the heavy folds of despair by seeking out little silver linings amongst what felt like piles and piles of awfulness. I optimistically set out to tally up a list of chemo ‘Pros’ to sit alongside all the ‘Cons’, in the hope it would make my head and heart feel a little lighter.

Aside from the obvious cancer-slaying properties of chemo, my PROS list was pretty short:

  1. I won’t have to endure hot wax on my nether regions all year
  2. I will save a small fortune on hair cuts
  3. I will get to see what I look like bald and badass

It was clearly going to be all about the hair.

While I wasn’t all that keen on going bald, a small part of me had always had an inner desire to suddenly ‘do a Britney’ and shave my head. It’s not something I ever ended up pursuing, but I’ll admit to coming close a few times. In the end I would always chicken out. While it was a bold, brave move, it never really paid off for her, did it?

bald britney

Anyway, finally I had my chance! Cancer had provided me with not only the opportunity, but the necessity to buzz cut.

Perhaps it’ll be liberating, I thought.

So shave it, I did, as soon as mange levels reached crisis point and I could no longer carry out a successful comb-over of all the bare patches of my scalp. I get it now, fellas…Losing my hair so suddenly made me feel for all you poor blokes who have to deal with the shock of premature baldness. It ain’t fun. The best advice I got, and continue to give out, is:

 

Take back follicular control. Embrace the bald.

I actually didn’t mind my initial buzz cut. It made me feel tough. I didn’t look sick, I just looked a little military. But very quickly, the fine crop of hair adorning my scalp vanished completely, winter descended, and suddenly having a head as shiny and smooth as a billiard ball was not only über unattractive, it was freezing.

eyebrows 1

For the better part of six months I was completely bald up top, and sporting a ‘whole-body Brazilian’ everywhere else too.

Who needs regular treatments at the beauty parlour when chemo can keep you looking silky smooth and fabulous for free? One little infusion date with some cytotoxic cocktails was all it took for my body hair to start sliding painlessly from their follicles. No need whatsoever for hot wax or zappy lasers!

But while a bit of neck-down alopecia may seem like something to celebrate, when it encompasses eyebrows, eyelashes and head hair too, and you find yourself looking like a pale, pre-pubescent alien, there isn’t all that much to rejoice in!

My kids were quite fascinated with my hair-loss too, and it was certainly the topic of some wacky conversations in our shower. It made me dig deep into the essence of who I was and reflect with them on what it is about each of us that really counts. I learnt a lot from their ability to embrace this new version of their mum so easily, and tackle questions from other children with a frankness that many adults couldn’t replicate.

These days, my head is back to having a pretty good coverage of thick, short fuzz which could possibly pass for an army issue buzz-cut of sorts, although I can tell by the weird glances I still get from other people’s kids, that I’m not quite there. Young children will be the true test for me. When they stop ogling, I know I’m starting to blend into the normal crowd again!

kate hair growth sept

While head hair seems to grow slowly but surely, a new collection of chin hairs are going great guns. You know the type I’m talking about – the thick, dark, coarse ones that you’re positively sure weren’t around yesterday but have somehow sprouted two inches overnight, and are able to resist the death grip of a pair of tweezers with amazing tenacity?

Yeah, them.

I don’t know whether it’s because I have become so accustomed to the hair-free version of myself this year, or whether it’s the hormone suppressants I’ve just started taking and my new menopausal status, but I seem to be cultivating quite a collection these days.

Brilliant.

I suppose after bemoaning my bald face so regularly over the last six months, writing odes to eyebrows and hoping for my lashes to grow back lickety-split, I should be embracing this new foray into facial hair with the humour and nonchalance it deserves.

After all, it is just hair!

Now, please excuse me while I go crop-dust my chin.

Kate x

Holy Shit You Look Amazing!

Holy Shit You Look Amazing!

A few months ago, there was not one measly little hair on my scalp. Not one. The chemo drugs had killed off every single hair follicle, and with them, the hairs they contained. I was completely hairless! Everywhere.

Which makes THIS picture pretty fucking fabulous!

 

Hair 2

 

It’s so good it deserves a close up…

hair 1

After everything it has been through this year, I almost find it hard to believe my body is able to recover at all, let alone start doing so this quickly. But ever so slowly, I am starting to see and feel the healing process at work. It is wonderful! Here I sit, a mere six weeks since my last chemo infusion, with a fine fuzz adorning my head. Yes, it might be greyish white and still quite sparse, but I don’t care! It is HAIR!

Hooray for hair!

I want all of you to stop what you’re doing right this minute, find the nearest mirror, and instead of bemoaning your regrowth, your rain-induced frizz or those few sneaky grey hairs, announce loudly, ”HOLY SHIT YOU LOOK AMAZING!”

For optimal levels of self-love, I recommend repeating that process on a daily basis.

I’ve taken it a step further, on the recommendation of funny-girl Zoe Foster Blake, and have popped a sign with that very phrase on it in the middle of my bathroom mirror. No matter how gross I feel, It makes me smile every time I see it!

Holy Shit 1

Life’s too precious to waste feeling crap about yourself. I knew all this before, but now that I’ve been pushed to the absolute brink of self-acceptance and have had to dig really (REALLY) deep to love the face that’s staring back at me in the mirror and the body I no longer really recognise as my own…it’s something I try to actively engage with every single morning.

What’s the point in wasting time on ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’! Believe me, I have said more than my fair share of both in my life, and I’ve spent a lot of 2015 pondering where I went wrong, what on earth I did to bring on Breast Cancer, and ‘WHY THE HELL ME’!

Well…the only meaningful answer I’ve been able to come up with, in all my hours of wallowing in self-pity and questioning the unfairness of a cancer diagnosis is –

WHY THE HELL NOT ME?

I have met so many truly fab women this year, all travelling a similarly tumultuous road to recovery after a diagnosis of cancer. And I can tell you, amongst all the fear and despair, they still amaze me with their optimism and good humour, their ability to shove cancer to the back of their minds and get on with living.

It’s made me realise that the human spirit is a powerful force. We all have a lot in reserve to draw on when things are testing.

I’m off to look in the mirror again!

Kate x

Uncle Fester Rides A Rollercoaster

Uncle Fester Rides A Rollercoaster

Here I am, a week shy of my 38th birthday, and my current celebrity doppelgänger is Fester Addams.

fester addams

Go on, laugh! I do all the time.

And then secretly I cry.

I try and try to put on my brave, but sometimes I crumble.

Some days I can look beyond the bald, beyond my brow and lash-less reflection and feel more fab than Fester, but other days are just plain hard. No matter where I go, or what I do, or how many people tell me I look beautiful, I feel people’s eyes boring into me. I feel the burden of a society whose spectrum of normal I no longer fit. I feel ugly, unsightly, unfeminine.

“No hats, ma’am,” the young ride attendant calls.

I know she is talking to me, but I glance over my shoulder and pretend not to hear. “Excited, Rooey? This is going to be fu-un,” I coo. Maybe if I keep my back turned, she’ll give up and start the ride anyway. I haven’t prepared myself to unveil my baldness in front of a crowd of onlookers and the sudden threat of it is sharp. I wince.

The attendant is now hovering right next to my car, pointing to a sign above us that states ‘No Loose Items’ in bold lettering. I had already read it as we waited in line, but had been hoping it was more of a recommendation, than a rule.

“Excuse me, lady. Your hat – it needs to come off, please.”

I glance up at her and grimace. “Please – can you let me keep it on?”

“Sorry. Ride rule. No hats allowed.”

“But…I have no hair,” I squeak, imploring her to let me go.

She baulks, clearly embarrassed, then bends a little closer and lowers her voice. “I’m so sorry. You’re going to have to take it off. Really sorry, but it’s ride rules.”

I bite my lip and nod softly. To our right, the waiting queue snakes back and forth, four rows deep. Arms drape languidly over railings, faces gaze intently. Here I am in full view of a crowd of onlookers, having to unceremoniously expose myself.

I coil as far down into my seat as I can, and slide off my hat.

Instantly, I hear quiet murmurs break out as the front rows catch a glimpse of the bald woman about to ride the roller coaster; the one-woman freak show.

Tears prick. My face flushes crimson. I can’t look up.

Fortunately, before I am forced to endure any more embarrassment, the ride takes off with a sudden jerk, and whisks me away. We sail up towards the sky and then suddenly barrel down the bright, curved rail. Air streams past my face and my stomach lurches to my chin as we drop into the next turn. We twist and jerk around corners, down dips, pressed sideways in our seats as we screech and gleam around the looping course.

rollercoaster

A minute later we sail to a smooth stop, back at the platform where it all began. I close my eyes, breathe in deeply and smother a laugh. All my previous humiliation has dissolved and my body is now zinging with frenzied relief.

I feel like reality has just collided with the metaphor of my life.

From the carriage in front, both of my boys whoop with glee. I turn around, watching my daughter babble happily, tucked into the safe crook of her Daddy’s arm.

Her eyes, shining with wonderment, catch mine. “That was so fun, Mum. Can we go again?”

We clamber off together, linking arms and smiling broadly. My kids chatter non-stop about how ‘epic’ the rollercoaster was. They don’t notice my missing hat at all.

I wish I was brave enough to leave it off.

The Joys of Parenting. (A Night Of Little Surprises)

The Joys of Parenting. (A Night Of Little Surprises)

It all started at the dinner table.

There we were, enjoying a surprisingly tranquil break in our Wednesday evening. Dinner was finished, our bellies were brimming and our two boys were sitting quietly, engrossed in some homework.

For anyone who knows our family closely, such serene scenes are few and far between. Boy, are we LOUD! We shout, we yell, we squeal, we stomp! Mornings are a manic flurry of “FIND YOUR SHOES!” and “FORGET THE iPAD, IT’S TIME TO GOOO!” (usually at about three minutes to nine!) Evenings too, are a finely-honed, hectic schedule of drop-offs, pick-ups, after-school activities, and then intense negotiations over computer time, school readers, and “Just-exactly-how-many-more-mouthful-do-I-have-to-eat-mum-until-I-get-dessert?!”

Even as I type this, my boys are in the bath together, giggling maniacally. From my spot on the couch I marvel at how quickly they seem to oscillate between squeals of pure joy one minute, to sudden screams of injustice the next. There are always the token laughs of mock horror too, after particularly large splashing sessions, usually followed with cheeky observances like, “Mum’s not going to be happy about that!” and more peals of laughter.

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An Ode To Eyebrows

An Ode To Eyebrows

I miss my eyebrows a lot. Even more than I miss the hair on my head! They managed to hold on throughout my first lot of chemo, but disappeared pretty quickly with the weekly infusions of Taxol I’m having at the moment. From what I can gather talking to other cancer patients, eyebrows take a while to come back after treatment finishes too, so I guess they’ll be MIA for a long while yet. My eyelashes are abandoning ship too, which has left my eyes feeling pretty dry and looking rather raw! It’s certainly a challenge to look at my reflection in the mirror now and feel comfortable in my skin; a true test of my humility, I guess!
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Broken Wheels

Broken Wheels

Ever so gradually, as each week passes, I have felt the wheels falling off my resolve a little.

This past week has been particularly tough. After finishing my final dose of AC chemotherapy three weeks ago and starting to feel better, I hit a snag last Wednesday with the sudden onset of vomiting, nausea and fatigue. It completely caught me off-guard and left me with a mouth full of ulcers over Easter. How mean is that, taking away my chance of unfettered chocolate indulgence? Instead I spent the long weekend gargling salt water, unable to eat and feeling really flat.

It takes a lot of energy to stay upbeat and positive in the face of cancer. Even on the days when the sun is shining, my diagnosis hovers like an ever-present black shadow. I can push to look beyond the shade, but the sun on my face is never as bright.

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Kids Say The Darnedest Things

Kids Say The Darnedest Things

A couple of years ago, I had an encounter in the women’s change room of our local pool that was particularly embarrassing. By embarrassing, I mean a top-of-the-line face-palm cringe fest where I seriously hoped the ground beneath my feet would instantaneously open up and suck me into a vortex.

This particular disaster unfolded while I was busy trying to clothe two of my three children after a swim. It involved a big, busty naked lady and my then four year-old son.

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