New beginnings, new challenges

New beginnings, new challenges

Cancer. The gift that keeps on giving.

Not many people know this, but far beyond the reaches of the chemotherapy ward, even months and years after cancer patients leave their infusion chairs behind and take brave steps forward trying to find all the remnants of their former selves and stitch them all back together, the toxins from such heavy duty treatment continue to wreak havoc on bodies and minds.

There is the threat of painful oedema in limbs where lymph nodes have been removed, there is tight roping scar tissue that makes it hard to stretch. There is peripheral neuropathy that continues to numb our extremities and make simple buttons and jar lids as difficult to open as if we were ninety. 

There is lung scarring left over from radiation, fatigue, dry skin, weak nails, dental problems and just a general distrust of our bodies. 

But most frustrating for me, of all my long-term side effects of cancer, is Chemo brain.

The Anthracyclines that hopefully killed off all my cancerous cells, infortunately had similar effects on healthy cells as well. Chemo brain is a well-documented side effect of cancer treatments, and the drugs that were pumped through my veins to save my life are among the most likely to affect future brain function. While their toxicity was a necessary evil, not a day goes by where I don’t notice their impact; on my memory, on my mood, on my day-to-day brain function.

There are days where I feel like I’m losing my mind. I wrote about it recently as my application for university study. I had to write a piece detailing why I wanted to study Professional Writing. The following just flooded out of me, and while it felt like a strange application essay at the time, the words needed to be written down, so I did not fight them.

Something must have resonated with the course enrolment officers, because I am now a uni student once again. This time round, I couldn’t be more excited.

Here it is. I guess it explains that for some of us, writing isn’t a choice. It’s a need. I need to get my music out. It will not stay inside.

Yesterday I couldn’t remember the word ‘opinion’. There I was, mid-conversation with a colleague over lunch, and suddenly the word I was searching for, ‘opinion’, disappeared from my vernacular. Gone.

Now, I know everyone has moments like this, where words on the ‘tip of their tongue’ vanish the precise minute they are meant to appear. I’m sure right about now, you’re sitting there thinking, ‘no big deal’. The problem is, and I haven’t said this to anybody else yet…this forgetting…it’s been happening a lot lately and I’m terrified. I have always prided myself on my ability to articulate well. It’s one of my defining qualities, and I am starting to feel it slip away from me.

At 38 years of age, I am showing several, small but noticeable signs of early-onset dementia: forgetfulness, memory loss, even the ability to recognise people’s faces. At first it was pretty insignificant: a couple of missed appointments, hazy recollections of prominent life moments, torturous hours spent trying to remember the most ridiculously simple words. But lately it’s become far more obvious.

Most excruciating, are the multiple times I have met someone, and then subsequently ‘re-met’ them again after forgetting their face and name completely. When I reply to, “Hey, have you guys met?” with a “No,” but the other person says in a confused voice, “Yes we have,” my heart sinks. Then I cartwheel through the depths of my brain trying to stir up any small flicker of identification. Just a whisper of a memory that might serve correct. More often than not, I am left flailing in an awkward pause the size of China, clumsily feigning recall but retreating as hastily as I can. People must think I’m so rude!

Why all this excruciating back-story when you really just want to read my application to enrol in Professional Writing?

Well, so far, the writing section of my brain seems in tact. I write and I am free of the awkward pause, the lost word, the misplaced memory. Where the immediacy of speaking often leaves me anxious and clammed up, writing feels easier. In writing, there is no befuddlement, no frantic wading through the depths of my mind for missing puzzle pieces. Somehow, the chasms melt away at my keyboard and I am able to prise open my clamshell and the words still come.

Last year, I found myself writing through a cruel and unfair time. I wrote because I was searching for meaning and needing to purge my mind of grief and fear. I wrote because I had no choice but to.

Now, I write to hold onto myself.

‘Good’ Cancers and ‘Bad’

‘Good’ Cancers and ‘Bad’

People often refer to Breast Cancer as one of the ‘good cancers’. Surely the phrase ‘good cancer’ is a total oxymoron, but you’d be surprised how often it gets bandied around. I remember on one occasion last year in the chemo ward, while hooked up to my intravenous cocktail of poison, I overheard someone I could not see proclaim she wished she had Breast Cancer.

Say what? Had I actually just heard someone WISH for BREAST CANCER? Why on earth, would anyone want what I had? Had she seen people like me lately? I was hardly a picture of health at the time: incredibly weak, rake thin, bald and pale!

eyebrows 1
A picture of health in the chemo ward!
Now of course, with a teeny bit of perspective and a bit of space away from the trauma of my own treatment zone, I get it.

A bit.

I have no idea what this woman’s diagnosis was, but ALL cancer diagnoses are pretty damn horrible.

It’s true that as far as cancers go, Breast Cancer’s overall survival rates are better than some others out there, and it has a much higher profile in our society thanks to its fucking ridiculous playful association with the colour pink. I think it obviously helps too, that boobs are constantly sexualised and therefore way more important to everyone that your average – you know – colon or something. Sorry Colons, but it’s just a fact of life that everyone loves boobs, and not many give two hoots about you guys. It’s just too hard to garner as much enthusiasm for boring bits that don’t bounce and stuff.

Breast Cancer awareness campaigns can do fucking ridiculous hilarious things like dress men up in tutus and put dogs in bras.

men tutu

dogs bras

They can have cutesy slogans like:

save the tatas

and ‘Save The Titties’ and people everywhere will donate because – FUN BAGS, amirite?

Celebrities can post ‘no bra selfies’ or pose sexily on Instagram in their underwear under the guise of cancer awareness.

Total. Puke. Fest.

 On the flip side it means that people quite happily talk about Breast Cancer, so on some level, I have to admit that the profile of Breast Cancer is bigger and better because of it. I just take issue with the message, and the ‘sexification’ of  what is a pretty ugly disease.

You want to see what Breast Cancer really looks like? Check here. I’ll happily show anyone who wants to see my scar lines too.

In comparison to the carnival that is Breast Cancer, there are lots of other forgotten cancers out there that struggle to get the same level of community support, dollars for research and awareness required to bolster survival rates. It’s pretty hard for, say – your bowel – to garner the support and media coverage that a pair of breasts can, isn’t it? But here’s the thing…we need to stop sticking our fingers in our ears and closing ourselves off in little ‘bubbles of invincibility’ and start talking about all cancers, their signs and symptoms.

bowel cancer awareness

June is Bowel Cancer Awareness month, and today I’m taking a break from all things boob, in order to highlight the importance of being in tune with your bowel. Copping a monthly feel of your breasts is easy, but sometimes the signs that something is amiss in your digestive tract are less obvious. And leaving symptoms unchecked for too long can be devastating.

While the chances of contracting Bowel Cancer increase with age, many young people are afflicted with it too. The worst thing we can do is presume we are young, and therefore immune to diseases like cancer. I felt that way before Breast Cancer, and we all know how that went down!

bowelcanceraustralia-youre-never-too-young-665x308-bca-banner-b

 

So, let’s talk about poo… poo

No don’t go screwing your nose up like that! This is super important.

Bowel Cancer affects more and more Australians every year, both male and female, young and old.

We all need to be bowel-aware

 

Here are the IMPORTANT things to watch for:

  • a persistent change in bowel habit, such as looser, more diarrhoea-like bowel movements (i.e. going to the toilet more often, or trying to go – irregularity in someone whose bowel movements have previously been regular)
  • A change in appearance of bowel movements (e.g. narrower stools or mucus in stools)
  • Blood in the stool or rectal bleeding
  • Frequent gas pains, cramps, or a feeling of fullness or bloating in the bowel or rectum
  • A feeling that the bowel has not emptied completely after a bowel movement
  • Unexplained anaemia (a low blood count) causing tiredness, weakness or weight loss
  • Rectal or anal pain or a lump in the rectum or anus
  • Abdominal pain or swelling

Now, having these symptoms doesn’t guarantee you’ve got cancer, but It will never hurt to chat to your GP and query anything that feels different. Spread the word to those you love, be bowel savvy and remember that when discovered early, Bowel Cancer is very treatable.

This month, some friends of mine and I are raising funds to donate to Bowel Cancer Australia. We want to show those we love who have been affected by this insidious disease that we care and are committed to increasing the dialogue around Bowel Cancer, and raising money for research. If you know someone who has battled Bowel Cancer, perhaps you might like to help us. To donate some cash, you can click this link to go to our Everyday Hero page, which I spectacularly titled, Bowel Cancer is A Load of Shit

Every cent will go to Bowel Cancer Australia.

I am trying to think of some other ways to raise money for Bowel Cancer. My kids suggested baking biscuits to sell, so we will be doing this soon. If you would like to be involved, or if you would like to buy some biscuits, drop me a line.

No cancer is a good cancer, but there are many that need far more awareness and funding. We can all help!

Kate x

 

 

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

Hospital Lyfe

Hospital Lyfe

A week inside and I’m seriously starting to go a bit batty. If it weren’t for my lovely nurses, I think I’d probably be hatching an escape plan to get out of here using my IV pole as a scooter. Geez I wish we had IV poles like this one:

trike IV

This little blog post is going to be all about giving three cheers to everyone who works in the medical profession! Hip, hip hooray! I’ve talked a lot about my ace doctors in past blog posts, so this one’s going to be about the other ace people who have been caring for me a lot this year…nurses.

Nurses – and I’m going to add the extra demarcation of Oncology Nurses – are extraordinary beings. They are cheery in the face of the Big C every day. They cop all manner of wacky bodily functions being thrown at them (literally), and they buzz around tirelessly making us sickies feel a little more normal. I have not encountered one nurse who hasn’t impressed me in the Oncology wards of the Epworth…and believe me, I reckon I’ve met them all this year.

During my spectacular days of chemo, they’d practically have to drag me like a tantrumming toddler to the treatment chair, sit holding my hand as I sobbed and sniffled and snotted all over the place in absolute misery, then run like Usain Bolt across the linoleum to frisbee me a sick bag at juuust the right moment, and reassure me with the most wise and experienced words, that despite feeling like death, I would make it through this week, and every infusion to come.

They got me through.

Then through rads, the nurses and radiation staff made every attempt to keep me smiling, even when I turned into Lobster Boob and my skin started to shrivel and fall away, they dressed my wounds and said, “Look how far you’ve come.”

And this week I just feel like they’re on my team. And I really have witnessed them care for the old, the young, the grumpy, the mad, and the spectacularly incontinent with patience and a smile. Kudos to you, nurses of 4ES!

When I first arrived, as my last blog post explained, I spent a few days in a shared room. I’ve since been moved to a private room (YAY) in what can only be described as Operation Stealth.

After surgery on Saturday I was actually feeling quite good on Sunday, but the infection spiked again on Monday and I was febrile, vomiting and utterly miserable all day. I couldn’t eat, drink or sleep. There was a concern that the antibiotics I’d been given weren’t the right ones for my kind of staph. In the end, it started to ease again by Tuesday, but my beautiful nurses organised for me to move out of the communal nursing home I was in and down the hall a bit to what feels like The Epworth Penthouse. It was very secretive. None of the oldies was allowed to know, as then everyone would be on their Zimmer frames trying to beat me to it.

While the grumpy one was busy calling her daughter Lorraine to complain about the food, another was belching loudly behind a curtain and the third was adjusting her Poise pad, they whisked me out of there in a flash!

Peace at last! The room I’m in now feels like the one they reserve for VIPs (ha). It’s huge, has a sofa and an ensuite – even a desk and a big fat TV perfect for watching The Bachelor at night. Rose ceremonies have never had this level of intensity before! It was nail-biting! Last night, as I clutched my knees to my Heparin-bruised, queasy stomach, I felt the DRAAMAA like I’ve never felt it before!

Why oh why did it have to be TLBCG Heather?! WAAAHHH!

(Click here if you have NO IDEA what I’m on about. Rosie Waterland does the best Bachie recaps ever)

Anyhoo…

So, whilst hospital is totally not my favourite place to be, if I have to be here all week, I’m bloody rapt to be in the Penthouse with the lovely nurses of 4ES. Even if they do ask me way too many questions about my bowels being open or not, and come in multiple times a night to check my temperature and blood pressure…I think I’ll survive.

Plan is, I escape on Sunday. As it stands now, the IV antibiotics have ceased, I only have one more drain tube left to be pulled out, and I start oral antibiotics this afternoon. I might even get to have a shower tonight, peeps, what a novelty that will be!

Laterz,

Stinky Kate x

P.S. Have you all go your tickets to the Gala? It’s only a month away! I’m really thinking I might try and do a duet of ‘Bedroom Eyes’ with Kate Cebrano. Think she’d be up for it?

Scientific Fact or Intuitive Crap?

Scientific Fact or Intuitive Crap?

quack_cartoon

I’ve always held the view that alternative therapies are valid treatment options to use alongside, or at times in place of, conventional modalities. In today’s fast-paced, high-pressure society, there are many times when the answer to a simple health issue can be found in slowing down, taking time out, eating better and exercising more. Not always, but often.

I wouldn’t say I’ve been an active patron of alternative therapists through the years. I have a pretty healthy respect for modern medicine and its fastidious process of evidence-based, peer-reviewed research to substantiate treatment claims. I’m not going to turn away from science unnecessarily.

That’s not to say I’ve never engaged in anything but standard medical care. I have seen the odd Naturopath, had acupuncture at various times, a Kinesiology ‘balance’ with a practicing friend, and used herbal remedies occasionally to combat illness.

However, while I’m willing to give most things a go, I approach everything with a questioning mind, and put a lot of effort into researching the validity of different healing practices. If there’s no proper evidence-based scientific research to back up its declarations, I steer clear. I follow the premise that when things sound too good to be true, they generally are – Caveat Emptor.

Until my Breast Cancer diagnosis, I’d never really had any reason to examine the claims of so many therapies in detail, but having Cancer fills you with uncertainty and conventional treatments prescribed by teams of Oncologists, like chemo and radiotherapy, are scary and brutal. There are no promises that they will succeed either, and besides quoting the latest survival stats, no right-minded medical specialist can give you the survival guarantee you so desperately seek.

It’s a tough road to travel. And all the while, everywhere you look, there are shiny proclamations of ‘natural’, easy alternatives. Ones that don’t make your hair fall out or have a whole host of scary side-effects. Amazing treatment protocols with fancy sounding names, incredible cures unearthed in the depths of the Amazon, wellness regimes and dietary crazes spruiked by smiling celebrities, and conspiracy theories that tempt, confuse, and ultimately mislead.

balmy oils

There are people everywhere proclaiming to have cured terminal disease with nothing but food, or juice, or frigging snake oil and bicarbonate soda, willing to sell their secrets or include you in their ‘wellness crusade’ for a fee. There are apps and cookbooks to buy, health retreats to go on and supplements to take. There are plasma amplifiers, electro-magnetic devices, supplement strategies and spiritual remedies. There is B.S. everywhere.

We Cancer patients are easy prey I guess. Desperate to be well, searching for hope, and struggling daily to push away the fear of metastases and a plethora of unanswerable questions like, ‘Why me?’, ‘What went wrong?’ and ‘What will happen to me?’ It’s easy to capitalise on despair.

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It makes my blood boil.

Selling false hope and unsubstantiated quackery to vulnerable people is not only morally reprehensible, it’s downright dangerous.

Because I am very comfortable with my decision to follow the advice of my surgeon and oncologists and pursue conventional treatments for my cancer, I don’t actively search for alternative therapies or seek out the opinions of practitioners outside my team. I feel like I’m in sound, capable hands. It hasn’t, however, stopped me from wondering about the reason for my cancer and wracking my brain futilely.

Yesterday I stumbled across an article professing to extrapolate on the reasons Breast Cancer occurs, or as the author put it, ‘the reasons we create the Dis-harmony of Breast Cancer’. While there were no proclamations of cure, there was an insane amount of garbage spewed forth by someone professing to be a ‘medical intuitive’, who describes herself as a ‘walking, talking MRI’ and charges exorbitant fees ($185 per half hour) to supposedly ‘use their self-described intuitive abilities to find the cause of a physical or emotional condition’.

Apparently, I ‘created’ my cancer because I don’t LOVE myself enough, don’t view myself as a ‘pure, sensual woman’ was NEGLECTED as a child (by a male figure, because my cancer is in the RIGHT boob), am TOO NEEDY with my partner and I’m RESENTFUL of others.

YUP.

Breast Cancer = Needy and Resentful. My cancer is my fault…or maybe my dad’s…or my bro’s.

rage gif 2

There was more. A lot more, but I found myself reading through a clenched jaw and gritted teeth.

Way to go, lady! What a service you are doing to the cancer community by spruiking your clairvoyant crap! Let’s make cancer patients feel even worse about their plight! Let’s concoct a whole host of wacky reasons for Cancer under the guise of helping and healing.

Take your freaking nipple chakras and internal vibrations and shove them where the sun doesn’t shine. There’s my little bit of intuition for you!

Ugh.

 

For those who would like to read this drivel in full, go here. Feel free to voice your own response on her Facebook page here, although don’t be surprised if your comments are deleted. Apparently any kind of alternate view to hers is unacceptable.

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.