I had been looking forward to this morning’s hair appointment for a couple of weeks. I was going to change my hair colours from gold tones back to richer reds with blonde highlights. It’s a sunny day in England and I tend to do my makeup in the natural light of the bedroom window. It was there that I took a hard look at my roots. I’ve had silver hairs throughout my head of hair since I was a preteen. They’ve since multiplied and that’s fine. I’ve never really worried about grey hair. I noticed that my roots were showing, on average, at about a half an inch in length throughout. Yeah, I was due for some colour. But then I examined the top of my head…
Let’s backtrack. Many of you know that I am a cancer survivor. I’m six years cancer-free. My cancer was cervical and the treatment was a radical hysterectomy. This means that all reproductive organs – except my ovaries – were removed. My ovaries were relocated (yes, they can do that) to a higher position in my abdominal cavity. Spared purely for hormonal reasons, they seem to be in working order. Their move was to allow a greater chance of keeping them healthy should I require radiation therapy. I never needed it. Nor did I have chemo. My battle with cancer was a piece of cake. Tumour gone. Biopsies of other bits were clear. Then I lost some hair.
Inexplicably, I lost hair on the top of my head and the pattern grew over the next year or so. To this day, I have an area about an inch and a half wide and up to around four or five inches long that is nearly barren of any hair whatsoever. I have a light dusting of tiny infant-like fuzz, but nothing more, and that took years to come back. It is essentially a dead zone. I’ve tried topical solutions (not Rogaine/Regaine; I won’t touch that stuff) and have been getting clever haircuts and colour jobs to camouflage the area for years. I wear hats. I wear headbands. I use a lot of hairspray to keep my hair over the ‘problem’ area of alopecia. A few months ago I saw the NHS dermatologist and got a creme. The doctor was frank and told me it likely wouldn’t do anything, but should be tried. I’ve applied it twice a week and have seen no results. My vitamins and minerals are fine. My blood is fine. My hormones are fine. My stress level is healthy and not anything to be concerned about. And I still have not re-grown my hair. This morning’s roots inspection presented me with a new issue: the hair up there isn’t simply not growing in the bald area, it’s also beginning to lose momentum around the area. In the presumed healthy hair surrounding the patch, the roots are not evident. The hair up there seems to be stunted, maybe thinning and dying. This has been really difficult to come to terms with today.
So I cancelled my hair colour and just went for a trim instead. I have a followup appointment with the NHS dermatologist later in the month and thought it best for him to see the pattern of growth/non-growth for himself. This means my hair will look in need of some maintenance for a few weeks, but at least I can give him something to measure.
If my cancer – and the stress surrounding the ordeal, both mental and physical – triggered a genetic condition that would’ve shown up later in life anyway, then I’d like to know. If there is something that a person without private healthcare and a tiny bank account can do to get specialist treatment, then I’d like to know that too. I am typically a brave girl and can roll with all kinds of punches, but I am failing here. I am not handling this particularly well anymore. I’m not ready to shave my head and put on a bulletproof smile. I hurt about this and am not ashamed to admit my attachment to my hair. It is looking increasingly like this has nothing to do with my cancer, but something separate. Not knowing the cause is hard- it means I have no place to start and no idea what I’m fighting. Quite simply- this sucks.