Becky Clark was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and faced the going through the awful trio of treatments: surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. And, of course, the depressing prospect of losing her hair. But Becky discovered a way to find beauty in baldness.
Becky writes: I’m 45 (gulp!) and live in Braintree, Essex. I work as an LSA (Learning Support Assistant) in a high school, supporting SEN students in the Maths department. I’m married with two primary school-aged boys.
Before chemotherapy started, I had intended to use the ‘cold cap’ treatment which minimises hair loss, mainly because my children were worried about what I would look like. However, on looking into this a bit more, I rejected it, mainly because you basically have to freeze your head for an hour before chemo, and hour during, and two hours afterwards. Plus, it’s not guaranteed to work. So I decided that I would accept losing my hair and I bought a wig and several turban style hats.
My hair started to fall out about two weeks after my first chemotherapy treatment. That weekend, we all went into the garden and clippered it short; my youngest kept a piece tied in a ribbon so that I would ‘remember what length to grow it back to’. I then started wearing my wig and hats.
A friend posted a link on Facebook about a charity in Canada that apply ‘henna crowns’ to cancer patients and another friend asked if I was interested. I said ‘why not?’ – I try to look good as much as I can and am always willing to try something new (and if I hated it I could always cover it up!)
She then found Pavan online, a really cool and stylish Indian girl who has just opened a concession in Selfridges. She asked if I would go with her for an appointment but I explained I couldn’t really travel up to London because of crowds and the infection risk due to chemo-induced low immunity. So we agreed to go after my last treatment. However, she then spoke to Pavan who was so keen to do her first henna crown that she travelled out to us in Braintree and applied my crown at my friend’s house.
The process was easy. I had clippered my head down to nothing beforehand and then she applied the henna from cones – a bit like a cake icing bag. It was pure henna, all natural, no coloured dyes, so no danger of an adverse reaction. It took only forty minutes, but Pavan is the world record holder for fast henna application – seriously, she’s in the Guinness Book of Records!
I absolutely love it. At a practical level, it is cooler and easier than wearing a wig or hat, especially given the arrival of summer, but also because one of my side-effects is some menopausal ‘hot flushes’. More importantly, however, it makes me stand out from the crowd, makes a positive statement about looking good despite hair loss, is so easy to manage (occasionally use of eyelash glue to stick the diamante back on!), and liberates me from trying to pretend it’s not happening to me. I also think it has shown my boys that you shouldn’t be afraid to be different; my youngest was worried ‘it’s embarrassing because people stare at you’ but I told him, ‘what’s the worst thing that can happen?’ Incidentally, my husband loves it.
It should last up to four weeks, and I’m avoiding washing my head too often – another benefit of being bald!
I’ve lost count of the compliments I have received; from friends, acquaintances, and complete strangers. I’ve had people approach me to say they wished it had been around when they had chemotherapy, or where did I get it done as they have a friend who might be interested, or just how great it is that I am making a statement that life goes on and you deal with what it throws at you.
As my friend Sarah said, ‘when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade’.
For courage, elegance and sheer hutzpah we take our hats off to Becky. And we’re tempted take our hair off as well! Thank you Becky for telling us all your wonderful story.
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