Monday, 28 February 2011

Let's Get One Thing Straight...

I've never been a big fan of wigs. Even when they were ultra-fashionable back in the 70s and my mother seemed to have a wig or hairpiece to match every occasion, it always seemed like a time-consuming process just to look like someone else. My mother always seemed to be transformed from a very humble-looking housewife to someone who was about to take the stage. While I loved the glamour of it all, it also reminded of the Cinderella fairytale and I would often wonder what would happen once the wig came off. Would she be back in the kitchen scrubbing floors ?

This is why my current adventure in search of the perfect afro wig is so unusual to me. I've had natural hair since I was about 23 and I'm now 42. I haven't let a straightening comb, weave, jheri curl or anything else that involves a great deal of time and chemicals near my hair. Wigs to me are what other women wear. Women who perhaps appear on stage or who are so image conscious that it's important for them to look like a diva everyday. Now that my endeavour to find a wig could be seen as a necesssity or at least a boost to my current chemo-steam rollered self-esteem, it somehow makes it all the more important to find the perfect one.

And I think I need to note that I don't want to look like Erykah Badu, or Chaka Khan or Beyonce or any other fantastic looking uber-woman who currently graces our screens. I just want to look like me again. A black girl with a semi-sensible looking 'fro.

Anyway, my friend R has just texted me to let me know that she's bought me a wig for me. I'm going to have a hairstyle makeover by Trevor Sorbie next month and I panicked a bit once I realised how difficult it was getting finding a decent wig. The one she's found only cost £15 and looks more like a jheri curl style than anything else but it's something. She bought it from a hair shop in Finsbury Park. I'll see if I can put a picture up next time....

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Introducing myself...

Hi there,

It's been approximately three months since I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. I'm 42 years old and a mother to a gorgeously cute 13th month old baby. I was first diagnosed with breast cancer seven years ago. I had a very good prognosis, a small tumour, no spread etc, etc. and I was given two years of an injection called Zoladex and a daily dose of tamoxifen. I had no recurrences and generally proceeded to get on with my life in the best way that I knew how.

After six years agonising about whether to have a baby or not, I bit the bullet and my partner and I decided to try for a baby. I got pregnant fairly soon after, had a stress-free pregnancy and my son was born nine months later. But it was a traumatic birth. He spent the first month critically ill in intensive care, but fortunately fully recovered and after a few post-traumatic months, I began to learn how to become a mother for the first time, thinking that the nightmare of the earlier months were behind us. This unfortunately was short-lived. Six months after my son's birth and once I'd finished breast-feeding, I began to notice pain in the area of the breast that had been mastectomed. I paid my GP a visit. She assured me that it was a minor complaint. But the pain got worse. I visited a plastic surgeon. She referred me to oncology and after a number of scans, my worst fears were confirmed.

When I first diagnosed with primary breast cancer I was a much more precious person. I had always been an annoyingly healthy exercise junkie. My body was my temple. I resisted chemotherapy but told the doctors that if they really thought I should have it, I would comply. But they didn't think I'd need it, so I had hormonal therapy instead.

When I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, the word 'chemotherapy' sounded like manna from heaven to me. Something that would give me more time with my son. I no longer cared about the toxins, or the hair-loss, or the side-effects. If I had to drink the drugs, I would do it. I adopted a whatever-it-takes attitude and set about building myself up for the experience.

Once I got used to the chemo, I started to think about the rest of my appearance. Even though I generally still looked the same, the chemo had taken its toil on my hands and nails which were sore and looked unsightly. I had cysts on my eyelids and dark spots on my arms where the IV needle had been put in.

I didn't pay much attention to my hair, which before the start of chemo, had been a thick, short, lustrous afro. There was the possibility that it would fall out but I was encouraged to wear a cold cap just in case it only thinned.

But it thinned a lot. Until huge patches were falling out. I decided to shave it off. This looked fine and I got lots of compliments about how it suited me, but then it started to get patchy. I then decided to wear a headwrap. Which again, was fine for a while but then I got bored and began to miss having hair again. Perhaps it was time to get a wig. After decades of being an 'au naturel' laydee.I thought it would take me an afternoon to buy one, but a month later I'm still staggering around, worn down by chemo drugs trying to find that definitive afro wig. I don't want high glamour or to look like the girl from the latest hip-hop promo. I just want a wig that looks like my old hair - only I didn't realise that it was ever going to be this hard. And this is why I've started this blog...