And breathe… this is a tough one.
I’ve been thinking for a number of weeks how do I possibly put it into words to tell you about hair loss when I know deep down this is probably the one thing that has affected me the most.
I actually came to the realisation when I experienced hair loss how vein I was about my hair, making sure I got it coloured on time, making sure once I’d straightened it there wasn’t one kink and you know what there are more things to life than having perfect hair! Also it’s a hell of a lot easier to get ready, I’m super quick now I just whack my hair on or a hat! No more washing (well I still wash it but its so much easier), drying and straightening my long locks that used to take me 2 hours… well that’s until it grows back.
I’ve also come to the realisation I’m actually twinning with my dad haha! I also never thought I would hear my dad say ‘your catching up with me with the length of your hair ash’ or be washing my hair with baby shampoo because my scalp is so sensitive, how things change?! To be quite honest with you I don’t think anyone would know how it feels to deal with the loss of your hair, eye brows, leg and arm pit hair (well them two are quite a blessing I must say, no more shaving hurray!) until it happens to you personally. Everyone is an individual and deals with things differently.
When I was told I’d be having chemotherapy asking if I would lose my hair was one of the first questions I asked. I also asked the nurse on my first cycle of chemotherapy when she was manually pushing my chemo into my line (praying for the first consultant to be wrong) ‘will I lose my hair and also which bit makes me lose it?’ to which she replied ‘unfortunately yes you will, and this what I’m pushing through now causes hair loss’. GREAT. I remember looking at the liquid going into my Picc Line, into me and thinking (sorry for my French) ‘you bastard’.
Everything goes through your mind, ‘I’ve just got it the colour I’ve always wanted it? Will I suit being bald? Oh my god I’m going to have to wear a wig and hats? People will stare at me? And will my hair grow back?’ I have never felt heart break like it. I couldn’t stop thinking about it so I urged my Mum to text my hairdresser to come round to my house when I was home from hospital to cut my hair into a bob. If it was going to come out I wanted to donate my hair. My hair was cut into a bob and 14’’ of hair was donated to the Little Princess Trust as they were funding my wig for me due to me being under the age of 24, let me tell you these wigs don’t come cheap mine was £1300!!
I got in touch with the Little Princess Trust who also put me in touch with Andreas Hair -Room-Leeds. Every appointment in 1:1, she makes you feel so loved, beautiful, my first appointment we picked the length and off her colour swatches of hair we matched my hair perfectly which I thought was going to be difficult due to my natural hair having different blondes. I also bought 3 hats from Andrea which are amazing, they are all bamboo material, so soft when you have them on and the wig wow its so realistic you can’t even tell!! The best benefit Is I only have to wash her once a month… Hallelujah! However hats are so much comfier so Hayley (my wig) only gets worn on special occasions now.
You’re all probably sitting there reading this thinking who’s Hayley? Has she gone mad? So here’s how Hayley the wig got her name; she’s named Hayley as when I was admitted to Airedale I made friends with a little old lady, she was so lovely I told her numerous times my names ‘Ashleigh’ but she didn’t quite grasp it, so from then on I was Hayley, all her family called me Hayley and in fact it even sometimes rubbed off on the nurses. It was so amusing because she didn’t have a clue what was going on! So when I’m in the wig everyone calls me Hayley. Its like I’m another person, she’s straight to the point, funny, can get angry at times but that’s just her and when I take my hair off I’m me again!
I got home from hospital on the Tuesday and my hair was cut into a bob by Friday. I loved it, I thought I can really pull this style off, I could do it curly or straight. The bob lasted a week and a day by Saturday my hair was coming out.
My Mum and Dad had just gone to Harrogate for the weekend with friends on a well earned break so; Connor, Lewis, Dom (my brothers best friend) and Katie (my brothers girlfriend) were on ‘baby sitting duties’. Katie was on her way and Connor and my brother had just left the living room, I ran my fingers through my hair and my hand was full of clumps of hair I remember just being in shock and see Dom’s face in shock, I looked at him and said ‘I think my hairs coming out, let me do the other side and check’ it did exactly the same I screamed.
As soon as Katie arrived I followed her upstairs just saying ‘my hair is coming out’. I honestly thought I was ready for it and it wouldn’t bother me but it turned out to be the complete opposite. Obviously there are stereotypes for everything now-a-days and I was in fear I was starting to become the stereotypical cancer sufferer; no hair, hat on my head with no eyebrows and everyone will stare at me. I almost felt normal with my bob I could walk round Asda and those who didn’t know me wouldn’t know I had cancer, but now they will I kept telling myself. I was heartbroken. I remember my brother saying to me ‘so what if people stare Ashleigh, stare back and smile you’re stronger and a better person than they ever will be’ and you know what he’s right now I smile and wave even if I don’t have a clue who they are, they are looking at me so I’ll wave to embarrass them instead of them making me feel embarrassed. It’s quite amusing actually.
My Mum and Dad arrived home around dinner time the next day and I remember walking into her room and crying like I’d never cried before, ‘why now’ I said, I’d just got over which was the worst week of my life due to me being quite poorly on my first chemo cycle and then this happens, why can’t it give me a break?!. My Mum suggested washing my hair and seeing how much came out to which I agreed until I went into the bathroom ran my fingers through my hair and there was so much I threw it In the bath and screamed – NO!
I rang my good friend Sarah, she’s the only one who would understand my pain having been through this herself, I asked ‘what should I do?’ to which she replied ‘shave it, get back in control’, and that was that, I went back into my Mum’s room and messaged my hairdresser ‘can you come today at 2pm I want it all shaving off’ – my Mum was gobsmacked. I needed to gain back the control, I was not letting this beat me and it was the best decision I ever made. I wouldn’t have been able to deal with waking up every morning with more and more hair being on my pillow, it was bad enough losing it cut short to a number two, hair gets everywhere!
From 12:00 – 2:00pm I think I cried every minute, I kept looking at the clock, feeling my hair and just sitting there crying. Sarah came to hold my hand (she’s honestly my biggest inspiration and has supported me through so much, I can’t thank her enough), my Mum and Connor were also there, they are always by my side, I love it. There was a knock at the door, it was Carla my hairdresser, it was time.
Sarah and my Mum held my hand the whole way through, I could feel all the hair just falling around me, the snipping of the scissors and then the dreaded sound of the clippers, this was it. I made Connor watch the whole thing so it wasn’t a shock seeing me at the end, but I was scared how he was going to react when it was done. I remember asking him ‘do I look ugly?’ to which he replied ‘you look beautiful, I didn’t fall in love with you for your hair, I fell in love with you’ well that was it and I was crying again!
I finally composed myself and my Dad came home from Asda and lets just say it wasn’t the best reaction I was looking for, I don’t think he understood the words ‘Ashleigh has shaved her hair’ and shaved means as short as his! ‘Oh my god’ I think his words were to which I burst out crying, I knew he was just in shock that his little girl had bit the bullet and gone for it, I also think he was shocked because like I said it became a reality when my hair was shaved. He also said I looked like Sinead O’Connor and I can see the comparison haha!
After everything had calmed down I remember trying on all my hats, at this point I only had 5, now I think I have over 20, glitter turbans, wrap head scarves you name it I’ve got it! I absolutely love them and now I don’t know why I was ever so scared to go out in one for people to see. Whenever people came round to visit me if I wanted them to see my ‘bald head’ I would just whip my hat off and say ‘right you’ve seen it now, if you ever walk into the house it wont be a shock now’ (I always keep a hat downstairs as I once answered the door to the post man without one on and I think I scared him, oops). Taking my hat off and showing people was my way of being in control, I experienced my hair loss at the end of my second week, during my first cycle. Very fast.
The day I lost my hair was one of the worst days of my life but it felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, I guess I got a bit of my spark back.