Going through Breast Cancer has been incredibly tough on my husband. He has been my rock throughout all of it. We have been tested and pushed to our limits at times but we know we are stronger for it. It has been hard for Phil to watch all that I have endured and feel like he couldn’t make it all okay. He has been to every appointment, every treatment, sat by my bedside through every surgery and supported me endlessly.
We have had some difficult moments through our journey. Some days have been hard to get through, and we have just had to hold on to each other. A lot of the time we have had to lift each other up, although probably more for my sake. I have been down that rabbit hole more than a few times.
The rawest moment for us was the day that symbolically, through one necessary act, everything became very real.
My body went through many physical changes very quickly and to think of it all now seems a bit of a blur. It was all very confronting, but at the same time, ironically, has taught me the most about myself.
When I was diagnosed I had long hair, was fit, active and strong. I always felt confident and secure within myself, but always wanted to lose more weight, exercise harder, lift heavier weights, bla bla bla…
Breast Cancer taught me to truly accept myself as I am.
After my mastectomy surgery I had a couple of weeks to recover before I started chemo. It was brutal. I can’t even describe how it felt except to say it felt like being hit by a “Mack Truck”. The physical changes started soon after.
It took two weeks for my hair to start to fall out on my head. That’s how long it took for all those toxic chemicals to kill all the hair follicles. I remember the day I grabbed a clump of hair in my hands and the feeling of it ‘sliding’ out of my head. It wasn’t the sharp little pain you normally feel when pulling out a single hair, this was’t painful at all. It had no resistance, it just came out.
I couldn’t stop pulling it out after that. It was such a strange sensation and became a new habit. I pulled out so much of it that I had created patches of baldness which were then noticeable and I decided it was time to clipper it off.
Phil, the girls and I finally chose the day to visit my beautiful hairdresser and friend to do it and I just wanted it over with. Six months before, she had styled my long hair for our wedding. It was a difficult day and we all cried together.
It was a confronting moment. It was real.
The next day, my beautiful eldest boy went and had his head shaved also to show his support. We were all experiencing it together.
Even after that the stubble fell out all the time. Every day in the shower I would rub my head and it would keep coming out. It was as if Phil had shaved and left whiskers everywhere. They were all over my pillow, clothes and car seat. They were itchy and annoying. I put up with that for about a week and then decided I had had enough.
I decided I needed to shave my head with a razor.
It was a Sunday morning, I got up and went into the bathroom. Phil was still asleep and didn’t know what I was doing.
I looked in the mirror and thought it was finally time. I could either fall in a heap and feel sorry for myself, or I could just do what I needed to do and get on with it. I wanted to do it alone and get it over with as quick as possible.
As I awkwardly soaped up my head and grabbed the razor I realised that I was going to struggle to do it by myself. It was unfamiliar and actually quite difficult. I couldn’t see the back, let alone manouvre the razor without cutting myself. I needed to ask Phil to help me.
I woke him still with soap everywhere, and after the shock of the visual when he opened his eyes he got up and followed me into our bathroom.
He stood behind me, razor in hand. Slowly and gently, he finished shaving the back of my head as we cried together and stood there with the realisation of the situation. It was a defining moment.
I never thought that would be something I would ever have to ask my husband to do for me. It was my most vulnerable moment, and the most raw moment of our relationship.
Before I lost my hair it was long, about boob length! It was a strange realisation that they almost kind of related to one another in a symbolic way. They were both gone.
I found my own beauty in the days to follow. It took losing a boob and all my hair to learn to truly accept myself, my body and my strength. I finally surrendered to my situation and acknowledged that it was okay to allow myself to be vulnerable.
I didn’t bother getting a wig, I didn’t see the point. I just figured that if I could accept myself as I was, everyone else would too. My kids and my husband walked beside me wherever we went. And to my surprise, not many people even shot me a glance!
Going forward a year and I have hair now. I’m glad it’s back. It was cold in winter! It is also nice to be a bit more ‘normal’. It will be quite a wait for it to grow longer, but that’s ok.
Phil has encouraged me through all my different looks! I am impatient and keep changing my hairstyle as it grows so that I can feel like it is making progress. Who knows what I will do next time I get my hair done. I do love the adventure!
And as for my husband? He still endlessly supports me. We still have difficult days but we are finding our way back to laughter. I am a lucky girl, and eternally grateful that he is mine…