I was diagnosed on March 24th 2016, just before the Easter holidays. The following day, I started my first round of chemotherapy which was ten days in total.
While some of the chemo side effects that I experienced occurred straight away, some of the effects, such as hair loss, were a slow process over a couple of weeks. My hair began to fall out while still in hospital, and this continued into when I was discharged to the hospital accommodation.
By the end of the Easter holidays, I was feeling much better in myself. I was experiencing some side effects from the chemo but not all had kicked in.
I still had hair – a lot of it – but was noticing the occasional hair on my collar and pillow and it was gradually becoming more and more as the days went by.
Some nights I was in tears about my hair
Losing my hair upset me a lot. Many think that it’s just girls that take hair loss hard, but all cancer patients do.
Jenny, my nurse, told me one night that some people shave their hair off before it all disappears; therefore, although it goes, you don’t have to go through the painful process of watching it fall out day by day.
Also, because the pillows were white, it made the amount of hair I was losing more visible. To combat this, I found it helpful to put a colourful blanket over my pillow, so the hair wasn’t as visible, and I wasn’t noticing the rapid change as much.
How my family and friends supported me
By April, my hair was falling out rapidly and it was still causing me some upset, but not as much as it had. By now it was just something I accepted, and if I was going to get better, it was just going to have to be.
Because I was upset, Dad told me that when he shaved my hair, I would be allowed to shave his in return. We were going to do this together.
So on the evening of April 12th 2016, while FaceTiming Mum and my sister, Kristy, back at home, Dad and I shaved each other’s hair. I now looked like the ‘stereotypical cancer patient’.
I thought I would put it on Facebook just as an update on how I was getting on, and I received a lot of support from my friends, classmates, and people who I had never spoken to before back home in Stowmarket.
I don’t know how many texts I replied to that night and there’s still some I haven’t replied to because I didn’t discover them until much later on. In fact, I’m still discovering them now!
Embracing my new look
Dad bought me a bandana and a hat, and he got himself a bandana too. On my first day of having very little hair, I wore the bandana but decided it made me look silly so I would stick to the hat from then on, which I did – for a year and four months after, wherever I went, I wore a hat. It’s something that I grew attached to.
If I’m honest, I soon embraced the completely bald look, and soon took a liking to it. Some of my friends liked it too, saying that it made me look more grown up.
How I changed my outlook on treatment
I also had a conversation with someone my Dad worked with, who gave me a new outlook on how to view my treatment. He said that it would make me feel bad, but I have to go through that to get better.
I had never seen it like that before. I genuinely feared the chemo because I thought it would be that that would kill me, and not the leukaemia itself.
But now I realised that it only made sense that things were going to be worse before it got better, and it would be completely worth it in the end. After all, why would they give me all that chemo if they knew it was going to kill me?
I also applied this positive mindset to my hair loss – the only way to survive was to go through the process, and therefore losing my hair was worth it.