Maintaining your identity going through cancer treatment

Maintaining your identity going through cancer treatment

Maintaining your identity going through cancer treatment

By Fiona Macrae

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When you are diagnosed with cancer many thoughts go through your head, but it is strange the first one that popped into my head was ‘will I lose my hair’?  I don’t think I’m alone here, I know many people who have been diagnosed with cancer and we all have the same concern to one degree or another, how will the cancer treatment affect how I look?

I was a new Mum when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my baby was 5 months old, I had just started to make new friends with babies the same age as mine, going to baby yoga, baby massage etc., I just wanted to fit in and be like everyone else, talking about our successes, or failure on my part, in getting our babies to sleep through the night, how to wean etc., I didn’t want to be the one people took pity on, the one with cancer.  So for me losing my hair was a biggie, a real sign to everyone who happened to look at me that I was sick, this upset me far more than the thought of having the mastectomy that I knew I would had to have at some stage.  This all sounds so vain especially when you are faced with something that could kill you and all you can think about is how will I look, as I have said I know I’m not alone in these feelings, maybe it is the body’s way of coping, a sort of transference of worry.  Whatever it is, maintaining your own identity going through cancer treatment is very important, treatment can be months, sometimes years and you want to be you, not the person with cancer.

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My first challenge was trying to keep my hair!  I spoke to my oncologist and she said that I could try using a Cold Cap while I was having my chemotherapy, although she did warn me that it didn’t always work and that it would extend my time in the chemo ward by a couple of hours every treatment .  This didn’t put me off; I was going to do everything I could to hold onto my hair.  However, I was nearly scuppered at the first chemo session, the nurse insisted that I could just pop the cap on and she could start the treatment straightway, thankfully I had read the instructions, the geek in me does like an instruction manual.  I needed to wear the cap for at least an hour before the drug is administered (the time you need to wear the cap before treatment can be different depending on the chemo you are give)and then I had to keep it on for 2 hours after the treatment had finished (again this is different depending on the chemotherapy).  The cap was like a swimming cap full of ice with a tube going down to a machine that kept the cap frozen, putting it on was like having an ice cream headache, but as my treatment went on and I started to get terrible hot flushes and sometimes putting on the cold cap was a blessed relief.  I also used to cover my hair in conditioner before I put the cap on to help the ice to connect with my hair.  You will be pleased to know that all this effort wasn’t in vain, I did keep my hair, it did thin, mostly on the crown, but I had hair, just a little thinner than normal.  I could happily go about my everyday life without a wig and no one would notice, but if I did get dressed up to go out for an evening I would wear a wig, but this was mainly because my hair was very delicate, I didn’t use a hair dryer and I couldn’t use styling products, so it was always a bit flat, so a wig gave me the extra volume I needed when I wanted to glam up.  As my hair was so delicate I also had to be very careful what shampoo I used, I had to make sure it was completely natural, no parabens, nothing that would weaken my already weakened hair.

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Being able to keep my hair through my cancer treatment made a big difference to me and my self image.  I do think that sometimes in the rush to treat and kill the cancer the effect all this treatment has on the person is forgotten.  Just because this treatment is saving your life, it doesn’t mean you can’t complain about how it makes you look and take steps to make yourself look better, it’s not vain it is human nature.

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In future I hope to bring you more blogs on by day job, travel insurance for those who have been diagnosed with cancer or those in remission from cancer, but I wanted to share with you my thoughts on body image during and after cancer.  Which is why this web site Beauty Despite Cancer is so fantastic for anyone going through cancer and beyond, you are not alone in wanting to still look good, and the all the products available will not interfere at all with any of you cancer treatment, they have been designed in consultation with cancer patients and those treating cancer patients.

Tagged with: beauty, experience, cancer, identity, gifts for cancer patients, ingredients, skin care for cancer patients, formulation, beauty products cancer, skin care, luxury, skincare, health, natural, products, skin, skincare, skincare advice, help

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