Sim Warren was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2006 at age 33. Following treatment she relapsed in 2011 and was given six months to live. “Bollocks to that,” says Sim, 39, “I am still alive and kicking and making plans to celebrate my 40th next year in style.” Here she talks about gaining new confidence through hair loss:
I first had chemotherapy in 2006 when I was 33, having been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma stage 2b.
I had my shoulder length blonde hair cut into a short bob when I knew I would soon lose it. My hair began to fall out slowly after the first treatment and by three months I shaved my head because my hair was so thin. Initially I bought four wigs. I decided that this was the excuse I needed to have the hair I had always wanted. I had a super long wig made of real hair that was very similar in colour to my own hair so suited my skin tone. I thought it was very glam! I had a blonde ringlet shoulder length one, which was fun but clearly synthetic, and then a long blond and a long brunette one that were attached to headbands – they were quite sweet.
I wore wigs out and about and to work but not at home. I never found the wigs comfortable for more than a couple of hours and soon opted for custom-made head scarves. I definitely compensated for my lack of hair with other feminizing accessories, I wore big earrings and necklaces and learnt to apply makeup thanks to the Look Good, Feel Better charity.
What I found compounded my ‘sick’ appearance was losing my eyebrows and eyelashes. I never realized before that how much they frame your face and how odd you look without them. Unfortunately with steroids I also piled on a load of weight so after a few months I just did not recognize the person in the mirror. It was not a nice time.
However there was a plus side to this experience. I had always been rather inconspicuous, deliberately, in the way I look. I never had the confidence to put myself ‘out there’. Suddenly, with this cancer badge I had no choice, I had to develop a look that blended with the headscarves and subsequently very short hair. I was now conspicuous and had to embrace a different portrayal of me. This meant actually appearing confident and a little eccentric.
When my hair grew back enough to get away with looking like I may have actually chosen to be that short I soon realized that I looked like the sort of person who had the confidence to have really, really short hair! And actually I totally was not. This strange twist of fate ensured that I was perceived and acted in a different way. I would never ever have had short hair out of choice but luckily the pixie look actually suited me, and I was very grateful for having a symmetrical head and non sticky out ears.
This confidence stayed with me and eventually I lost the chemo weight and kept my hair short. Generally I was a different person, I had to be – and at the end of the day, who really gives a shit about what I look like apart from me? Having looked and felt like death warmed up it was all a bonus.
After a couple of years I decided to grow my hair again. It was fun – I eventually had enough to put in pig-tails and then wear up in a clip. Then in January 2010 I relapsed with the cancer and went through the whole damn thing again, minus the wigs. This time around I was out and about pretty much straight away with a shaved head, it still sucked but I knew it would pass. Fast forward and now I have a mop of bleached blonde curls which I clip back in different ways with fun and funky clips. I love my hair more than ever and intend to keep it this way. Partly ‘cos I may well not live long enough to grow it long again but mostly ‘cos I love it. Its easy, its cool and its me.
I still lament my cancer free days and the fact that I have had to deal with so much shite. But – BIG BUT – I am more confident, outgoing, and certain of myself than anyone I know. I live in the moment and say yes to life. I know that my situation and attitude inspires others and that is a gift. I revel in the irresponsibility of being me but also just thrive on the knowledge of how amazing our human embodiment is and how much potential for happiness, love and fun we all possess.
Sim blogs about her experiences at Love, Life and Lymphoma.
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