Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Not Ready to Hang Up my Headscarf

At the weekend I bared my head in public for the first time since last September.

Appropriately, it was for a thank you party in our house for all the people who helped out during my treatment, so it was an easy audience for my new hair.  I got lots of compliments and I've got to admit, all things considered, I am quite happy with the way my hair is coming through.  It's different from the long, sun streaked fair hair I used to have but - having been worried that I would be at least temporarily, totally grey - I'm quietly pleased with my new dark-haired (if shot through with grey) pixie-look.

There's a big difference, however, between sharing my new look with people who are in the know and have seen my metamorphosis all the way through, and people who might think that this close cropped look is the way I actually choose to style my hair.  I mean, it's okay, but the truth is that  I look somewhere between a wannabe arty type and a council estate vandal. 

So I'm not sure I'm ready to face world bareheaded just yet.

And if I'm really honest, there's a deeper fear lurking beneath my headscarf too.  Last summer, losing my hair felt so scary, like I was being forced into a Public Declaration of Sickness ('Look at me in my headscarf - I've got CANCER and might DIE!').  Of course, my super-cool wig saved the day and let me go anonymous when I chose to but increasingly I found that I was more comfortable going out in a headscarf.  I didn't mind that people could see what I was going through any more, in fact it made life easier ('Look at me in my headscarf - I'm Sick so you'd better be nice to me!').  And there's something socially liberating about going through chemo: all you have to do is turn up to things and smile and everyone thinks you are some kind of heroine. ('Look at me in my headscarf - aren't I Brave?').

Am I ready to go back to being just a mum with a dodgy hairstyle??

My friend's mum has glaucoma and is now almost blind and has been issued with a white stick.  The stick is not, however, really to help her find her way around.  Instead it is a signal to others that they need to be patient when she can't read the menu, or struggles to enter her PIN number.  People are much more tolerant with an almost-blind person than they are with a regular old lady.

And I confess, my headscarf has become my white stick.  It reminds people, friends and family as well as strangers, that I still get tired sometimes even though treatment is finished.  It is my signal to the world that my head is still very much in Cancer Patient Mode even if my hair is beginning to suggest that I should be Normal again by now.  I don't feel Normal.  I don't feel ready to be treated as if I am Normal just yet. 

So this morning I cleared up after the party and slipped my headscarf back on to go and do the shopping.

Look at me in my headscarf.

And be patient for a little while longer.

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