I need to talk about hair.

Yesterday was my first meeting with an oncologist and I am PISSED OFF major. I woke at 5.30am then eventually launched myself out of bed at 6.15 to stop the churning. Churning mainly about all the stupid things you’re going to say to try and make me feel better about some shitty news from yesterday. I know. There you were just lying in bed somewhere fast asleep and I was already angry at you for all things you haven’t even said yet. So look, here’s the deal. I’m going to unleash my rage at you, then tell you what to say, and then everything will be OK. Got it?

My Oncologist broke it to me yesterday that I am going to lose my hair.

DON’T say, “It’s OK, it’ll grow back” because this is me right now.

Fleabag, Season 2, Episode 5. Filmed on my phone in the downstairs loo at day break this morning. Lights off. I needed Fleabag to console me this morning.

I know I prepped for this meeting. Yesterday’s blog was all about me being OK with the chemo, but through all that mental and emotional prep,  there was just this little itty-bitty blind spot.

Hair.

I just thought I’d cold cap my way through this one. I was going to do cancer, sure, but I was going to do quick and easy cancer. Cancer for softies. Y’know, with nice tolerable, gentle chemo where I get to keep all my hair, and click my heels through summer like a smug cancer twat endlessly celebrating my not-terminal diagnosis and maybe just having a wee bit of time off work, to you know, convalesce with style, but otherwise winning.

With hair.

I don’t do crying at these Big Cancer Meetings.  But yesterday it all fell out of me.

“I’m so sorry”, I sobbed to the consultant after she’d broken the news, “I know it’s only hair”. She put her hands over mine across the desk (is it just me, or did she mist up a bit..?) .

“No.”, she said, “I understand. You have great hair” . (And how much do we love the Oncologist right now?).

And before you’ve even had time to scream “shut the fucking fuckity-fuck-fuck FUUCK OOFF” into the abyss, I was signing consent forms for this kind of chemo and that kind of chemo and weeping again and saying, “it’s just.. I’m 42 and I’ve only just worked out how to do my hair”.

And once more Fleabag, just to drive it home.

So. I am in pre-emptive mourning for my hair. Don’t console me. Don’t try and make me feel better about it.

Any “but it WILL grow ba…” will get a “ZIP IT”.

Don’t begin any sentence with “well at least…”.

But you can do this;

“Shit Shiv, not the hair! You have amazing hair. I’m gutted for you”

“Babes, I love you and I love your hair. I’m crying too right now”.

Celebrate my hair mournfully with me. Respectfully, for about 15 seconds, hands clasped, one eye on the clock.

And then let’s all start looking at interim comedy chemo cuts. I am not letting cancer take my hair. We’ve got to get there first.

Me. But Better: Surgical Thank Yous.

As I type, it’s nearing on five weeks since surgery and people have been asking how I’m doing ‘down there’. The following notes are thank you letters to my surgical team which will explain the situation best.


Dear Nicky,

I quite literally feel like I won the surgical lottery. Hit the jackpot. I know it wasn’t quite like that. You were chosen for me. But I feel so damn lucky to have been your patient.

Even past the bruising and the swelling, I see a breast that looks just like mine. It IS mine. I have my own skin. I have my freckles. I have the same shape, and I also know that what is inside is mine, and is me.

So, I don’t feel at all like I’ve had a mastectomy in a funny old way. It just takes a little re-framing of the situation – I’ve had something really really horrible taken out of my breast, and a bit of me from somewhere else popped back in – a re-org, as it were, a tissue re-shuffle.

My boob is fabulous and SO ARE  YOU.

Thank you. You are, actually, the best.

Siobhann


An edited version of the thank you letter penned from my hospital bed to my Consultant Breast Reconstruction Surgeon.


Dear Dan,

It can’t be easy being registrar when the consultant  surgeon gets all the damn credit for the boobs. I wanted to write and say thank you for the bits you probably don’t get thanked for very often. Like the belly button bit.

I’ve always had what could be conservatively described as a prominent outy. An ‘out there’ outy. An extroverted, flamboyant outy verging on body-political ambitions for abdominal take-over.

Then with two pregnancies, dear GOD, my belly button grew to such grotesque proportions it cast its own shadow across my abdomen at high noon.

And so I resigned myself to one piece swimsuits.

Then came breast cancer-reconstruction surgery. Once I’d gone home and the swelling had settled in my abdomen, I did not, in a million years, expect to wake up one day, lift the sheets and look down to ‘New and Improved Shiv’. Not only a svelte new abdomen but what appears to be a new and improved belly button. HELLO YOU!

And perfect neat scars, healing nicely thank-you-very-much due to some mighty fine stitch work at the tail end of a long and exhausting surgery sesh on nothing more than bean stew.

For the new and improved me, I salute you Sir. Your belly buttons ROCK Dan. Thank you.

Siobhann


My draft letter to Dan, the registrar who played a key part in my surgery.

So people, really, don’t feel sorry for me. I am going to wang on and on about the unexpectedly fabulous new me thanks to awesome surgery by awesome people who work for the NHS, all in the name of ridding me of the cancer and putting me back together again. I will go so far as to say I may become intolerable. I may even resurrect that belly button ring from my late teens. Hold the phone, I might even wear a crop top this summer.

Watch out world, this is Shiv version 3.0.