Jacquie's Chemotherapy Story
Being diagnosed with cancer is cruel in so many ways, but for me the worst thing about the treatment for my breast cancer was the thought that I would lose my hair. It seems vain but it’s true – for me as a TV presenter it was the very worst thing. I coped fine with my mastectomy, it was reconstructed on the spot and within a few weeks I was totally on the mend. But I have to admit chemotherapy terrified me. The thought of looking really sick, sick enough to be pitied in the street because I’d lost my hair, was something I did not want to go through.
I bought a ‘bob’ from the wig lady at my hospital but I thought there’s got to be a more sophisticated way to come through this part of my life. The on – off nature of a wig was depressing and the image of me of lying down beside my husband at night with a bald head, filled me with dread - not to mention how it might affect my children. With chemo there’s a very high probability you’ll lose your hair – but how to do it and still look and feel like me was the big question.
So it’s with a massive thank you to the Lucinda Ellery Consultancy that I sit here writing to you. This was the solution I had been looking for – but in the world of breast cancer is not really known about. What I wanted was a permanent head of hair to see me through to the day when my own hair had grown back to what it was – and in my mind that’s a time frame of about a year or more.
I saw Chris after my first session of Chemo and it was exciting to hear him talk about what they could do to replicate my hair: its highlights, low lights and its roots. That’s the thing you notice very quickly about wigs – they don’t have roots!
Of course it was going to be a bit of trial and error because the intralace system invented by Lucinda Ellery relies on connections using your own hair – and with chemo these connections could be here today gone next week – you just don’t know. But Chris assured me if I lost all my hair it wasn’t the end of the world the hair could be taped on, but I only had to keep 10 percent of my hair to use the connections.
What we both weren’t sure about was how effective the cold cap would be over the new hair and the mesh. The cold cap is offered to chemo patients to protect their hair follicles – it doesn’t always work and it’s freezing cold but if you can stand it, it does give you a chance of keeping some hair. I was determined to carry on using the cap no matter how uncomfortable it was.
After chemo number 2 I had already developed quite a few thin patches especially near the front and was relying on my sunglasses as a headband to cover up the baldness! My day at LE couldn’t come soon enough.
As it turned out London was choc-a-bloc the week I really needed hair, so I took an appointment in Edinburgh. It was fantastic! Robyn and the girls worked like demons for 7 or so hours making the connections, putting on the mesh, stitching on the beautiful, thick REAL hair all in good time for me to get my plane back to London. When I arrived it was with short sorry thinning hair, when I left I felt a million dollars with a thick head of long blonde hair that swished around my shoulders. It feels tight on your head at first but this feeling soon passes and you don’t actually notice too much that you have something extra on your scalp.
I was back at the London salon within a week to have a wash and blow dry and a few layers put in and that was the finishing touch. I walked in with a picture of a long Meg Ryan tousled style and that’s exactly what I walked out with. More glamourous hair than I’ve had in years. It was gorgeous and I can’t begin to explain the lift it gave me and instead of feeling defeated by this cancer treatment I felt empowered.
It takes a little time to get used to the washing and blow drying and you have to be a little more particular than you are with your own hair but if you stick to the advice of the team you’ll be fine. People can’t believe how good it looks and the staff at the hospital are amazed.
The great news is that the cold cap seems to still be working over the new hair and still penetrating the roots of my own hair. As a result the connections are still in place.
I feel more normal than I ever could have imagined at this stage of my treatment. I can curl, straighten or flick my hair – it feels great and when I go back to work presenting Sky News’ Wimbledon coverage it will be with confidence and my head held high.