I met a man in the hairdressers today whose wife has been diagnosed with breast cancer. I overheard him saying this as I sat with dripping wet hair waiting for my blow dry. As we sat back to back, he with short hair, me with long hair, I thought about the third person who was not present and who was about to lose all her hair, his wife.
Losing your hair is traumatic. My friend Judy, who I blogged about yesterday, is going to lose hers too, and she was asking me what I used when I lost mine. The first time I bought a wig that was a very poor impersonation of my own hair style and made me feel like I had a rug ontop of my head, and the second time I didn’t both with wigs and went bald. I just couldn’t be bothered to cover up a) my baldness and b) the fact that yes, I was fighting for my life. Somehow a little baldness didn’t seem like a high price to pay. It was also my way of putting two fingers up to cancer: see, you are not going to make me feel any less of a woman just because I don’t have hair.
Here are some of the things you can do without hair:
You are liberated from washing and cutting your hair
You save loads of money on shampoo, conditioner, hair styling products and hair colour
You can wear outrageously large earings and look fabulous.
You don’t wake up with any hair on your pillow
You don’t worry, ‘does my hair look good in this’
You can wear all sorts of headgear
You can wear a silk cap that doesn’t scratch your head
You are free to do things you wouldn’t normally do. For example I went on BBC1 Breakfast television to support a charity.
If someone had told me all this before I lost my hair I probably would have said, ‘that’s fine, but I’d just as soon not be without my hair, and why doesn’t a hairdresser come up with a way to make me a wig using my own hair’. Well now a hairdresser has done just that. His name is Trevor Sorbie.
If you live outside London, Sally Montagu is the hairdresser to visit because she is collaborating with Trevor Sorbie to offer a similar service in her very excellent salons. This is where I met Rob whose wife has got breast cancer. Rob, if you are reading this blog post, I wish your wife all the best for her radiotherapy.
I wrote a story yesterday about my friend Judy who has been diagnosed with a recurrence of her breast cancer, and how sad I am about this. In writing this, something profound happened. Not only did it tip me into my own grief about the recurrence I had four and a half years ago, but judging by some of the comments I received on Hub Pages, people appreciated my honesty, it touched a nerve. There are plenty of resources on this hub if you or someone you know is going through this.
I want to thank and acknowledge my friend Birte Edwards who encouraged me to write this story and blog about it, and has asked me when she can see my paintings live as the flat screen doesn’t do them justice! Well Birte I’m going to work on that.
I was sharing this with her during our weekly Mastermind group. We are both members of a very special online community called WEST, which stands for World Entrepreneurial Success Training. Nothing is off limits in this group and one of the many benefits I get from being part of this community is the chance to brainstorm and get my questions answered by experts who have become friends.
Thanks to everyone for your encouragement and comments.
I want to be clear at the outset: I’m not angry with Jade Goody.
I think we’ve all heard the news that Jade Goody has been given only weeks to live, after her cervical cancer was diagnosed as terminal. It’s very sad. It’s hard to avoid knowing this as it’s been made news by all the mainstream newspapers, who this week published her story on their front page.
Why is this story front page news?
Cervical cancer has been struggling, like ovarian cancer, to be given the profile that breast cancer has. And the reason it hasn’t until now is because the number of women diagnosed each year is not in the tens of thousands like breast cancer. Therefore it does not attract the same level of government funding, charity funding and fundraising, magazine coverage and corporate sponsorship.
What makes me angry is how the British Government has suddenly decided to pour more money into cervical cancer screening. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Why does it take a celebrity to raise the profile of this disease and ‘force’ the Government to act? Are celebrities becoming more influential than patient voices? Answer yes, especially when that patient is a celebrity.
You may be saying, ‘well what’s wrong with that? At least some action is being taken’. But what about the other cancers that don’t have celebrity names attached to them, like ovarian cancer. 7,000 women are diagnosed per year, with a pitiful 5 year survival rate, yet because no big name is prepared to speak out about her experience, ovarian cancer does not attract the funding other more high profile cancers do.
The profile of cervical cancer just got a shot in the arm because Jade Goody has sold her story and wedding to the papers, and she’s done that because she’s hired an expensive PR agent.
What about the women who don’t have PR agents? What’s the vehicle for their story?
In 2002 I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. When I asked why ovarian cancer didn’t get the press attention that breast cancer did, I was told ‘unfortunately not enough women are diagnosed each year (7000), compared with breast cancer (more than 7000).
Oh OK then, so until more women die from ovarian cancer, the media, the research funding bodies, and the medical councils will sideline these women as if they don’t count.
But guess what. They do. We do. You do. I do. We all count, and only when we individually and collectively rise up and stamp our tiny feminine feet and say that, will anything change.
Until then, I invite all women who have a story to tell about a healthcare experience where they have not felt heard, to send me a comment. Together let’s use our voices to educate the medical profession and the media about the language they use.
As Gloria Steinem said:
“Finding language that will allow people to act together while cherishing each other’s individuality is probably the most feminist and truly revolutionary function of writers. Just as there can be no deep social change without art and music (as Emma Goldman said, ‘If I can’t dance, it’s not my revolution”), there can be none without words that create the dream of change in our heads.” from Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions by Gloria Steinem.
If you are outraged and want to contribute to this revolution, sign up for my free newsletter at the top of this page, and receive details of the online community events about to start, where you can have your say and be counted.
Every woman counts.
This was originally intended to be my painting blog, but now it's also about writing, what we ache for, and everything else important.
"Your paintings are like auragraphs. You pick up the information from the person and express it through art. However, they are on an altogether deeper level - not dealing with the outer projection of ourselves, not even with the spirit, but on a soul level. They are soul reflections".
Mary Clair Kelly, Cruse Counsellor