I lost my hair completely the first time and I didn't lose it this second time. The first time it fell out in clumps quite quickly a week or two after my first lot of chemotherapy. And so I decided to shave it and wear wigs. And I went to the NHS wig people, the hospital wig people, and that was probably one of the most miserable days of the whole experience. My husband came with me and we went to the prosthetics department and waited with the people waiting for artificial limbs and all sorts. And had a horrible appointment with a woman who gave me a catalogue and said, “Well pick one of those”. And I said, “But how will I know what it looks like?” And she said, “Well you've just got to pick one and we'll order it.” And I said, “Well I just don't feel able to do that”. And we left and I just said to my husband that I can't do that. That's too miserable. I just felt horrible that it was going to be so obviously a wig and, you know, what was I… I just felt completely miserable that day.
And somebody recommended a wig suppliers in Notting Hill, called Trendco. And I said, “Well I guess I could try going there and see whether if you buy a wig privately you get more choice than just picking it out of a not very nice catalogue”. And they were absolutely brilliant and treated it like a hair appointment. It was like going to a salon for a hair appointment. And this unbelievably patient woman sat me down and talked to me about what my hair, I hadn't lost my hair by then so talked to me about my hair and what I liked about it and so on. And talked to me about what I wanted to look like with a wig. And then went off and came back with probably twenty boxes of wigs, and started trying them on, and but really carefully, was really careful of my feelings and I was absolutely determined that I wanted to look exactly like I had looked and so she needed to find me one that was exactly like my hair, and she did a very good job of trying that. And when she realised I had relaxed a little bit she said, “If you want to you can have a bit of fun with this and you actually don't have to stick to what your hair's like now. You can try other things too.”
And so from having below my shoulder-length straight blonde hair, the wig I ended up getting and wearing absolutely to death was a short, sharp, dark red bob. And it was brilliant. I loved it and felt really confident and happy with it. And the experience was so totally different from the horrible, you know, treating it like a kind of treatment. And we're all fairly vain, I think, about our appearance or, speaking for myself, I am. And it made a massive difference to be treated in such a way as it was like having a hair appointment. And she put the wig on and when I chose it she cut it to the shape of my face and everything. And it was brilliant to the point where actually one night in the pub when I was wearing it somebody was so convinced it was my own hair that he demanded proof and went squirreling around in the wig to look for the base of the wig. And was then horrified of course when he found that it was a wig. But I was delighted because it meant that it really did look like me, looked like I was kind of whole.
I actually found losing my eyelashes and my eyebrows more, once I'd sorted the wigs, I found losing my eyelashes and eyebrows more distressing, because you couldn't do anything about that and it made such a difference to the way my face looked. And I didn't like looking ill because people treat you differently when you look ill even if you feel fine, and I didn't want that, I wanted to just really be able to get on and not be treated too differently.
Was the wig terribly expensive, or the whole appointment?
The appointment was free. The wig, in the end I bought three wigs because they have a relatively short life span. So I needed wigs for a period of about eight months, and one wig lasts, if you're wearing it every day, lasts probably three months. So I had three in the end and they were about £150 each. So they were quite expensive. They were just, they weren't real hair. I mean you can buy real hair wigs for £1000 or something. These were nylon I imagine. I do recall they told me not to put my head too close to the oven when I opened it because the whole thing would melt up.
So I actually had three very different wigs and did have fun with it in the way that she had suggested I did. And I really enjoyed that, but they, yeah they were expensive. And again, I was lucky in that I was able to afford to do that. I think some care could be paid, more care could be paid to NHS provision really, certainly from my experience.