Why I Shaved My Head Before Chemo
WORDS: Corrine Barraclough PHOTOGRAPHY Corrine Barraclough
CB’s BC JOURNAL
As a child, I frequently played Mary in the school Christmas nativity. This was nothing to do with my acting ability and everything to do with my long dark hair that was, apparently, all that was required for the role.
As I headed towards 10, I hid behind my long dark curtains that had become my security blanket while I anxiously picked at my fingernails until they bled.
As a teenager in the 80s, I tried a perm (which had fallen out by the time I got home), used at least 12 cans of hairspray each week, and backcombed the sh*t out of sides to give me wings before Red Bull was even invented.
At my first wedding, I wore my hair down and played the part of a fairy-tale princess with pearls in my flowing locks.
At my second, I wore my hair down with a deep, sweeping side fringe.
Through my twenties and thirties my long dark mane accompanied me to many nightclubs, parties and swanky VIP events that I attended for my work as an entertainment journalist. It mingled with celebrities, bedded several, shook its stuff on podiums, and shielded me from unexpected bedfellows after many big nights.
My long hair was always there, framing the stage of my life.
And so, when I sat in front of several doctors, specialists, surgeons, nurses and fellow patients who all told me I was going to lose my hair through my breast cancer treatment, I knew immediately what I had to do.
I had to let it go.
I had to, quite literally, get into the right headspace for months of chemotherapy. And frankly, I did not want to put myself through the trauma of clumps of beloved, waist long dark hair falling out in the shower, onto my pillow or into my hairbrush.
If I’m honest (which is a habit of mine), I felt pretty shallow that my hair was one of my first concerns. Later, my research confirmed how common that is for women after receiving a cancer diagnosis.
I have a long, difficult battle ahead of me in fighting breast cancer and I must, absolutely must, pour every available little bit of energy into fighting these cancer cells and doing what my incredible medical team at Robina Hospital and Gold Coast University Hospital tell me to do.
I made myself a promise that I would deal with my hair to get it off my list of worries; I swiftly booked myself in to see the beautiful Dette at Toni & Guy in Broadbeach who’s looked after me like a sister for nearly a decade.
The irony of that is, every time I’ve gone in for an appointment we’ve laughed when the girls have asked, “So, is today the day we cut it short?” and I’ve replied, as per script, “Nope, take off half an inch, I don’t want anyone to even notice I’ve had it cut”.
I breathed deep in the chair when the scissors cut my long hair into a short bob but a wave of peace came over me before the clippers came out.
Dette wanted me to see what I’d look like with shorter hair before shaving.
As we began to shave the sides, I had visions of leaving a long Mohawk that I could colour brightly but as we began to craft that, I felt like a man with a comb over and decided to just go for it.
I looked at myself in the mirror with a shaved head and saw my brother so decided I definitely needed to colour it, pronto! So, we bleached it…
and turned it pink.
A couple of weeks later I went silver.
Then came the Mohawk as my hair began to come out in handfuls. One last hurrah before it’s all gone.
It makes me smile that I’ve had more fun with it in the last few weeks than ever before. I’ve had more compliments on my hair than in the previous 47 years. And, in letting go, I found a feeling of freedom and strength that warms my little heart!
More next week,
“After reading her Facebook status update informing her outer circle of friends that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer my heart sank. And probably for all of the wrong reasons, her hair. I instantly knew she was going to be devastated. I have (frequently) suggested over the years I think she should change things up a bit have a new style. Corinne’s hair is fine so I was sure a shorter style would suit her and her hair type and mean she could have multiple ways to style it. Cutting it wasn’t an option – that’s okay. It isn’t my job to dictate how people should wear their hair merely have the suggestions for our guests to peruse and mull over and if they so wish to try one of these options out we can help and guide them accordingly…”
Read more in the new edition of ORM.
Corrine was diagnosed with Stage 2B breast cancer (Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, IDC), HER2+ which has spread to her lymph nodes. Her medical oncologists are pursuing a “cure”, which will begin with a six-month course of chemotherapy at Gold Coast University Hospital, followed by surgery at Robina Hospital and then further treatment. Corrine will be writing a weekly blog journaling her personal journey for Ocean Road Magazine throughout her breast cancer battle.