beauty

"Losing my hair at 31 was hard, but these things made it so much easier."

The World's Greatest Shave
Thanks to our brand partner, The World's Greatest Shave


The first question I asked the doctor when she told me I had cancer was, “Will my hair fall out?”

“Yes,” she said kindly. “But it will grow back.”

The thought of being bald and losing my hair was the thing that upset me the most about the news I had just been given. Crazy really, when your life is at stake, but for many women it’s one of the most emotional parts of going through chemo.

We are very attached to our hair – it’s a large part of our look and our identity. It was for me.

That first night as I sat with the enormity of what lay in front of me – treatment for Hodgkins lymphoma – it was the thought of losing my hair that kept bringing up the tears. There is no denying that for me losing my hair was one of the hardest parts of the whole experience of cancer but these are the things that made it easier:

Reframing the hair loss.

My sister suggested to me that as my hair fell out perhaps I could try to think about how that meant the life-saving chemotherapy was working. That each strand that fell out meant I was getting closer to good health. I found it helpful, almost like a little mantra, when the hair started falling out I would say to myself: “The treatment is working.”

Going shopping for headscarves and wigs.

Before my hair started falling out we stocked up on cute headscarves, headbands and wigs. I was so apprehensive about getting a wig but I found one that matched my original hair and colour which I loved, and my mum and sisters bought me heaps of cute headscarves. Having these options ready to go before we shaved my hair was a huge relief. Not all superheroes wear capes – some of them wear headscarves!

ADVERTISEMENT

Being a part of the bigger picture.

The day I shaved my hair off was certainly emotional but knowing that there were others out there supporting me and taking part in things like the World’s Greatest Shave really helped.

The Leukaemia Foundation’s annual shave-fest invites people to raise awareness and funds to beat blood cancer (also including lymphoma), by getting sponsored by friends and family to shave their heads.

Watching others do it is a great reminder that your hair will grow back and all these other gorgeous humans are in it with you.

Take my advice – there are advantages to having a shaved head. I’ve saved a mountain of time washing and drying my hair this year! I used to be the slowest in my family to get ready and now I’m ready in a flash and no more getting your long hair caught in food or blowing in your face. In many ways it’s been really liberating.

Allowing yourself to be sad.

It was helpful for me to know that it was OK to feel sad. I spoke to a psychologist at the hospital as my hair was starting to fall out and she reminded me that feeling sad was perfectly normal and valid. That it wasn’t ‘silly’ or ‘vain’ and that I didn’t have to look on the bright side and find a positive about my hair falling out. It was OK just to sit with it and feel sad and mourn the loss of my hair. Learning not to try and be ‘positive’ about it and just let the sadness out made it easier in some ways.

Following inspiring accounts and making a vision board.

I’m going to be honest, I’ve spent a lot of time on Instagram this year and I regret nothing. I made sure I was following inspiring accounts like the World’s Greatest Shave Instagram and unsubscribed from anything that didn’t make me feel good. I’d save quotes and images I loved and then and then I printed them all on a giant board to remind myself what richness I have in my life and the things I have to look forward to. I had it beside my bed where I could see it every morning. I also took a screenshot of all the lovely messages of support I had received and put them in a folder in my phone so I could reflect on them throughout treatment.

Journalling.

The other thing I found incredibly helpful and healing during chemotherapy was a type of journalling each day called “the morning pages”. The idea is first thing in the morning before the day has begun, you write out three pages straight off the top of your head. There is no right or wrong way to do it – you are just trying to clear the cloud of thoughts in your head and get them down onto paper. It is quite meditative and allows you to organise your thoughts and give you some clarity around how you are feeling. Doing this each morning when I woke up gave me a focus and a small goal to achieve and it really helped me to process what was going on.

A post shared by Briony B (@briony_benjamin) on

ADVERTISEMENT

Meditation.

I’ve always found meditation really hard but I love the headspace app, because it’s great for beginners. I was interested to discover that its founder Andy Puddicombe has been through testicular cancer and as a result has created a series of meditations on coping with cancer. I tried to do these daily and they really helped me.

There is no denying that losing your hair at any age is really hard but these were the things that helped me get through it. If you have friends or family members wanting to help, one thing they could do is sign up for the World’s Greatest Shave in 2019. Not only does it provide emotional support to individuals and families facing blood cancer, but it also raises the much needed funds to beat blood cancers like lymphoma, leukaemia and myeloma.

Take it one day at a time and remember you are stronger than you know. You’ve got this.

What would you add to Briony’s list of wisdom?

The World’s Greatest Shave takes place from March 13-17 in 2019. To sign up and start raising funds go to worldsgreatestshave.com

This content was brought to you with thanks by our brand partner, Leukaemia Foundation’s – Worlds Greatest Shave.

For more inspiring stories, click here.

The World's Greatest Shave

You can help shave the world from blood cancer this March 13-17 - sign up today at worldsgreatestshave.com!

00:00 / ???