Trying within the mirror and probably not recognising the particular person staring again at you is a really odd feeling.

For me, shedding all my hair lower than two weeks after beginning robust chemotherapy — aptly nicknamed ‘the crimson satan’ — for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma was my wake-up name. The second actuality hit. And it hit onerous. Not solely did I’ve most cancers; I now seemed like a most cancers sufferer.

I’d been courageous up till that time; capable of trick myself into believing I’d acquired this. I used to be robust. I had a loving, supportive household and buddies. The medical doctors knew what they had been doing. I trusted the science. I’d managed to distance myself mentally from the medical experiences I’d had to this point, as if they and I existed in parallel universes.

If you find yourself advised you might have most cancers you principally don’t have any different choice than to take a crash course in stoicism. You need to take a deep breath and discover inside power you didn’t know you possessed. I discovered it helped to consider what was taking place solely in tiny increments. To not tackle The Massive Image — too scary — however as a substitute, to give attention to simply getting via every day.

Sarah Standing (pictured) reflects on suffering hair loss after having strong chemotherapy to fight non-Hodgkin¿s lymphoma

Sarah Standing (pictured) displays on struggling hair loss after having robust chemotherapy to combat non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

No driver desires a automobile that doesn’t work. You need it mounted with alacrity and to be again out on the highway. You need educated mechanics to get beneath the bonnet, substitute components and mend it. The medical doctors had discovered my physique’s fault, now it wanted to be taken aside and put again collectively once more. It might be off the highway for six months or so, however then I’d reclaim it and hopefully drive away.

It was inevitable that I might lose my hair. As quickly as I used to be advised I wanted chemo it was virtually the primary query I requested my oncologist.

‘Am I going to closely resent you for the actual fact I’ve simply spent a small fortune having my highlights executed?’ I joked. ‘I’m afraid so,’ he answered, explaining I used to be more likely to lose it between my first and second classes.

I used to be a type of lucky infants born with a full head of hair. By the point I may stroll, my mom, actress and writer Nanette Newman, was styling me with a powerful topknot. Childhood pictures all depict a round-faced little woman sporting fats bunches and shiny ponytails.

Everybody in my household has been blessed with the hirsute gene. My mom, at 87, nonetheless has nice hair, as do all three of my youngsters.

As an grownup, I clearly ditched the topknots and bunches, however by no means, ever the hair. I’ve by no means lower it above my shoulders, by no means been tempted to dye it blonde, nor succumbed to any vogue dictums advising ladies over a sure age to discard their flowing locks and undertake a extra mature look.

I cherished my hair. It by no means let me down. And if it did ever threaten to misbehave, I’d twist it, scrunch it right into a bulldog clip, all 18 in of it, and put on it up.

For 61 years we had been collectively with out ever falling out, each actually and figuratively. I by no means had the luxurious of an ideal determine, or nice cheekbones, or legs that went on for ever, however my hair was fine quality.

Sarah said her childhood photographs all depict a round-faced little girl sporting fat bunches and glossy ponytails. Pictured: Sarah before treatment

Sarah mentioned her childhood pictures all depict a round-faced little woman sporting fats bunches and shiny ponytails. Pictured: Sarah earlier than remedy 

Not that I think about myself particularly useless about my appears to be like, or a type of deluded ladies who regard outdated age as non-compulsory. It occurs to us all. I imagine that whereas youth is a superb factor, all ages comes with advantages.

I’ve by no means been reckless, involved, insecure (or rich) sufficient for Botox or fillers or face peels. I simply figured floppy, thick hair lined wrinkles and offered a welcome distraction from the ravages of time.

It was two days earlier than the second lockdown was introduced that I used to be advised I had most cancers.

I used to be alone in a hospital mattress, having undergone a battery of checks, biopsies, scans and procedures. Solo. No help group allowed. No household. No guests.

The type physician who delivered me the information was sporting full PPE and apologised profusely that he couldn’t pull up a chair and maintain my hand. He supplied to make a telephone name to my husband and inform him for me, however I reassured him I may do it.

He requested if there was the rest he may do, and I bear in mind saying: ‘No, it’s high-quality, however I’m wondering if a nurse may come and disconnect me from my drip?’

I used to be on it for a type of invasive diagnostic procedures. I had an awesome want to purchase myself a couple of extra minutes of normality. I wished a bathe. I wished to face beneath piping scorching water, cry the place nobody may hear, and in some way discover the braveness to take advantage of tough telephone name of my life.

Sarah said chemo is the gift that keeps on giving, as she's experienced mouth ulcers, neuropathy, loss of appetite and steroid sleeplessness. Pictured: Sarah and her mother Nanette Newman

Sarah mentioned chemo is the present that retains on giving, as she’s skilled mouth ulcers, neuropathy, lack of urge for food and steroid sleeplessness. Pictured: Sarah and her mom Nanette Newman

I additionally wished to clean my hair.

The entrepreneur and purse designer Anya Hindmarch, an in depth pal, has not too long ago printed a ebook titled, If In Doubt, Wash Your Hair — A Guide For Life. The irony was not wasted on me. Simply as a blow-dry has transformative powers to make one feel and look higher, I hoped having squeaky clear hair would possibly carry my temper and provides me braveness.

So I washed my hair. I used to be in a variety of doubt. And a variety of denial. However at the least my hair was clear.

After which I started chemo and began to wither. Chemo is a bit like a Chernobyl going off inside one’s physique. It’s an excellent, silent murderer. Sneaky. The present that retains on giving. From ugly mouth ulcers and neuropathy (ache attributable to nerve injury) in my palms and toes, to lack of urge for food and steroid sleeplessness, each day is stuffed with surprises. Sooner or later I went to the john and found I had a full Hollywood. That was high-quality. An surprising bonus. As was the actual fact I had silky-smooth, hairless legs.

What was not so good was the morning I found that in a single day my mane had morphed into the late Amy Winehouse’s beehive. However not in a great way. It had knotted and twisted into a large furball. I panicked.

Too scared to unravel the mess myself, I known as my hairdresser Clive, who has lower my hair for 3 a long time.

Sarah (pictured, today) said she couldn't bring herself to ask anyone in her family to shave her wisps off

Sarah (pictured, right now) mentioned she could not carry herself to ask anybody in her household to shave her wisps off

He came visiting, masked and refusing fee. I opened a bottle of crimson wine which we drank whereas he painstakingly detangled my hair earlier than giving me a uneven, brief, layered bob. Shorter than ever earlier than.

He warned me he wasn’t positive it could final per week, however promised he would come again to shave it off if it continued to fall out. I posted a photograph on my Instagram saying I cherished it. Which I did.

However I woke as much as discover a number of hairs on my pillow and a rising sense of doom. I solely needed to contact it and it could come away in a clump like a hair extension that had misplaced its bearings.

Two days later, my parting had widened. It was sport over.

In hospital the next day for blood checks, I cornered a nurse and requested her to shave my depressing wisps off. I couldn’t carry myself to ask anybody in my household, and I used to be an excessive amount of of a coward to attend till all of it simply fell out of its personal accord.

There I sat with my head bowed. There was no mirror. It was probably essentially the most submissive factor I’ve ever executed. I hung my head and large fats tears plopped on to the ground as she shaved off the final vestige of delight, femininity and self-importance I felt I had left.

I didn’t search for. I pulled on a beanie hat, thanked her, and fully averted my reflection.

Sarah admits that she felt ashamed for being a relatively intelligent, forward-thinking woman who was placing so much emphasis on how she looked. Pictured: Sir John Standing and Lady Sarah Standing

Sarah admits that she felt ashamed for being a comparatively clever, forward-thinking lady who was putting a lot emphasis on how she seemed. Pictured: Sir John Standing and Woman Sarah Standing

I got here residence and stored my hat on, refusing to indicate my husband for a complete week. Pathetic.

Within the scheme of issues, how trivial and superficial was I to care a lot? The rational a part of my mind knew there have been extra essential issues to fret about, but I minded. And I felt ashamed for being a comparatively clever, forward-thinking lady who was putting a lot emphasis on how I seemed.

Ultimately I buckled up, acquired a grip, remoted and gave up Christmas and seeing anybody I cherished bar my husband. I lay in mattress shivering and skinny, feeling wasted and unsteady. Having misplaced each single hair on my physique, I swapped the beanie for a cashmere model — my bald scalp was so delicate, it damage.

I couldn’t retain warmth and slept with an electrical blanket and mattress socks. I’d get to sleep early however then be awake from 2am, and within the lonely hours of sleeplessness I found a world of empathetic strangers on Instagram.

A whole bunch of people that had been or had been presently on this unusual most cancers journey and who had been keen to carry my hand within the night time and evaluate notes.

It took six weeks for something to develop again after which it was a little bit of fuzz, not gray, however brown-black with little flecks of white.

Sarah (pictured) said she yearns to be like the Barbie doll she got for her eighth birthday and wants her old hair back to feel like the old her

Sarah (pictured) mentioned she yearns to be just like the Barbie doll she acquired for her eighth birthday and needs her outdated hair again to really feel just like the outdated her

Just a few weeks later, I had what seemed like a buzz lower, after which, nearly in a single day, I acquired curls, or quite a boring frizz, the place earlier than it had been shiny and straight.

I hate this alien, post-chemotherapy hair, and once I posted as a lot on Instagram (@sarahkstanding) final week, I linked with a military of acquainted strangers who felt precisely the identical. Multitudes of fellow most cancers victims really feel they’ve misplaced their identification as a result of it’s not truly their hair — it’s totally different. Another person’s hair.

I yearn to be just like the Barbie doll I acquired for my eighth birthday. The one which had a button in her abdomen you possibly can push to miraculously retract after which restore her hair. I need my outdated hair again to really feel just like the outdated me.

Seven months after ending chemo, I’m over this curly, zero-maintenance look that perches on prime of my head. Too springy to sling on any of the fabulous wigs I invested in when bald, it’s like The Emperor’s New Hair — folks say they find it irresistible however I worry they’re simply paying lip service.

I believe the trick is to personal one’s dissatisfaction. It could be shallow, however at the least it’s trustworthy. I lengthy to return to the hairdressers and be bored whereas I’ve highlights executed and a wash and blow-dry, however not on this hair.

And but, I understand how fortunate I’m to be bothered by it in any respect. As life expectancy will increase, one out of each two folks will get most cancers. How we deal with it’s as much as the person, the remedy prescribed and the gods. And luck.

The teachings I’ve learnt on this unwelcome journey are easy. Recognize each day. Love your loved ones and buddies fiercely. Be grateful — past grateful — for contemporary drugs and science.

I observe an inspirational most cancers survivor and writer known as Lawrence Wray on Instagram. He’s a tremendous man. He’s overwhelmed most cancers 17 occasions and is totally bald. He says all of us have two lives. The second begins once we realise we solely have one. And goddamnit, he’s proper.

What good is an efficient hair day except you’re lucky sufficient to be alive for the unhealthy ones, too?