As much as I loathed the wig at the outset, after seven months of wearing it (on average 15 hours a day), I was reticent to be without it. I was lucky to benefit from the advice of a hairdresser who specialises in working with clients who are undergoing/have undergone chemo. Her advice was invaluable around how to care for my hair to strengthen it and promote regrowth. I went to meet her for a chat and was slightly taken aback when she suggested it needed a cut – it seemed wrong to be having my hair cut at a time when it was so short, but as the hairdresser advised it looked so much better for it. It gave me so much more confidence, such that I braved the walk back to the car without the wig.
Even then I didn’t feel ready to ditch the wig completely; a large part of my reluctance was down to what the boys would think and how their friends would react. I talked about it frequently with the boys; they kept telling me they wanted it to be a bit longer before I stopped wearing the wig. I knew that once I stopped wearing the wig I was letting go of my old identity – the same hairstyle I’d had for the last 17 years. In time I became more relaxed about letting people see me without the wig in the gym and I kept challenging myself to go places not wearing it. The neighbours must have thought I was slightly crazy, sporting shoulder length hair for the school drop off and then reappearing from the house with a short cropped look! During this time wearing the wig became noticeably more uncomfortable and gave me headaches after short spells of wearing it, probably because of the regrowth beneath it and because I’d realised how liberating it felt not wearing it. I gave myself a deadline by when I’d stop wearing the wig and told several people so I wouldn’t be tempted to chicken out.
I eventually plucked up the courage to ditch the wig before my self-imposed deadline. For a while I was nervous about whether people would recognise me. I did have a few comments about the extreme haircut from people who weren’t aware that I’d been having chemo, but on the whole it felt liberating to be rid of the wig. Allowing myself to be photographed without my wig felt like a big deal, as did posting a photo on Facebook of my ‘new look’, but once I’d done it I felt a sense of relief. People commented on how much more relaxed I looked once I had taken off the wig. For one going wig-free was considerably more comfortable, but I also think I hid behind the wig to a degree, keeping a low profile so as to avoid confronting the whole history of the diagnosis and treatment with people who weren’t already aware.