Monday, 18 August 2014

34. The wig appointment

Another hospital envelope in the post. What is it this time? New appointment with the doctor? Scan? Test results? They all look the same, these letters.

But no: it's an appointment with the Wigs Clinic.

The Wigs Clinic! Yes, apparently there is such a place, hidden somewhere in the hospital building. Along from the Warts Clinic perhaps, or the Prosthetic Leg Clinic.

That impression is confirmed not only by the look of the letter, but also by its tone. If you are unable to attend.... can then be offered to another patient... It's signed "Prosthetic Department."

(See? I was right. Just next-door to the prosthetic legs.)

It keeps me firmly in my place, this letter. I am, lest I forget it, a Cancer Patient. Honestly, couldn't they offer my cancelled appointment to another woman? Or (assuming they do men's wigs too) another person? Or even just simply someone else? In fact, couldn't they have called themselves the Wigs Salon?

I Do Not Want A Wig... and I cannot imagine myself ever wearing it, so I'm not sure why all this matters, but somehow it does.

What also mattered was the date of the appointment, the 10th of September, several weeks into projected baldness. I Do Not Need A Wig... and yet, being given this appointment a good five weeks into my chemotherapy treatment is unexpectedly upsetting. It conveys that having no hair for a while doesn't matter, and by implication, patient H4418813 doesn't matter either.

(I've made that number up, by the way. Patient confidentiality and all that.)

All this is not helped by the fact that I have only reluctantly succumbed to getting a wig in the first place.

I Do Not Want A Wig, I told Breast Care Nurse number 1 several months ago. 

"Oooh, but you should! NHS wigs are really good these days!" she enthused. "You should have it done well before your hair falls out, so they can match it to your own hair. I'll make you an appointment."

I Do Not Want A Wig, I told Breast Care Nurse number 2 last month, who was somewhat more perceptive.

"Hm," she said. "You may think now that you don't want one, but you'll be surprised how upsetting it can be when your hair actually falls out. You may be so shocked by it that you just want to cover it up, even if it's only for a day. Why not have one handy, just in case? I'll make you an appointment."

OK then, I thought, why not? If anything, it'll be a nice addition to the dressing-up box. Someone might want to pretend to be a Grey Old Lady one day, and benefit from my perfectly matched fake hair-do. Also, this might be one of the very few hospital trips that could be a jolly outing for the girls.

(How about the boys? I hear you ask. Alas, my son isn't interested, and my husband has been disqualified on account  of the fact that the pixie cut was one of the few haircuts he's ever noticed. I'm not complaining. It means that my lack of hair won't bother them in the slightest.)

So the 10th of September was no good. Not only because baldness will have struck before then, but also because I cannot imagine trying on wigs without my daughters' help, and they will be back at school by then.

I rang the Wig Lady.

"Sorry," she said, "that's the earliest I can do. I only do this clinic on Wednesdays. I'm fully booked next Wednesday, and then I'll be on holiday for two weeks."

So, for the first time ever, I played the Cancer Card.

"Oh dear oh dear," I said. "I will go bald in the next week or two. I am really worried about having no hair and no wig. What am I going to do?"

It worked. (The Cancer Card always does.) She relented. So now I'm going to be fitted for a wig the day after tomorrow.

(That's another bit of vocabulary they use. This is a Wig Fitting. As if I'm being fitted for a bra, or braces. This is clearly a serious business.)

To my profound surprise (because all this happened on one if my first good days after chemo, when I started to feel strong and positive) I had a Sudden Collapse after that phone call. Where has she gone, that calm and composed woman of yesteryear, who was not easily knocked sideways by life's minor upsets?

Perhaps this wasn't minor. Perhaps part of me wasn't playing the Cancer Card at all, but in genuine need of a wig-shaped safety net.

Or perhaps it was yet another reminder of the significance of hair loss.

However at ease I am in my skin, however comfortable with my lack of glamour (and I genuinely am), needing a wig/scarf/hat is not the same as needing glasses or braces or a cast on your broken leg.

In most cultures and many religions, hair is hugely significant. People shave their heads, or other people's heads, for all sorts of reasons - but it is never done lightly.

For buddhist monks and nuns, it is a solemn vow. The ritual of shaving is as important as that of exchanging wedding rings.

For women who had relationships with German soldiers, it was a horrendous punishment. The shaving of their heads was an act of shaming.

For today's men and women, it can be an act of charity. Shaving your head can raise hundreds of pounds.

So, regardless of my positive attitude and my guess that I may very well end up wearing nothing on my head at all, I am bracing myself.

To be on the safe side, I have also asked a friend to come along. She is not only the most stylish of my friends, but also one of the most perceptive and sensitive. Her wig fitting credentials are demonstrated by the fact that she has accompanied friends to the Wigs Clinic before. 

"You might need to warn your girls that it is not remotely glamorous," she said. "It would be so nice if it was."

It would indeed. But at least my expectations are low. That way, it's a win-win situation: I'll either end up with a lovely wig that I'll actually wear, or with some entertaining pictures for my blog. I rather suspect the blog will be top-heavy on the (No) Hair Theme in the coming weeks.

You have been warned.

Copyrighted image taken from Getting On With Cancer

1 comment:

  1. So glad you have the right friend to go with you. She's exactly who I'll choose if I need a wig one day!