Hair today, Gone Tomorrow


Hair today, Gone Tomorrow

Dec. 17, 2018 | by JC Chessell


I really didn’t expect to be so upset by my hair loss. I’d had short hair for as long as I could remember, thought it would be no big deal. My hair had been every colour under the rainbow, even, I think, my own. I had grown it out the year before my diagnosis, and kept it a pretty “grown up” blonde. I figured it was time to grow up a little, and my hair was a good place to start. Upon receiving my diagnosis, and meeting with my Oncologist to discuss my treatment plan I understood I was receiving the “get fat and bald” chemo. My words, absolutely not a medical term people! There are “get skinny and keep your hair” chemo options, but they weren’t going to work for me. So I knew it was coming, but the question was when.


About a week after my first chemo treatment, it started falling out. Not strand by strand, but huge clumps of it at a time. I was shocked and very upset, and decided I couldn’t go bald still looking like “me.” I went to my longtime hairstylist and had it cut short. I swear, everyone else in the salon was crying more than me! I couldn’t look in the mirror. I couldn’t talk about it, or bear to have anyone comment on it. It was the first visible effect of my cancer. I was now officially “in treatment.” Coming to work was tough, not everyone knew about my cancer yet so it was uncomfortable. I don’t see the same people every day, so it was an ongoing event every time I told someone. By the end of the first month I had it down to a science. I could tell people, make them laugh and get back to normal all before they knew what’d hit them.


I was bald as a Q-tip by my second chemo treatment. I had hoped that my head scarves would arrive before the day, but of course they arrived as I was at the hospital. I wasn’t comfortable being bald yet, so I wore my winter toque at the hospital. Bald is a funny feeling, and one I didn’t enjoy. My head and ears got very cold, it was February after all. I didn’t like the sensation of wind across my head, and I couldn’t sleep. I had been told that satin pillow cases would be gentle on my head and hair as it fell out, but I couldn’t sleep slip-sliding around on the things. I ended up wearing that old toque a lot, even while alone.


Finding head scarves that a 30-something could get away with were a whole other matter. No terry cloth turbans, funny hats with “hair” and no droopy Rasta hats for me. I had a wig, but it was so itchy and hot. I wore it to work (and to anything I cared what I looked like for), but otherwise wore a grey cotton headscarf. I felt it gave me a “bad ass” look. It eventually became my uniform. Jeans, t-shirt, fun shoes and my grey head scarf; that was me.


My cancer was no longer a secret. I had people looking at me on the subway, even some bold enough to approach me and ask outright if I was sick. It took me a long time before I could hold my head up and look those strangers in the eye and stare them down. I had to force myself to go out, do regular things. I wanted to hide, avoid the looks and questions. I couldn’t though. I couldn’t let myself get in a hole I didn’t know I could make my way out of. So I adopted my favourite saying: “Fake it ‘til you make it.” It became my mantra… feel free to use it as you will.

JC Chessell

My Affected Side

Diagnosed with breast cancer at 33, my world changed in an instant. My Affected Side is a ride-along of my journey through treatment and beyond. You’ll hear from family, friends and colleagues, because cancer treatment isn’t a one-man-show. Hard times, treatments that made me wonder if it was all worth it and life-altering decisions that I was not equipped to make. My diagnosis signaled the first day of the rest of my life. A life I fought for, a future I now cherish. Welcome to my journey.