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Hair loss

March 21, 2020

At first I was so stressed, panicked and upset about the whole hair loss situation. I literally thought it was going to be the worst thing in the world and one of the hardest things about going through cancer. I feared that for one, I would look ugly, however the main issue for me was the fact that by being bald you would be branded as a cancer patient. I was worried that if I ever went anywhere with no hair on my head I would be stared at, judged and people would feel sorry for me (something I really hate).

I was very lucky that after through the first round of chemo, I didn’t lose my hair. I ended up having over 2 months extra time with it than expected! I think this was because my first round of chemo was called the ‘induction phase’ and is a lighter treatment than others. My hair fell out during in my second round of much more intense chemo, however still took over 2 weeks to come out from the day I started the second treatment. Your hair falls out at a different times, depending on the follicle cycles. Sometimes it can come out within days of beginning chemo and others a few weeks. Once it does start to come out, however, it will be a matter of days before it thins to almost nothing. Due to my diagnosis I was not able to try out the cold cap, as blood cancer is all over your body because it’s in your blood. The cold cap works by reducing the amount of chemotherapy to the area, so for a leukaemia patient this wouldn’t be a very good idea.

Once my hair did start to fall out, despite all my anxieties, it turned out I really wasn’t that bothered as I thought I would be. I was still very apprehensive and nervous about the whole process, however I had just gone through a very tough couple of weeks and by that point something like losing my hair didn’t seem that important anymore.

The way I tackled the process of this drastic change, was that once I started to notice the thinning, I got it cut to a short bob. One reason for doing this was to buffer the transition from long hair to no hair. Doing it this way also allowed me to donate it to the Little Princess Trust, from whom I also got a wig later on. For me, this part where 8 inches of my hair was cut off, was the scariest part. One thing that really shocked me was the new feeling of a lot less hair. You don’t realise how much your hair weighs and it took a while to get used to my head being a lot lighter. Doing it in stages and getting one big step out of the way allowed me to accept the change easier. So, by the time it came to shaving it, it wasn’t as scary at all.

As being part of the Teenage Cancer Trust, I was eligible for a synthetic wig and a real hair wig. The synthetic one was brought to me by the hair support worker in the hospital and she brought a massive selection of wigs for me to try on. The real hair wig was from The Little Princess Trust. I sent them a selection of pictures of colours and styles that I liked and a selection of pictures of my own hair, so that they could make it just for me. You can go to one of their salons where they style it for you however I ended up not being able to this due to treatment and being neutropenic.

Although both wigs were great, I soon found out it wasn’t for me. I tried them on quite a lot at home trying them on with different outfits, however I always found myself to scared to leave the house in case people noticed I had a wig on and it wasn’t real hair. I didn’t feel natural with it on, as I myself knew it wasn’t real anyway and  knew that all my friends and family knew this too. In a way, from my perspective, it made me somehow look more bald and I decided that I just felt a lot more comfortable without it.

Despite saying this, I still wasn’t confident enough to go out in public without something on my head and to be honest with it being the middle of winter it was far too cold to go out completely bald anyway. If I didn’t I literally froze to death. I never realised how much your hair actually keeps you warm as I had never really worn a hat ever because I never felt the need to. For the first few months I used some lovely stylish ‘bandana hats’.  I bought them from a website called Annabandana and absolutely loved them! They are all really reasonably priced (at about £8 per hat) so I bought a few that I knew would go with different outfits and match things for both day and night.

When I first lost my hair I was quite nervous for not only people, but myself too, to see me without hair. I gave myself a shock every time I looked in the mirror because I was would forget what I actually looked like. However, as time went on I grew more and more used to it myself and more and more confident with my new look. A few months on, although my hair has grown a tiny bit, I now go out all the time with nothing on my head and feel completely fine. I think confidence is the main thing and once you have got used to it, because the transition is a lot to take in, you realise how much it actually doesn’t matter. I just try and pull it off as an edgy look, which is quite difficult as its absolutely not my style. I also never see people staring at me like I imagined they would which really did make me feel better about things. People actually don’t care and for me I don’t think they even notice. I had so many compliments from strangers about my bandanas who genuinely thought it was just some sort of fashion statement.

My eyebrows and eyelashes did fall out on and off a few times, quite randomly. They never completely came out however, and tended to grow back as soon as they went. Eyelashes were easy to sort out with some false ones, however I only ever did this if I was going somewhere nice and for normal day to just sucked it up. Since I have very fair coloured lashes anyway it wasn't much of a change for me and just looked like I hadn't put on any a mascara. For my eyebrows I would highly recommend some sort of brow pen (I use Soap and Glory Archery Brow Precision and would really recommend). After drawing them on with a pencil and then filling them in a bit more, having a pen really helped to make it look like you had proper brow hairs and, unless I was being really picky, once I had finished they looked like they normally would after doing them.

Obviously, I do massively miss my hair and what girl wouldn’t! Sometimes I get a bit down when I am with a group of friends who all have long, thick, gorgeous hair or when I go on nights out and everyone has their hair done perfectly. I do feel a little bit left out in these moments. However, at these times I try and put it in perspective and remember that it will come back at some point and it’s really not the end of the world or effecting my life dramatically. On another note there a few little perks. You save so much time and never have a bad hair day to worry about. Those days when you can’t be bothered to wash your hair and then regret the rest of the day because the dry shampoo didn’t really do what you wanted it to, never happen! And most of all I save myself £100 every 6 weeks from getting my hair done.  

RECIPE: Warm Green Stir-fry

February 17, 2020

This salad is great to warm you up and fill you up! I took this recipe from one of the Body Coaches’ books and modified so it was appropriate for neutropenia.


5/6 new potatoes
Handful of mangetouts
Half a bag of spinach
Drizzle of olive oil
Pinch of salt
½ teaspoon of pepper


Microwave the potatoes for 10 minutes or until soft. Boil the mangetouts for about 4/5 minutes. After dash of olive oil to the wok, add them in. Add in the spinach and then season it all with salt and pepper. Stir-fry for about 2 minutes until the spinach wilts.

RECIPE: One Pot Satay Sweet Potato Curry

February 17, 2020

I found this recipe on the internet a while ago and has since become an absolute fave of mine. It’s so creamy and delicious and so easy to make. This is one of the dishes I made when I was staying in hospital. Everything gets chucked into a casserole dish/ slow cooker and just leave it till it’s done!


2/3 large sweet potatoes

Half a bag spinach

1 can chickpeas

1 can coconut milk

2 Tablespoons Peanut Butter

1 Tablespoon of red Thai curry paste

1 Teaspoon paprika

Pinch of salt

½ teaspoon of pepper


Preheat oven to 200ºC.

Peel and chop up the sweet potatoes. Add everything to a pot and let it stew in the oven for about 45mins. At around 40 minutes add the spinach until it has wilted and stir everything. Keep checking up on the pot throughout and if it dries out a bit simply add another can of coconut milk or some water.

Feeling fit

February 17, 2020

Fitness and exercise are not the first thing you think will be main focus when going through the experience of cancer and, in reality, definitely isn’t either. It’s quite obviously difficult to achieve when you are going through the toughest time of your life.

You will be under so much physical stress, but also mental stress and one thing that helps with that is exercise. Sometimes you be too unwell to do anything however on the less bad days, doing any kind of movement you can, helps. Even if it’s not more than 5 minutes, but it knocks you out and makes you have a better more restful sleep, it’s still doing something good to your body!

I really struggled in the first 2 months, in hospital, with the feeling of my body wasting away. I could literally feel every muscle and bone weakening and shrinking. I became so stiff I was in pain after sitting in one position too long, and this lasted months. I really hated not being the same as I have always been and noticing changes physically to your body was really heart breaking.

For some time, in the first stint in hospital, I could barely walk anywhere. I don’t know if it was a reaction to all the drugs I was on or just severe anxiety from such a drastic change of circumstances, but I could barely feel my body and it felt so weightless and weak. One day I passed out on the way back from the bathroom and from that moment for about a week, I could barely get out of bed and needed escorting to the bathroom as I had absolutely no confidence that I could even carry myself.  The massive change I saw in myself was so upsetting and at this stage, with this happening within the first few weeks it was so overwhelming too. I couldn’t really see the end at that point, and I didn’t really have a clue what to do about it.

I badly missed the intense spin classes I used to go, yoga classes and running on the moors near my house. It was hard to just throw all that out of the window and accept my new reality. My boyfriend bought me a yoga mat, when I was first diagnosed, for the hospital. At the beginning, I tried to force myself to do a bit of yoga each day, however, I soon found out with the intensity of the treatment, this was near impossible. I learnt to put exercise to the back of mind and if one day I felt well enough, it was a nice treat to move around a bit.

I am writing this, 5 months on and 3 rounds of chemotherapy and immunotherapy later and can’t even believe the changes already. Even though I have so much more treatment to go, I currently would consider myself (nearly) normal. I recovered from my second round of chemotherapy relatively quickly as it had blasted nearly all the leukaemia that was in my body. After a week of being at home I was going on 1-2 hour walks, doing full yoga sessions at home and even went on a 10minute run one day! A few weeks after that, all the stiffness I was suffering from ceased and I felt there really wasn’t anything bad happening to my body anymore. I have since managed a 4k run which I was so proud of myself for doing and thoroughly enjoyed myself – despite the fact I was in agony for days as my muscles seemed to be very shocked at doing so much exercise.

As I am due a stem cell transplant at some point, I am totally aware that I will be back to square one in the coming months. I am still a bit blind about the whole stem cell transplant thing, but I do know it will be the worst thing I’ve gone through yet and recovering from a stem cell transplant it a totally different ball game to recovering from chemotherapy.
For now, though, I love doing exercise and I love feeling my body getting stronger and it gives me confidence I will be stronger to tackle the transplant. However, I still accept the fact I can’t push myself and I still have to take things slow as I am not what I used to be and just simply enjoy the fact I am moving again.  I know I could definitely do more with my fitness, however, as a cancer patient you still have to keep a balance and prioritise. When you start to include hospital visits, treatment and social events, it starts to take all your time and energy up. And having a good time socialising with friends or family or having nice days out is just as, if not more important than keeping fit, at this stage.

Exercise Tips

When in hospital, undergoing chemotherapy

Sometimes just simply sitting on your mat/ in bed doing gentle stretches and movements is beneficial. I usually stayed on the ground just doing seated or lying down exercises and only a handful of times did I feel strong enough to stand up for poses. Here are some examples:

·      Roll around wrists, ankles, neck.
·      Lie on your back pull your knees to chest and stretch legs.
·      Lie and back and do some gentle twists.

When you have just arrived home from weeks in hospital

·      Start by walking, see if you can do 20minutes then either continue this a few times a week or build up to 30.
·      Start doing gentle yoga at home. I use YouTube for a guided yoga session and a particular favourite channel of mine is Yoga with Adrienne. She has such a wide range of sessions for all abilities and had such a nice way of delivering the practice. Although I haven’t myself used them yet as I am a bit set in my ways of what I already do, I know Trekstock have some really good yoga video classes that are highly recommended, specified for people with or recovering from or going through cancer.

When you have had a while off treatment or are feeling stronger in yourself

·      Going for longer walks with more hills, helps build up movement, stamina and general fitness.
·      Starting to run, if this is something you enjoy. I started going round the block for 10minutes with breaks in between. I didn’t like going far at this point just in case something happened and I wasn’t ready but I was completely fine, but something you might consider.
·      Build up the running but stay somewhere flat as hills really knock you out. I found I felt better from just running for as long as I could rather than pushing myself with difficult routes. Also take a running partner!
·      If you aren’t neutropenic a yoga class is great idea! Unlike other gym classes, yoga is great as the teachers encourage you to take it at your own pace and there is no pressure to compare yourself to others or to keep going. It is totally up to you how you manage your session. I managed to get to a Trekstock meet up where I met other people that have or have had cancer and we started off with an amazing reggae yoga class, lead by Cariad Yoga, then coffee and a cake afterwards!