Portrait

27 Nov

I have been teaching english to a small group of 6 year olds for a couple of months. Two weeks ago, as I was gathering the materials together at the end of the class, the only boy in the group told me:

“I am making you a present”

And started to draw.

“I may not finish it today, so I’ll give it to you next week”

I smiled at him, said “ok!” and kept on tiding the desk.

He looked at me.

“I’m drawing you” and as he said that he reached for a black crayon. He then started drawing my hair. When he gave the drawing I could have cried. My post-chemo hair seen through the eyes of a child: dark, curly and long. I loved the way in which he made the hair stand out. I think that it shows again how long I have gone since my bald days. It shows again that there is life after chemo, and that it includes getting your hair back, as said in my first post ever.

A year on (from my first haircut!)

21 Oct

It was a year on from my first (and last!) haircut on the 30th of September and I took a few picture to show you all again how my hair growth after chemotherapy is going. And what a difference a year makes, don’t you think? and how about looking at my first post ever? 1 year and 9 months have passed since then.

Something funnily beautiful happened last week. I was working at the market stall in Barcelona, where I have been working for the past year selling children’s clothes. It was nearing the end of the day and was just talking to other market traders when two females approached my stall and started looking at the colourful trousers. As I approached them and said “hello”, one of the girls turned her head, looked at me and we both went “are you..? oh my god!”. So who was she? she is the person who appeared in the previous post, and whom I’d never met before in person! She was introduced to my blog by a friend of hers who is from Barcelona and we’d had contact only through facebook. But we never had the chance to meet in London before I left to relocate to Barcelona. And despite a couple of visits to my home city, we had not managed to arrange a coffee. So we finally did!  One of the things we both agreed on in relation to having had breast cancer is  how quickly it all starts feeling like a dream, like a book you’ve read and you vaguely remember the plot.  It is now around 2 years since I went bald. Time flies. And life goes back to normal.

However, despite this dream-like feeling, and in way that seems contradictory, cancer is now part of me and my biography and I get daily reminders of it. It is not just the physical scars, or the occasional check-ups but the way we live surrounded by cancer: news about break-through cancer treatments, about celebrities, people in the public eye or around us either being diagnosed with or dying from cancer, posters reminding us that there are cancer charities out there that need our support. Cancer, cancer, cancer. It is a chapter of my life that I now feel has been closed. However, all those reminders make me wonder, but not fear, if it is one that I will be forced to re-write again.

Weeks 1, 2, 5, 6 ,7, 8, 9, 10 11, 12, 13, 14 15, 16,18, 19

3 Dec

A while after I started this blog and I got some regular readers and some encouraging comments I thought is be useful to show other people¡s hair growth journeys. Mine is only ONE of many, and thus not really representative of how fast or slow hair grows after chemo. In fact I think mine took a little longer than other women’s, but then when it did there was no stopping it! I have thick hair before losing it to chemo and it has come back just as thick and strong). So for this post you are not going to see my face but that of another woman who recently suffered breast cancer and that, like many of us, became “obsessed” with her hair growth. She monitored it with self-portaits which she kindly agreed to let me share with all of you. This is the first collaboration, and hopefully not the last. If you want to appear in the blog drop me a line rosa.panades@gmail.com

I have had this great collage for a while, and there is a reason I have had the urge to post it today. As I approached my last herceptin (which was today, Friday 3d December), which marks the end of my treatment, I got the news that someone else I know through my blog got abnormal MRI results, and is now awaiting to undergo a biopsy. I, just like many of you, know who hard it is to go for tests and to wait for results. I hope with all my heart that she gets good news.  So I wanted this post to be about other women, because we are all part of the same journey.

 

 

 

Weeks 41 and 44

12 Nov

I cannot believe it has been over a month since I last posted. This is bad bad bad of me!!!! haven’t even taken photos!!!! I am truly ashamed. But in a sense this is a reflection of my life at the moment, a bit all over the place, partly nomadic…this is about to change I am soon moving to a lovely flat in the centre of Barcelona city! I am so happy about it, specially as I recently had a cancer scare, which turned out to be nothing. All my future plans could have easily and rapidly changed. But luckily that was not the case!

So…lets have a look at the photos! between week 41 and  44 I have had a haircut..it grew so fast and so much! shame there are no photos to probe it. But I am determined to post every week from now on, as I have decided to carry on with the hair growth and stop cutting my hair. Or maybe I shoudl rename the blog “hair cuts after chemo”? just kidding…

And week 44, I straightened my hair so it looks pretty short…but it isn’t really!!! I haven’t cut the top, just the sides.

Weeks 36, 37 and 38 (all rolled into one post!)

5 Oct

I am very late, pretty much a month without posting! and I guess this is a reflection of the life I am living just now, which is quite different to my life in London. And definitely the opposite of what it was like during treatment. I am, as you know, moving around a lot. I am living!!!!  and I am definitely feeling alive and healthy. I just keep on hoping that this lasts for a long time, forever even.

So first stop: Morocco!! I went to see my dad and his wife and lil’ brother. They split their time between Barcelona and morocco and now that my health allows me to, I took the chance to make my first visit. And what can I say other than “it was great”! I absolutely loved it. Lovely people. Lovely food. Lovely leather bags. So here are the photos from week 36, next to one of the many beautiful lamps that my dad has…

On week 37 I was still in Morocco and look what they did to me!!!! isn’t it pretty? they are henna tattoos, non-permament drawings usually made  on the hands and feet.

And you know what happened on week 38? I had a haircut! yes I did. I wanted to give my hair some shape, well I wanted to have a hairstyle. And, even though I was pretty shocked at first (short hair again!), it soon started to feel great! i think it is because all the hair and all those curls reminded me of my cancer, as, in actual fact I was growing my hair after chemo. Now, however, I will be growing my hair after a haircut. Does this make sense to you? here are the shots, taken by my lovely friend Paul who came to visit me in Barcelona. I am now staying at my friend’s flat while he’s away on holidays. I am so lucky, I thank my lucky stars in fact…

Weeks 34 and 35

11 Sep

I’m blogging from a train. Never publicly blogged before, I’ve always done it in the privacy of my own home. But I am trying to use my time efficiently and thought I’d use the journey back to Barcelona to write a new post. I am on my way back from hospital, have been for another dose of herceptin. Although it has no side effects, I am starting to be a little fed up with the treatment. It really dictates my flow of life, specially now that I have become a sort of nomad. every 3 weeks I have to be around for tests and treatments and hospital visits and the like. But that is the thing with cancer, or at least with mine! even though the BIG part of your treatment is over, there is always what I would call the “leftovers”, all those bits and bobs that, although essential to your well-being, are a little annoying. They are in a way a reminder that you once had cancer. They are a reminder of the fragility of life and that “professionals” are doing their best to keep you here.

However, there is one good thing about the hospital visits and that is the chance to meet people! Last time I went I met the sweetest older man,  who told me his life story (he’s had cancer for 10 years, when he was young had water in one lung then he had hepatitis…his mum had schizophrenia “but never hurt anybody”). What was peculiar is that he kept a smile all throughout, yet at times there were tears running down this cheeks. Then today my aunt (who lives in the town where I am having treatment), came along with a friend who also had BC. We go talking and soon after a lady next to us joined in as a well as one across the room. As my aunt and her friend left  (in this hospital, unlike in my london one, visitors are not really allowed to stay long) the conversation between the 3 of us left. And, unsurprisingly, there was a lot of talk about hair!!! it is such a vital aspect of the cancer journey. Both women were bald, as they were still doing chemo. They asked how long it’d been since I finished and when I said “6th of january” one of them looked shocked!!!! I think she was expecting that 9 months on, hair would be much longer. But, as I said, my hair may be growing slower than other women’s. For example, you can check out Karin Stack’s hair project as she also took photos of her hair growth after chemo on a weekly basis. So I do not want people to take this as an exact representation of how hair grows after chemo. It is my story, but it may not be yours! so don’t be disheartened if you think my hair is still very short. Yours may grow much quicker!

Also, I am thinking about having a haircut, to give it some shape. There are differing opinions, with 2 hairdressers saying it’s too short to get it cut. Maybe I’ll wait a couple of weeks. I just want some shape. And I may wanna keep it on the short side for a while. It feels comfortable and I’m getting lots of compliments :-) .

Shall we move on to the photos? here week 34… still at my friends’ flat in Barcelona. It was my last night there yesterday. Next set of photos will be taken in Morocco!! I will be going there next week, to visit my dad and his family.

I straightened my hair, but had slept on it so it looks a bit funny. I have bed hair, I guess. Something I hadn't had for quite a while.

Week 35…check out my 1 euro dress!!!! hehehe…couldn’t resis buying it. I feel like a Hawaiian housewife when I wear it. I do not plan to wear outside, so it will be my stay home outfit…

Weeks 31 and 33

30 Aug

What happened to week 32? did it disappear into a black hole? or did  I just happen not to have my camera around and forgot that I now have a 3.2 mega pixel camera on my phone?  So no photos for week 32 I’m afraid. But I have a surprise in store for you. Just watch this space!

The good thing about having skipped a week is that you can appreciate the hair growth even more. And oh my, it is growing very curly! I am starting to enjoy my hair, as its length allows me to play with it a bit. My lovely mate Lydia gave me some little travel straighteners, so watch out for a straight hair post soon. Then I can also make it curly, with hair mousse and a hairdryer. Or wavy, by applying some product and combing it to the side. Voila!

So in week 31 I was still at my grandparents. I took a photo with a headband…I don’t go out with it, while actually I did last week when I went for a run…

Then on week 33 I am back in the great city of Barcelona, in the neighbourhood of Poble Nou to be exact. I am flat and cat sitting while my mates are holidaying in Japan. So I’ll be here for a couple of weeks! it is a great neighbourhood and the flat is 5 minutes away from the beach.

Initially when I moved back home there were less reminders of the cancer. For instance I didn’t see the number 56 bus that took me to the hospital to do my chemo, radiotherapy and other check ups. I didn’t see the sofa that saw me lay there totally sick . Or the fan that was constantly on for 3 days to alleviate the hot flushes that the chemotherapy drugs were giving me. But you may have noticed that I’ve said initially. This has indeed changed.

For instance when I went back to my mum’s and I was sitting in the kitchen I thought of the time when I found my lump, as it happened there. Or being on the beach, it reminds me of my last holiday back home,  when I took a break between my op and chemo. It reminds me of a time when I knew my life was about to radically change due to the treatment and I was making the most of my health before it was taken away from me. So the other day I found myself shedding a tear on the beach, thinking back on that time. I have also been crying when sitting here in the flat alone. In a sense it feels like I am looking at last year from an outsiders perspective, which I may have told you about before. I look at last year as if I’m watching a film and I feel very sad for the character, which is me. I feel sorry for what happened to myself. I feel sorry that I had to go through what I did and be strong. And as happy as I am to still be here I am still dealing with the sadness and toughness of it all.

Week 33…oh by the way, my mates, whose flat I am staying at,  make the most amazing recycled bags and fixed gear accessories. Check them out! they are called pinzat.

See how curly it is? see you in a few days for week 34!

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