Lisa Markwell: Yes, you'll go bald, Jade. Now tell your kids the truth

Related Topics

A bald head. It's like wearing a sign round your neck saying Cancer Victim. Suddenly everyone is offering advice or consolation, sharing their war story or, if you're really unlucky, making an ill-advised quip. Going beyond the comfort zone of home, work, and friends' houses invites curious looks and sotto voce "Oh dears".

So I find myself in the curious position of empathising with Jade Goody, erstwhile reality TV anti-hero. Goody last week lost her hair as a side effect of her chemotherapy treatment for ovarian cancer and is said to be devastated. My own hair fell out when I started chemotherapy last September, and "devastating" is simply the only word for the experience.

For a woman, losing all your hair is far more traumatic than any scar might be. A breast can be reconstructed, but hair can't. Of all the brutal facts that are laid out during meetings with surgeons, oncologists and cancer care nurses, hearing that you will see your most visible symbol of femininity disappear is the vilest news. Eyelashes and eyebrows also fall away, leaving the emotionally vulnerable looking physically depleted too.

A cancer charity in America recently revealed thata number of women refuse treatment because the side effect is worse – for them – than the illness. My own oncologist confirms this, particularly in women facing cancer for a second or third time, when treatment might be about prolonging life rather than a cure.

Why would you choose to suffer upsetting hair loss when you might have only months to spend with your friends and family? My own son said, "No offence, mum, but I don't want to be seen with you", when I told him I was likely to go bald. I'd rather not be seen with myself bald, quite frankly, but there's not much choice. (Don't get me started on wigs, every one of which I tried was fake-looking and prohibitively expensive). And I'm not in the public eye, as Jade Goody is.

For years, she invited the nation's paparazzi and gossip hounds into her life via reality shows and press interviews. Now she's behind closed doors, working out what the hell to do when none of her clothes work with a bald head. God knows, I know.

My advice? Everyone, bar the paparazzi, is going to find it fascinating only for the first day. After that, you go back to being you, but with less hair. So don't waste money on wigs or eyebrow tattoos. Get down to Topshop, which has a dazzling array of vintage headscarves, and buy dozens. One in every colour. Spend a day working out which styles look jaunty, and which make you look like a Kazakh grandmother. Get a good eye pencil and draw in your brows each morning. Takes but a minute.

Tell your kids the truth. Goody has said she kept her true diagnosis from her sons and told them that tadpoles in her tummy were making her ill. Yes, they're only five and four, but children can sense the seriousness of a situation and will, later, thank you for taking them into your confidence. Seeing you bald will scare them more if they don't know the context.

Ignore the well-meaning advice of the cancerbackup website, which suggests that "wearing a little extra make-up around your eyes, cheekbones or lips will help to direct attention to your face.... Brightly coloured shirts, sweaters, ties or tops draw attention away from your hair".

By all means, cover your head until your hair grows back – which it will. For compared with the daily mountain you must climb to get out of bed and into hospital to fight the damned disease, faking "normal" hair just ain't worth the bother. To paraphrase someone else's slogan: We're here. We're bald. Get used to it.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Support - Helpdesk Analyst

£18000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a customer focu...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Development Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Learning & Development Manager - North London - £53,000

£45000 - £53000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: Learning & Develo...

Recruitment Genius: Media Sales Executive - Magazines

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's largest regional newspaper pub...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A 'match' on Tinder  

Tinder may have inadvertently hit its self-destruct button by charging older users more

Nash Riggins
A Yorkshire Terrier waits to be judged during the Toy and Utility day of the Crufts dog show at the NEC in Birmingham  

There are no winners at Crufts. Dogs deserve better than to suffer and die for a 'beauty' pageant

Mimi Bekhechi
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn