Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Hairdresser on fire

What is it about hair falling out from chemo that is so upsetting?

- It has such a tendency to dehumanise. No wonder they use it in the military and prisons. The boy looks so different with hair and without.

- It is such a visible signal to everyone that he is unwell. It's cancer's own red flag. People react differently to him and are much more likely to look on him pityingly as the sick kid.

- People look more ill without hair, everything is pale, accentuated by a lack of eyelashes and eyebrows.

- It happens so quickly. Last time, he went from a few hairs on the pillows, to clumps falling out, to virtual baldness over the course of what felt like 4-5 days.

- It shows what is otherwse hidden. For the boy there is nothing to disguise the railway map of scars on the back of his head. This time the scars are so fresh (some scabs still in place) that it's more disconcerting than the single more established scar last time.

And, the boy has the extra risk from hair, eyebrows and eyelashes falling in his bad eye. Without the ability to blink properly, his bad eye is regularly bloodshot at the moment - more eye damage seems a certainty. But of course there's the trachy. Trying to keep hairs out of the tube. They get everywhere, wrapped round the trachy tube itself. Trying to avoid them going in the tube when suctioning. Such things make it a relief when the hair is finally gone. And it's going fast at the moment.

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