I wrote recently about the heartbreaking side effects of the steroids, and mentioned that I’d come to terms with the hair loss effect of the chemotherapy early on. It’s such a superficial part of this whole adventure and yet when presented with the stark reality of it, I faltered and almost fell.
We got Poppy back from under the Dex cloud on bank holiday Monday. Her sparkle had returned, in her rosy cheeks and animated mannerisms. She’s back to talking a mile a minute, giving us a running commentary about everything happening around her. It’s so good to have her back. We’ve felt like any other family on a bank holiday weekend. Meeting up with friends and family, spending time playing imaginative games in the garden and eating delicious, nourishing food which takes a little longer to prepare than the usual midweek fare.
I’m immensely proud of the girls eating habits. Seeing them tuck into leafy green vegetables and nutrient rich fish dishes, I delight in their obvious love of food. Poppy has always enjoyed preparing it too. When she was too young to actually help, I used to find her jobs in the kitchen with me – usually seated happily at my feet stirring a saucepan full of peelings, whilst I prepared our evening meal. Time spent in the kitchen is a real delight when there is no pressure of time. I’ve missed it lately, and the bank holiday weekend was the perfect moment to prepare some dishes of our own.
We’ve always been lead by the girls in how we raise them, guided by their natural instincts and abilities. Baby led weaning has been a huge success for us, letting them explore the tastes and textures of various foods and feeding themselves at 6 months old, I’m sure it played it’s role in the wide variety of foods they eat now. Poppy’s made many a nurse laugh in the hospital with her refined palette and infinite love of cookery shows. Even tuning in whilst nil by mouth and waiting for a trip to theatre!
As I mentioned in a previous post, Poppy accepted that there would be hair loss to come without much question at all. We were expecting it to fall out within 2-3 weeks of her first dose of chemotherapy, and arranged a hair cut in preparation. I had a chop too in solidarity and we had a lovely day out in Cheltenham, which included lunch out and a spot of shopping. By coincidence, Poppy chose a cuddly bunny toy named Pixie, to match her new hairstyle. Whilst her hair did begin to fall out shortly afterwards, Poppy has actually clung on to more than we were expecting by this stage. Bald at the back, with some patchy hair at the front, this hasn’t escaped Poppy’s notice either. Chatting casually with her daddy on Monday, she talked about how she still had some hair, and wasn’t quite a Baldilocks yet. We’d spoken a few days before about making her another appointment at the hairdressers for a trim closer to her head, making it less obvious when hair fell out than the longer strands covering her pillow and car seat. This decision was accelerated when getting ready for bed she asked: “Shall we just cut it all off now?”
I gently offered Poppy another chance to visit the hairdressers, encouraging the pretty gown and special seat she would be able to sit on, but her answer was soft and polite: “I’d like you to do it now please” I hesitated and glanced at Graham, only to shrug and reason with why not? If Poppy’s ready for this next step, then we can be too. With Daisy dancing at our feet, we gently cut the longer strands of Poppy’s hair, before Graham evened the DIY job with his clippers. Poppy sat still and smiled throughout, catching the hair as it fell. The only part she disliked was the itchy hair which fell on her shoulders, resulting in a second bath and a vacuum of her room before bedtime.
I was calm and content whilst we did it and seeing her wide smile afterwards, Poppy genuinely looked no different to me. But after tucking her into bed and departing downstairs, I sat numbly in the living room before the pain I was holding deep inside rose to a panic-inducing level which made my knees buckle and my throat want to scream. Superficial it may be, but it’s everything that her hair loss encompasses which caused my real emotion. Those “Why Poppy? Why us?” moments keep creeping in amongst the palpable feeling that I’m not coping with this as well as I thought.
These moments are fleeting, and I know each time it happens that I’ll bounce back and be stronger for having let the tears flow when needed. Lead as ever by our brave little girl, who isn’t bothered by her new found baldness in the slightest. I keep catching her absentmindedly rubbing her soft, smooth head. In some ways, it’s made things easier too. The subtle glances in our direction when we’re out and about as the general public try to decode our situation have been replaced with knowing looks and full-blown smiles as they take in Poppy’s appearance.
Cutting Poppy’s hair ourselves put us back in control. Poppy lead the way, and we bravely followed. With Daisy looking on, she was a part of the experience too, and another example of how we’re facing this as a family unit. It was one less thing to sort out, one less appointment for Poppy to attend and ultimately, we were just bringing the inevitable forward slightly and putting ourselves in the driving seat of this very wayward journey.
Here’s to Baldilocks and her awe-inspiring bravery in the face of everything Leukaemia is testing her with x