I Want My Hair Back!

I am going to wear my thoughts on my sleeve (so to speak) for this post…here goes.

We all have bad hair days and frustrations about our hair…always wanting what we don’t have or annoyed that we can’t achieve a certain look or style we had a matter of days before. Think about how this affects your mood, the energy or vibe you give off, the interactions with others. Crazy huh? Perhaps you wake up in a terrible mood and you mask this by having a great hair day…oooh…perhaps this is why I am extra cranky on those days!? I have nothing to hide behind haha (seriously, a light bulb just went off as I think about this…). Some may disagree altogether and say they don’t place this much emphasis on their hair, and that’s fine too (although, the number of people who have made comments like “I could never do what you did” or from the guys “I shaved my head cuz I didn’t like that I was balding” or when I see someone has made more effort into styling their hair on certain days makes me think there’s far more people out there who think about these things…whether they admit it or not). Either way, I can only write about and speak to what I know and have experienced.

I had a moment the other day, a little temper tantrum (only in my head of course) about just wanting to have my hair back! (Perhaps the above realization is why?!) I was also meeting someone for the first time and even though they knew I shaved my head, the insecurities we all have that surround a first impression washed over me. For most, when you get ready for a night out, meeting, presentation etc., your hair (or lack of) makes a statement about who you are, and combined with your clothing, comes together as a “look”. I honestly felt like I was missing something the other night. I wanted to style my hair to complement my “look” and I couldn’t. *insert pouty lips*

As I gathered my things and took one last glance at myself in the mirror, sans hair, I just thought to myself how much emphasis we place on our hair as being part of our “look” and can use it to enhance a first impression. I realized for me, or for anyone who feels like they are missing something from their “look” that our first impression falls more on personality, not such a bad thing if I weigh the pros and cons. Yeah, yeah…I know, there’s still face, smile etc., but that’s not the first thing people notice…all they see is “she’s bald” and the comments (good, bad, humorous etc.,) the looks, or stares confirm that. To make a long story short…I’d rather win someone over with my personality anyway.

Thank-you for everyone who has supported me in my fundraising efforts so far! Keep ‘em coming!

To make a donation to Hopespring – click here

To make a donation to Wellspring – click here

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Hope for Hopespring

Contemplating what my next post should be about, I looked to the Hopespring website for inspiration.  Right there on the side of their site it reads:

Being so relied upon by the community for our strength & support, it’s not easy to admit when we need yours.

7,178 Program hours offered
3,623 Estimated new diagnoses per year in Waterloo-Wellington
1,016 Users of services between October 2012 and September 2013
571 New HopeSpring users
321 HopeSpring volunteers
292 Wigs provided free
5 HopeSpring staff

$0 Received through government funding

We Need Your Help

Donate Now

Most wouldn’t think to donate to places they don’t need or haven’t used…fair enough. Therefore, the people who end up seeing the plea for donations are likely those who are in need of the help being offered. I know firsthand the financial burden I and my family were under during my treatments. My Dad took so much time off work, from a job that was covering the cost of the treatment, drugs and prescriptions I needed, to take me to and from the hospital. Now, what if I hadn’t have gone into remission when I did? What if I were in and out of remission for years? The point I’m trying to make is, the people who often learn of these places and use the (free) services, aren’t able to spare anything extra.

My hope is create more awareness for places like Hopespring and Wellspring. Too many people have been directly or indirectly affected by this disease. Just yesterday morning while out for breakfast with a friend, she told me her good friend recently learned that his girlfriend has a brain tumor…that she discovered when she was visiting her Mother…who has breast cancer…wow!

You just never know when you or someone you know will benefit from these hidden gems…offering programs, support and education for not only for cancer patients, but for their caregivers as well. Who do you know who could benefit from a little love and support? Please make a donation and spread the word!

 

 

 

Still Bald!

The day after I had my head shaved, I went out and bought the only styling tool I will need for the next 6 months…hair clippers! (If anyone is in need of some nice styling tools, like the TIGI hair wand, various curling irons, flat iron or products…lemme know!). It was weird buying hair clippers, for me, but the idea behind my fundraising efforts is that I will keep my head shaved until my 10 years diagnosed anniversary at the end of September as I continue to raise awareness and funds for Hopespring and Wellspring.

Each time I shave down the little hairs that are growing back I am surprised by the strength of the person staring back at me in the mirror yet surprised by how vulnerable I feel. The past few weeks have brought about moments where I feel empowered and strong and other moments of insecurity and vulnerability. I have read and posted several articles on my Facebook page of cancer patients who have described very similar experiences and feelings. A co-worker pointed out the other day that I made the motion to ‘tuck hair behind my ear.’ I must admit, I actually forget sometimes that I don’t have hair…until I go outside! LOL (Seriously, where is the warm weather?!).

Being bald has been at the very least a conversation starter; however, I think most people think I’m sick and choose not to say anything but those who know better realize I’m too “healthy looking” to be sick. Either way, my current state has brought about many opportunities for cancer patients and survivors alike, or those close to someone going through the ordeal (past or present) to share their stories with me. I have been shocked, amazed, on the verge of tears, happy and grateful to have made a new friend and be invited into their world for a moment, for a glimpse of what they went through, a world not many people hear about or know of. I recently visited the Wellspring office in Toronto, a truly wonderful place, a hidden gem really. To see how the programs are being utilized made me feel really good about what I’m doing. Here is a video I found that introduces how Hopespring helps:

As one woman put it, “There is a mind body and spirit aspect of cancer and Hopespring is a place to go, it’s a resource, to replenish the spirit and mind.”  

Thank-you to those who have made donations, followed my blog or offered words of encouragement in my efforts to help cancer patients and their families.

If you would like to donate to Hopespring – click here

If you would like to donate to Wellspring – click here.

While the majority of feedback I have received about what I’m doing and why has been positive, there is always someone who will try to make you feel bad about your decisions (this goes for anything in life really). And I honestly have to ask myself why? I may never truly know why but at the end of the day I feel good about what I’m doing and if I can help others along the way then that’s all that matters…even if it is to simply give someone hope.

Cheers,

Amanda

I’m Bald!

I'm Bald!

I’m Bald!

As I mentally prepared myself for the big day I thought back to when I was forced to shave my head after the second chemo treatment caused my hair to fall out like crazy. My eyes stung with tears, my lower lip quivered as I looked in the mirror at the unfamiliar head and face staring back at me “I look like Trevor (my brother)” as the tears streamed down my face. Now, this reaction surprised me! I hated my hair…thin, fine, curly…but, regardless I was sad to see it go. As a female, (and young one at that) your hair is very much part of your identity. Almost 10 years later, even though I agree that yes, hair makes up a huge part of who you are…there is so, so much more and feeling like a woman comes from a much deeper place.

“Why would you do that?! You’ve been through it once, wasn’t that enough?”

“Nooo! Don’t do that, girls will like you.”

“Don’t do it, there are so many other things you could do.”

“People are going to think you’re sick you know.”

These are just a few comments I have heard either in reaction to when I first started to share my thoughts on shaving my head or when people saw that I actually did it. I’m still not quite sure what to make of them to be honest; everyone has an opinion, their own insecurities and beliefs. For a brief moment I had each one said to me, I would second guess myself for a split second and then let it roll off my back. Knowing I’m secure in my decision and have so much support behind me makes all the awkward stares that much easier to deal with. And whenever I feel compelled to explain myself it’s usually coming from my own insecurity and that is something I will have to get over. Often times how you look or perceive you look isn’t making that big of a difference to those around you!

Visiting The SCAR Project exhibition the week-end before my big day was very therapeutic in a way as it provided me with another perspective on the invisible side of cancer and gave me further purpose to my fundraising efforts. For those who don’t know, this exhibit features the scars of young breast cancer patients. The stories were heart wrenching, not just what they had to endure but the emotional scars their battles left behind. As women, imagine being so ashamed of your body that you refuse to show your partner your breasts for 8 years until an exhibit like this all of a sudden makes it OK.   I can only imagine the constant struggle that goes on inside these women’s heads every day as they get dressed. Below are two excerpts from the exhibit that really stood out to me from two young women, aged 28 and 25 at the time of their diagnoses:

Jill F, 28 “A woman’s beauty is about so much more than her breasts. My breasts did not define me as a woman, and without them, I am still curvaceous, sexy, and confident…survival is about more than plastic surgeons reconstructing the perfect breast. It is about courage, strength, and the many other attributes that make a woman beautiful.”

Vanessa T, 25 “In reality, there’s a duality of life and a human element that everyone can relate to. Yes, I have breast cancer, and yes, it is hard, and yes, it’s an ongoing challenge, BUT everyone has his own struggles. Some are hidden and not as public, but they are still very real. The secret hardships AND the public battles we all face are valid and important…I think sometimes I am so good at putting on a pretty face and acting all put-together that some people don’t realize the extent of everything that breast cancer survivors go through.”

I just had coffee with my close friend who received her 3 month clean bill of health the day after I shaved my head. (Congratulations Laura, I knew you’d make it!) However, despite being “free of cancer” for 3 months, she is still very much dealing with the aftermath of what this disease often leaves behind…physically and emotionally these scars limit her day to day life and all that it entails as a young, newly married mother of a 1 year old (Take a moment to imagine…).

Bald_8

This is why places like Hopespring and Wellspring are so important. The emotional scars remain long after the cancer is gone and these centers help not only with the day to day struggles during treatment but also with life post cancer. For some survivors, life as they know it will never be the same. Some may be missing hair while going through treatment and it may or may not grow back; breasts may be lost, body parts amputated, lymph nodes and sections of skin cut out, joints replaced…the list is endless and results in lasting consequences.  As I get used to being without hair, I will remind myself of these stories and my friends experiences that continue to inspire me to raise money for cancer patients and their caregivers, so please donate what you can!

Click here to give to Hopespring  (A secure pay pal account set up for me by Hopespring)

Click here to give to Wellspring (A secure donation page set up for me by Wellspring).

A huge thanks to Julie Heather Photography for capturing the first few moments of my being Bald, brave and beautiful!

Dream the impossible. Seek the unknown. Achieve greatness.

 

 

 

 

Why Being Bald Will Rock!

Thank-you to everyone who has made a donation, followed my blog, sent me encouraging words and messages…it truly means a lot to me! The reality is kicking in that tomorrow I will be BALD…BRAVE & BEAUTIFUL and although I have been thinking about and planning this for a while now, the truth is I know there will be some interesting times ahead of me. (i.e starting a new job in a new city?!). For those who haven’t donated…perhaps you are waiting for pictures of my bald head to see if I actually had the guts to do it, fair enough. (There will be pictures to come, so don’t you worry!). I will keep my head bald for several months so please subscribe to my blog (see the link on the side of the page) and follow my experiences and journey to help create awareness for/start a conversation about the side of cancer you don’t see in support of Hopespring and Wellspring.

To donate now to Hopespring – click here

To donate now to Wellspring – click here

Now, to psyche myself up for the bald, brave and beautiful experience I have created a list of reasons why being bald is gonna rock…you know, to help shed some humour on what can be a very terrifying experience…(especially if chemo has made the decision for you).

  1. Lip-gloss, hair down, wind. (‘nuff said)
  2. Root touch-ups, fading colour…a thing of the past
  3. Wigs…who do I want to be today??
  4. Split ends? What are those?!
  5. A bald head is easier to slather with sunscreen then one with hair J
  6. So many different cute hats and toques…all without the hat head!
  7. Blow drying your hair…I never could figure out the round brush/blow-dry technique (disaster!) Oh, and let’s not forget how hard this is to do after a tough shoulder workout (hello boxing?!)
  8. Haircuts/trims, colour, styling products and tools, brushes, clips/elastics/barrettes…that sh&t’s expensive!
  9. Grabbing at your back for that one stray, loose hair that has clung to your shirt and proceeds to tickle you and you just can’t seem to get the damn piece of hair off you!
  10. Clogged shower drains…ew!
  11. Bed head is only sexy when you “style” it that way
  12. Speaking of styling…wait, no need for that!
  13. No more scheduling “sweaty” workouts around hair washing days! Yay!
  14. Rain, humidity, dry air, snow, wind…bring it on Mother Nature (LOL)
  15. Something about “Rub a bald head for good-luck?!” Who couldn’t use a little of this?

If I’ve missed any that should be a part of this list, please feel free to leave a comment below!

Cheers,

Amanda

The Charities

You’ve just been diagnosed with cancer. Now what?! “Cancer begins with a diagnosis…but it doesn’t end with a treatment” – a quote from the Wellspring website. I think this quote sums up nicely what these cancer support centres are all about:

  • Inspiration
  • Empowerment
  • Hope
  • Support
  • Education and resources

Being diagnosed with cancer is like looking at the tip of an iceberg…there is sooo much more going on underneath the surface.   The journey becomes emotionally trying for everyone involved; there’s the psychological, social, financial strain…the list goes on forever.

Founded in 1995, Hopespring serves the Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, Guelph and surrounding areas while Wellspring, founded 3 years earlier in 1992 started out in Toronto with locations primarily within Ontario (one location in Calgary).

Wellspring and Hopespring recognize the journey affects everyone involved and in order to improve the overall quality of life, one must be treated as a whole. As such, they offer the following programs and services to those newly diagnosed, undergoing or post treatment as well as to caregivers (this is by no means a complete list):

  • Support groups (i.e back to work, bereavement, caregivers)
  • Cancer Smart – physical activity/exercise for the cancer patient
  • Yoga and meditation
  • Art therapy
  • Wig boutique and salon
  • Energy based therapies (i.e Reiki, healing touch)
  • Beauty programs
  • Relaxation/meditation and sleep
  • Healthy cooking

Through these confidential and free services/programs, each centre accomplishes their goals of providing assistance for the sides of cancer people don’t see.  Both charities represent what I initially set out to do: help those cope with the day to day life of their diagnoses and treatments. I took advantage of a number of services while I underwent my treatment in K-W. (My Mom even tried yoga with me!).

Please donate generously, to the other side of cancer…the sides you don’t see. By shaving my head on Wednesday, April 16th (a very visible side effect of various forms of chemo), I hope to bring awareness, start a conversation about and help others see the side of cancer that’s invisible to most.

On that note…if you haven’t heard about The SCAR Project…I highly recommend having a look and checking out the exhibit if you get a chance! (Talk about the things you don’t see…)

To make a donation to Hopespring – click here

To make a donation to Wellspring – click here

Thanks for the love and support so far!

Cheers,

Amanda

 

I’m Shaving my Head!

So…I’m shaving my head!  Why you ask? Several things led to this decision.  No, I’m not pulling a Britney, even though it appears that way given I just celebrated my 30th birthday…but no, that’s not it. Today – March 31st, 2014 marks my 9 years in remission and I wanted to do something big leading up to my 10 years being cancer free.

Over the years friends, family, friends of friends, friends of family, people from various aspects of my life etc., approach me asking for advice, encouragement and support for either themselves or someone they know who has cancer and/or needs to undergo treatment. I do my best to provide insight, support and share the lessons learned throughout my journey; lend an ear or a shoulder to cry. The desire grew to help and I wanted to do more “How can I help further?” – a question I asked myself over and over.  It was actually my good friend Laura Perkins (check out her journey with cancer here) that got me thinking about starting a charity to help those with the disease deal with the day to day aspect of life with cancer…and so the idea started to take shape.

Shaving my head was to be the kick off fundraiser for my charity, slowly adding elements to it until the operation in its entirety could be in full swing for next March; however, after researching the registration process and what’s involved with starting a charity, I decided against it…for now. Instead I have chosen to align myself with two charities that are near and dear to me who provide support for cancer patients and their families: Wellspring and Hopespring.  Stay tuned for an entire blog dedicated to these charities and the programs that they offer.

And now you know how BALD…BRAVE & BEAUTIFUL came to be!  (Thank-you to my friend Tara King for the design work so far!).

At some point throughout my next journey, please show your support and consider making a donation…or an ongoing donation for each month I keep my head shaved…to either or both charities (donation pages coming soon!) and/or simply follow my blog and show it some love as I share my experiences of what it means to be BALD…BRAVE & BEAUTIFUL!

Cheers,

Amanda