I started writing this blog to encourage other women to stop dyeing their hair, to embrace their natural silver tresses; to show them silver is beautiful, silver is GOLD!
Less than a year later, I was told I'm facing “total hair loss.” I had joined the fast-growing list of women diagnosed with breast cancer. A side-effect of the chemotherapy would most certainly be “total hair loss.”
Isn’t It Ironic!? – imagine the lyrics Alanis Morissette could have written with that!
But, no matter how bald I be, I still believe SILVER is GOLD! When my treatment is done and my hair grows anew, I’ll be proudly silver again.
I’ve been somewhat ‘distracted,’ as you can probably imagine, but many months ago I did promise to tell you how I made the transition from dyed brunette to completely natural silver – or grey hair.
I will summons the energy to write that blog soon; no more about the subject of cancer, here, okay?
In the meantime, I have felt the need to write about my diagnosis and how I’m overcoming it. Writing, for me, is empowering and cathartic – and I want to give others a little insight into what they might feel and experience if they, or someone dear to them, ever face this disease.
If you’d like to have a little look, go here: http://victoriaclark16.wixsite.com/justmakemesoup
I just wanted one last chance, you know? So ... I took it.
But, the resulting embarrassment lasted an excruciatingly long time. I can still recall the blush-inducing anguish ... (more about that later ...).
You see, I wasn’t ready to suddenly stop being a brunette; to reveal to my world there were many more startlingly-silver hairs growing out of my noggin’ than there were naturally brunette ones.
Aside from revealing I'd been going grey for years, wouldn’t it be admitting I had officially reached ‘OLD-ness’ – and, if I was boldly prepared to embrace it, would everyone assume I was giving up on fun, preferring a back seat in life’s live show?
What about those moments of feeling fabulous, vivacious, full of life and loving it; when we feel something akin to ... youthful? Would I feel old, being grey, and no longer experience those lovely feelings?
And, then there’s the Mary Tyler Moore ‘joyously spinning around in the street’ moments.
No, I’d never actually ‘do’ a Mary T.M. in public. But I still wanted, from time to time, to feel the exhilarating urge to do it.
(Just for a few seconds, run the television clip through your mind, but replace Mary Tyler Moore with a grey-haired woman – grinning like a loon, her arms in the air, spinning herself ‘round and tossing her woolly beanie into the air; celebrating her love of life, just like Mary....
Now, seriously: wouldn’t passersby assume she was just a teensy
bit la-la – or even lost from a nearby retirement village?).
So, I worried: “If I let my brunette hair dye fade away, will those youthful feelings fade away, too?”
Going grey is a huge psychological hurdle to leap over, especially as the concept of 'grey hair is for grannies'
is deeply entrenched in our society.
I wish, now, I hadn’t sought out that one last chance to remain brunette. That last chance was henna.
I happily put up with the messy, crumbling paste and its earthy aroma, knowing I’d no longer suffer painful allergic reactions to chemical dyes, which my doctor had just warned me off – telling me I was risking an anaphylactic seizure. Besides, the packaging promised a warm deep brown result which, to my way of positive thinking, translated to ‘youthful.’
Well, that natural pigment loved my silvery re-growth in a vibrant celebration of what can only be described as orange. Like the freshly-formed rust on a tin can left in the rain, my re-growth and my scalp were truly eye-catching. They glowed as though there was some magic night-light emanating from within my scalp.
Over the following weeks, I found many reasons to stay home, and was thankful (for once) my freelance journalism work is often isolating.
When I did see family and friends, their response was something along the lines of “Oh my God, what the hell have you done?” and those who didn’t know me well enough to comment, tried in vain to look as though they hadn’t seen it. It was the worst home-hair-dye job, ever. It was downright nasty.
I washed my hair a lot. By golly, every day, I washed it; double-shampooing and rinsing with very, very hot water. But, that henna pigment was stubborn. Despite having heard rumours of terrible reactions to applying chemical dye over henna-dyed hair (including hair splitting and breaking off) I eventually visited the hair dye displays in the supermarket, one last time. I opted for a semi-permanent warm brown dye. I took it home and gingerly applied it, constantly eyeing the shower floor for clumps of long hair. Much to my relief, my hair stayed put in my scalp and the orange wasn’t too noticeable - except for when I went outside on bright, sunny days.
I made a silent promise to make an appointment at the hair salon. It was definitely time to seek professional help.
The transition from brunette to silver was interesting – exciting, even! I’ll tell you about it in my next post. I even have a few photographs – proof that ‘going grey’ does not require wearing a brown paper bag.
See you soon! - Victoria xo
There are memorised conversations in my head. I didn’t mean to memorise them. But, they’re in there;
one or two brief exchanges – embedded, word-for-word.
Actually, there are way more than just ‘one or two.’ There are loads. (I’m sure we all have this, yes?).
Anyway, for the purpose of this Blog, I’ll recall just two, because they concern the dilemma faced by many women who dye their hair – the dilemma being: “should I stop dyeing my hair and allow the grey or silver hair to grow out? Perhaps I’ll do it now ... or, maybe when I hit 45 .. or 50? Would it be so awful to wait until I’m 60? Hmmm ... perhaps ... not. Maybe I’ll just keep on dyeing until I die?”
Conversation Number One occurred on an aeroplane.
I was all dressed up – as was my hair which was beautifully brunette and blow-dried and, I hoped, all wavy and luscious and youthful-like. The photo (left) was taken in December, 2011.
(the usual hour or so in the bathroom with surgical gloves and those little, plastic bottles of pigment-filled potions had put paid to the greys. Not a single, silvery strand to be seen – not even half-a-centimetre peeping out where it could glimmer in the sunlight - as they do - ‘outing’ me as just another Pretend Brunette Who Is Really Rather Grey).
So, I am sitting in my favourite aeroplane seat, right up front by the door. Other passengers are still filing up the steps from the tarmac and, among them; I see the top of a head I instantly recognise – for, it is blonde; so very, very blonde. Turns out her allocated seat is right next to mine and we happily greet one another, delighted with the coincidence of being on the same flight and seated in the same row.
We probably wouldn’t have even mentioned my hair colour, had it not been for the constant scratching. At some stage in my early forties, I became aware that ‘Hair-Colouring Day’ meant, over the following 24 hours, I’d be doing an extremely plausible impersonation of someone with a bad case of head lice.
The allergic reactions had been getting worse with each hair-colouring session, I told my friend; so much so, I had sought advice from a doctor. He suggested I take a little antihistamine tablet on ‘Hair Colouring Day.’ The tablets worked. Marginally.
“Honestly! This itching is driving me crazy,” I said, scratching at the nape of my neck. “I really think I should just give up on the whole ‘colouring my hair’ thing ...”
This is where the conversation became a memorable one, so strong was her reaction.
This is Conversation Number One:
Blonde: “Oh my GOD, NOOOOO!! You can’t go grey! You’re far too young!”
Itchy-Scritchy Brunette (that’s me): “It’s not that I feel ready to go grey, but I’m so tired of this. It keeps me awake at night when I’ve just had the colour done. It’s always the longest night, every time...”
Blonde (showing signs of recoiling in horror): “Just take the antihistamines. You’ll be fine. Just ... just ... DON’T go grey!”
Itchy-Scritchy Brunette: “Well, I s’pose ... and, I imagine it would be a huge step; you know – psychologically?”
Blonde: “Absolutely! I certainly wouldn’t do it if I were you. I’d be taking those tablets. Oh my GOD, grey! (small shudder). Ghastly – it would just be GHASTLY!”
There wasn’t a lot I could say to that. Her tone was such, that I felt the matter had been settled. The decision had been made. I took to taking the tablets.
Conversation Number Two was brief, but definitely memorable. It changed everything.
Well, okay – not everything – but it certainly presented me with an unexpected and very sharp bend in the road that is a part of my life’s wee path ... and, ultimately, led me to start my www.silverisgoldgirl.com blog.
Conversation Number Two wasn’t so much ‘a conversation,’ but some quietly-spoken advice, to which I simply listened. It occurred about six months after Conversation Number One.
Off I went to my family doctors’ clinic with a certain sense of foreboding, as my allergic reactions had worsened. Rather than maddening ‘itchies’ at the nape of my neck, it was angry, hot and red welts forming there each time I dyed my hair. They were also forming higher up, on the back of my head. Worse, my forehead and temples were itchy and, after my most recent hair-colouring session, my eye-lids felt ever-so-slightly tingly.
A different doctor was on duty. I described my allergic reactions to her, and assured her these reactions only lasted about 24 hours. But, somehow, I think I knew my time was up (as a brunette, I mean!).
Doctor: “I think what’s happening is, over the years, your body has become less tolerant to the toxins in hair dye. You know, the antihistamines are really just masking the indicators from your body. It's telling you it’s not coping with those toxins.”
Me: Silent. Vaguely alarmed look on face.
The worst is yet to come – the clincher sentence, as she’s looking down at her desk, writing a prescription for more antihistamines:
Doctor: “I would strongly advise you to make sure you’re not home alone on the days and evenings when you’ve dyed your hair.
Me (eyes wide): “Oh, my goodness! Why?”
Doctor: “Because it’s quite possible you could go into anaphylactic shock. Extreme allergic reactions can cause that. You’ll need someone to be with you – to call the ambulance.”
She handed me the prescription.
On my way home, (I drove past the pharmacy, the prescription still in my handbag) I felt an urgent need to pull over and ‘phone my Mother.
“Mum? You’re going to have to go grey. Stop dyeing your hair, I mean. I can’t be grey with a mother who’s not.”
It took her a wee while to come around to the idea. But, she looks stunning.
The dark-haired young girl with the heavily drawn on eyebrows is scanning my groceries by feel.
I know this because the only time she actually looks at my groceries is with a glance to her left to grab another item. Mostly, she is looking at me.
By the time the scanner has beep-beeped its final beep and my docket is slithering up and out of the cash register, I've mustered enough courage to ask: "Is there something ..? Did you want to ask me ... something?" (this seemed a more subtle approach than frowning and demanding: "What are you staring at?").
She has the decency to look embarrassed - but only a little bit.
I am smiling warmly to ensure she feels comfortable enough to answer honestly. This tactic works.
"It's your eyebrows," she says, a little shyly. "They are dark. They are black. The hair is black."
(the words are tumbling out of her mouth now and she's almost repeating herself). "Your hair is so grey, (nodding and pointing with her eyes to the hair on my head), but your eyebrows .... they're not. There is no silver hair in your eyebrows ..."
This last sentence is said with a rising lilt; a definite question-mark at the end.
The very young girl with the heavily drawn-on eyebrows (yes, I know I've said that before, but I'm still perplexed as to why her every eyebrow hair has been plucked out) is questioning the authenticity of my brows' colour.
I am still smiling warmly as I stroke my finger tips across my eyebrows, showing her no colour comes off; my brows are not penciled. And, my smile grows to a grin when I pick up my grocery bag and cheerfully tell her I was born brunette and I am still a brunette. Other than on my head.