Belfast Telegraph

'I looked like a huge baby... nothing prepares you for the reality'

By Claire McNeilly

Retired accountant Tanya Brown (56), from Portadown, is married to former civil servant Pete, who's 58. They have one son and five grandchildren.

"I've had cancer three times," said Tanya. "The first time was in February 2008 when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and I had my ovaries removed. I didn't need chemotherapy and they were pretty sure they got everything out.

"Eight months later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had to have a left mastectomy and a full lymph node clearance, as well as radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Then three years ago, I had cervical cancer. I had radiotherapy and it seems to have cleared up. I lost my hair completely in 2009 so I looked like a large baby. I had been warned hair normally falls out 19 days after the first dose of chemo but nothing prepares you for the reality of that.

"On the 19th day, I was running my fingers through my hair when it came out in lumps. No-one tells you about the headache from hell when your hair falls out. I was in agony. When it happened, and most of it fell out, my husband washed the remaining hair for me to try to remove what was left of it off. That helped. But some hair remained. The next time I went for chemo a lady shaved off the rest of it.

"I knew the hair was going to come off so I was mentally conditioned. My husband and son bought me some bandanas, which I started to wear then and I didn't feel as bad. I accepted the hair loss. It didn't really bother me.

"What was very difficult was that they told me it would come back thick and curly, but it came back thin and grey. In fact it was so thin I could still feel my scalp so I wore wigs - but I always knew they were wigs and I was never happy.

"Then, five years ago I was on Facebook when I came across Angel Hair Solutions and I decided to make an appointment, which is how I met Jay. I ended up getting a hairpiece that clipped into the rest of my hair. It cost £430.

"When I got that my husband said my face changed from being sad and upset to smiling.

"I felt like myself again. I had my hair back and it gave me some much-needed confidence.

"I got another hairpiece from Jay last summer and no-one knows it's a hairpiece. It cost £1,000.

"It has changed my life because it has actually given me back myself.

"The last time I went to the hairdressers for an updo the girl didn't even realise it was a hair piece until I told her afterwards!"

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