Headwrappers – From cancer to my wedding!
Last October during the height of the pandemic, I was diagnosed with multi focal invasive ductal breast cancer, I was HER2+ and borderline ER+. I found out five days before my 50th birthday – what a present!
After numerous tests, biopsies, scans and meetings with my surgeon, oncologist and Macmillan nurses it was decided the best route for me would be to have seven rounds of chemotherapy first followed by a mastectomy. It was uncertain when the mastectomy would actually be as they’d had to stop operations at that time due to Covid. Wow, what a whirlwind of information to take on board!
One of the first things I thought about was my hair. I had very thin, shoulder length hair and was convinced it would all go! I was told about the cold cap and thought I’d give it a go! I decided to cut my hair short first though so if it did fall out it wouldn’t be such a shock!
So, a few weeks later I found myself in a room, alone, waiting for my first treatment which I’ve now called my ‘Comedy Cancer Trip!’ Firstly, I nearly fainted when they put the canula in my arm, the alarm bell rang loud, and what seemed like hundreds of nurses, all came rushing in to my attention! I was fine, however, when I eventually got onto the ward to have the cold cap fitted, I was turned away as the hospital only had one cold cap machine, which was being used! Half an hour later they wheeled out a large blue machine or ‘The second-hand charity shop machine’ as I like to call it now, which kept stopping and bleeping every 5 minutes! I had to laugh but it was not the best of starts! I was now though, fully convinced that my hair would definitely fall out.
I did a bit of research and joined a Paxman Scalp Cooling Facebook group which gave me some insightful tips, like wearing a panty pad on my forehead, yes really, and tying a scarf around the cold cap and under my chin to ensure it was held down tight – I have the tiniest head so this was good advice. Six sessions later, I was lucky enough to have kept some of my hair. It had thinned even more and was patchy in several places, but the cold cap machine had worked.
The next phase on my cancer journey was the mastectomy. This was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make in my life but after several meetings with the Plastics Team, a lot of research and speaking to some amazing women about their experiences through Breast Cancer Now’s ‘Someone Like Me’ service, I decided to go for a single mastectomy and immediate DIEP reconstruction. It was the best decision and luckily for me the operating theatres were just opening back up again in April 2021, so I was one of the first patients to be seen.
When you are faced with a 10-hour operation under anaesthesia all sorts of dark thoughts go running through your head. ‘What happens if I don’t wake up?’ ‘Will I ever see my 8-year-old daughter again?’ So, my long-term partner of 18 years and I sprang into action, we got mirror wills made and decided it was time to tie the knot!
My hair, was again, one of the first things that I thought about! ‘Eek, I can’t get married with a patchy head, what can I do?’ It was then, that I found Headwrappers, and spoke to the lovely Karyn. Time was of the essence and I’d just missed a group session she was running but Karyn kindly offered me a one-to-one session the following week. A lovely package of scarfs, wraps and beauty products arrived, and we sat down, over zoom, for an hour and played around with lots of ways to tie and wrap my hair. It felt like I’d known Karyn for so long, she was so easy to talk to and gave me some brilliant advice. She even went out of her way, after our session, to send me some scarfs and fascinators she had in my wedding colour that might work for my big day!
In the end, I went for a simple hairband with real flowers in it to cover up my biggest patch, but I don’t think I would have got there without the huge support of Karyn.
We got married on 12 February 2021 at a small ceremony in Wandsworth Town Hall with my brother Nick who gave me away, Martin’s mum Alison and dad Kevin and our beautiful 8-year-old daughter, Rosie as our bridesmaid – it was one of the happiest days of my life!
I’m now 5 months on from having surgery and lucky enough to call myself a survivor. I’ve met some amazing people so far on my journey who’ve supported me along the way and now feel it’s time, a year later, to give something back. So, on 22 October, as part of Breast Cancer Now’s ‘Wear it Pink’ campaign, I’m organising a local fundraising event in Furzedown, Tooting. Karyn is coming along to support the event and talk about Headwrappers – we’ve gone full circle!
If you’d like to find out more or fancy donating please visit my Just Giving page at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Anna-Godsiff-TurningFurzedownPink