27 May 2014

Joanne Roberts

Joanne Roberts - Kidneys For Life patient.If loosing an eye, crippling a foot and having my stomach sliced open several times wasn’t enough to ruin my looks, I reckon fate was making damned sure it would bring me down, when my hair fell out.

Well HA! It didn’t work

After almost 30 years of Diabetes I lost most of my sight, and in fact had to start wearing a false eye to look my usual, gorgeous self. I felt very lucky that modern prosthetics looked so natural. Over the years I also lost a lot of feeling in my lower legs and feet, again through diabetes. This meant that when I broke my ankle several years ago, I didn’t know, and it remained undetected until the bones could no longer fuse properly. This left me with my beloved ‘turnip’ foot and a noticeable limp. Still I carried on making the very best of a bad job, and I did it rather well.

A couple of years later the diabetes became un-controllable, which is life threatening and blooming’ inconvenient. So, a pancreas transplant was suggested, and I was happy to go on the waiting list for a suitable organ…for 2 years. I finally got one, but rejected it, had it removed and received another one a few months later. For 12 months I thanked a Galaxy of lucky stars while my body accepted and thrived on this wonderful organ. Positively fizzing with life I began to feel really well, making me realise how sick I’d been for years. In fact I even managed to set up my own copy-writing business. Nothing was going to stop me now, so what if my stomach resembled a road map of Great Britain, I could still look good even though it took a bit longer, like any 40 year-old.

Just a few months ago my hair began to fall out, faster than my Guide Dog’s as he made ready for his winter coat. This can be a side effect of some immune suppressing drugs and can also happen after major surgery, so it’s hardly surprising when some of us transplant patients begin to loose our hair. I’d get up on a morning to find a carpet of hair on my pillow and after washing my locks I would almost block the shower!

To say I was devastated would fall well short of the mark. Although my hair was never my crowning glory, it had always been their as an essential accessory. As Samson needed his for his strength, I needed my hair for the faith I had in myself. The more it fell out the less I went out. When I finally saw the bathroom light reflect brightly off where once my parting had been, I felt like closing down, giving up and wrapping myself in a permanent duvet. Woe was definitely me.

I’ve never asked ‘Why me?’, but when an enlightened friend suggested A WIG, I stamped my foot and wailed, “Why my hair?”

I couldn’t take the wig option seriously. Don’t get me wrong, as an ex-extension addict I loved wearing them, but for fancy dress purposes only. In fact, I had a Rula Lenska, a Daryll Hannah and a Something That Looked Like The Dog’s, but anyone could tell, with every nylon strand, that they were wigs. On the other hand, I’d just started a new business and hat to tout my talents around the local business community. Networking they call it and I couldn’t do it as a bald bombshell. Worst still, I was invited to a Harvest Ball, along with my husband. ‘I’ve got no hair’ just wouldn’t excuse our absence as we simply had to go .I tentatively unwrapped my knock ‘em dead, velvet red frock and slipped it on. I looked in the mirror and laughed, possibly hysterically.

I felt my familiar stubborn streak take command of the situation. I wasn’t going to miss out on life, especially as it had just started again. A few disallowed words later, I literally swore that I would go to the ball, even if it meant I bought a wig. Later that day, I found a hairdresser and wig supplier I liked the sound of and made an appointment with them that very week.

On the day, I went along with someone I trusted, with a discerning eye, my mother of course. At that stage I didn’t have the highest of expectations. How wrong I was. We entered the salon and nobody stared at me as we were lead to a private room. Like a giant Clairol colour chart, one wall was covered with mounted wig samples, all seemingly long gorgeous tresses, in various glossy colours. Even my mother gasped and I had to sit on my hands so I wouldn’t touch. Once the assistant arrived, she told me that I could try any wig I wanted to, which was a bit of a mistake. For 2 hours I swapped a conker coloured ‘Rosalind’ for a flame red ‘Carmella’, or a honey gold ‘Guinevere’ for a chocolate satin ‘Angelica’. I had the time of my life!

When I finally calmed down, I was advised to go for something as close as possible to my own colour and style. I dutifully looked at the mousey brown shoulder length bobs. I departed having ordered a very long, deep chestnut gold ‘Chrystelle’, as close as possible to the hair I’ve always dreamt of. If I was going to have a wig then I was really going to have a wig and this Rapunzel was more than ready to let her ‘mono fibres’ down.

I’ve never looked back. The ball was as good as a ball can be, even better because I swanned around in my frock and locks, looking like I was born to it. I’ve even discovered that dark chestnut gold doesn’t really show up oxtail soup. Chrystelle has only blown off once and that was in a Scottish gale in November. I’ve even stopped boasting about my wig, when people compliment me on my hair. Now that’s progress. I am now hooked, especially as the time it takes for me to get ready has quartered and there are no bad hair days.

So YES I do say ‘HA!’ at a fate that thinks it can knock me down. My transplant is still working beautifully and although my eye’s still false and my leg still limps, I look bloody good, considering.