IN the lead-up to Daffodil Day on August 24, journalist Nadine Morton will be looking at the subject of cancer in our city – from the support services available for patients to the volunteers who offer love and compassion to those fighting the disease. This is the first part in a weekly series.
SURGERY, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, doctors, tests – there are a lot of things that anyone undergoing treatment for cancer is forced to deal with on a daily basis.
Hair loss is another.
Jann Gallen, 71, was undergoing an annual breast examination in April when she “experienced pain, soreness and discomfort”.
- Read more: What is Daffodil Day?
What followed was rounds of tests and then just a week later she was on the operating table after doctors found a tumour in her breast.
She might be in the fight of her life, but Mrs Gallen says one Bathurst cancer support service has given her a much-needed boost.
“I knew that one of the things that would happen to me would be loss of hair and because I’d been experiencing hair loss through auto-immune disease and alopecia, that I probably wouldn’t come out of this in one piece,” she said.
“I accepted it because there had to be a better thing than looking like a bad throw rug.
I accepted it because there had to be a better thing than looking like a bad throw rug.
“I made an appointment to meet the ladies at the [Daffodil Cottage] Wig Library for the first time and they explained a few things which made me feel very confident.”
Mrs Gallen brought along her husband Peter to the appointment to look at wigs.
“I still had hair and I took my husband because I trust his opinion of how I look,” she said.
“We both agreed on this particular wig I’m wearing which is flattering and I like it and it’s comfortable.
“It lifted me to look in the mirror and see myself. I should have had this done years ago.”
Mrs Gallen has only been wearing the wig for a short while, but said she is already feeling better about herself.
“I had brown hair that was going grey. It had holes in it, it was very fine and it wasn’t healthy and anything would have been an improvement, to be honest,” she said.
“I’m standing better, my posture has improved … I’m feeling good, I’m feeling really positive and good and not afraid.
“I wasn’t happy with the way my looks were.”
Mrs Gallen said it was absolutely imperative to have this “little confidence boost” that the wig has provided.
The crowning glory, the whatever it is we do with our hair, it defines us and once you lose that definition you feel like a bit of a lost soul.
“The crowning glory, the whatever it is we do with our hair, it defines us and once you lose that definition you feel like a bit of a lost soul,” she said.
“The look on my husband’s face when he saw me with my head shaved was just mind-boggling. I think it still upsets him; it was such a shock for him. It was very confronting for him.
“If I have questions I can go back to Mandy and Heather [from the Daffodil Cottage Wig Library] and they will make time, they’re that kind of people.”
Support from community and services
MRS Gallen has praised her local community and medical teams for the support they have shown since her diagnosis in April.
“We don’t realise as community members that there is so much support, generosity, warmth, good feeling in the community and in the health services that look after us and I’m gobsmacked by the quality of people I’ve met since I’ve had cancer and been treated for it,” she said.
“Don’t be afraid to utilise the services there, and they are there.
“I lost a dear friend, probably 18 or 20 years ago now, who was so afraid of having cancer that she never told anybody that she thought she had it.”
- Find out more about the Daffodil Cottage Wig Library