When Yasmin Ajaj a 25-year-old teacher was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma, it was important that she shave her hair before she lost it all to chemo. While she didn’t have power over her diagnosis, this was the one decision she could make without consulting a doctor or nurse. It helped her take back control, it marked the start of her fighting cancer and the discovery of who she was underneath her hair.*
I was in the shower when I felt a strange bump in my neck. It wasn’t until I got out and looked in the mirror that I saw a lump the size of a ping pong ball coming out of the side of my neck. I immediately burst into tears – I knew straight away that something was wrong. After three weeks of back and forth with the doctors and antibiotics for what they thought was an infection, I was sent for a scan and biopsy which confirmed what I feared: it was cancer.
A day or two after my diagnosis, I decided to chop off my hair. If it was going to fall out anyway, why not just have some fun and make the best of a bad situation? I reached out to an ex-schoolmate who is now a barber and asked him if he’d be able to do it. He was so happy that I’d chosen him to help me take the first step in my journey to fight cancer.
Losing my hair has taught me not to worry about the little things in life and to take control of your happiness.
The nurses at the hospital found it amusing when I went in with my short hair as most people usually wait for their hair to fall out before they shave it. But for me, this was my way of taking control of a situation I had no control over.
At first, I was against wearing a wig but towards the end of my treatment, I’d look in the mirror and wouldn’t even recognise myself. So when I was offered a wig from the Little Princess Trust, I decided to go for it. My face was so puffy and I’d lost my hair, eyebrows and eyelashes, but wearing a wig became a way for me to blend in.
Last October marks one year of me being cancer-free and honestly, I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to long hair. I feel like I’ve found myself by having my hair short and I get complimented so much on it.
My routine is so much easier. It’s allowed me to be a lot more daring with my style.
My styling routine is so much easier. It’s allowed me to be a lot more daring with my style and I love playing around with a more androgynous look. Before I’d feel like I had to wear loads of make-up, now I wear lighter makeup and look more fresh-faced because of the way that short hair frames my face.
To anyone that’s just been diagnosed with cancer, I’d tell them to be kind to yourself. Losing my hair has taught me not to worry about the little things in life and to take control of your happiness.
*As told to Beth Strong