Lottie Rennie, a watercolour artist and young breast cancer survivor tells her story of diagnosis, treatment, recovery and her amazing new curls.
Friday 13th October I was diagnosed with Invasive Lobular Carcinoma. I had a tumour measuring 8.7cm in my left breast at the age of 33. Married, no kids, I felt like I'd been given a death sentence. Fast forward a couple of weeks and my treatment plan was set. Chemotherapy!!! Six months of it. I had long, thick, natural light honey blonde hair with a slight kink in it. My hair was my crown, I looked after it. How could I live without my hair? However, being an all or nothing young woman, two weeks prior to chemotherapy starting, I woke up one morning and decided to walk into a salon and have the lot shaved off. I couldn't cope with seeing it fall throughout chemo, so off it came, gone. In less than five minutes.
Chemotherapy began, and every three weeks I was pumped with red liquid and then clear; I'd found myself some awesome wigs. A silver blue one, a purple one, two blonde ones and one brunette. I wore the blonde ones when I felt I needed to feel like me. The others were when I wanted to be a bit more daring. My hair continued to grow throughout chemo so I shaved it off a further two times during the course of the treatment. Throughout the treatment I used organic rosemary, cedar wood, blue chamomile and frankincense oils, correctly diluted into organic argan oil. I applied this twice a day, every day to my scalp. The benefits of these oils are amazing, especially for scalp care and hair growth. It was at this point I began to research the benefits of botanicals and their use for our body, skin and hair.
The Last Shave
Chemo finished the 5th of May 2018. By this time my hair had grown two inches all over my head but it was baby fluff! I shaved it off one last time. It felt counter intuitive but it was the best decision I made. Days after this last shave my hair was sprouting, rather quickly and thickly too! Then came the kink. A slight wave in my hair. But it was dark blonde. A new colour!
You see, I could deal with the cancer and the treatment plan. I was in control of what treatments I said yes too, what surgery I had and when. Of course I did everything. I didn't refuse any treatment or surgery. But my hair? Well, I had no control. The sprouts throughout chemo kept falling, despite my head being shaved. I gained weight due to the steroids I took daily for six months during chemo. In my eyes I was fat, breast-less, lacking energy and bald as a badgers rear. But I danced in the rain, I really did. I felt the rain drops fall onto my prickly scalp.
June 13th 2018 was the day on paper I became cancer free. With thanks to my most amazing consultant, surgeon, now friend and supporter. A bilateral mastectomy was carried out on this day, with no reconstruction as of yet. I remember waking up with no wig on, no breasts and I felt as though I may as well be a man. I couldn't have felt less feminine and this feeling continued. Within two hours after surgery, my wig was back on.
By October of 2018 I was almost ready to go out in public without a wig. But my wigs had become a safe place for me, I rarely went 'wig free' and bald. In public and in front of others I wore my wigs 99% of the time, drew on eyebrows every single day and when I could be bothered, wore false eyelashes.
Kick Cancer's Arse into Oblivion Curls
Fast forward to August 2019, sporting a misshapen bob and a mass of newly formed curls since chemo, I decided to take up the Curly Girl Method that I had been reading about for quite some time. I wanted to embrace my curls and change them from being 'chemo curls' to 'I chose to fight and kick cancer's arse into oblivion curls'. They're my curls, some wavy, some ringlets, some tunnel curls, some coils but my curls, my hair.
In October 2019, my two year cancerversary arrived and I needed a new-ish look. I visited a Curly Girl approved salon called Hair Magic in Loughborough. Along came my biggest hair cut, two inches off the back. I felt the anxiety build and with that I had to text my husband for moral support. Natasha who was cutting my hair, carefully swept my hair away so I couldn't see it on the floor. Cutting curl by curl, a neat bob formed. Bea, a hair stylist in the same salon then applied my colour. Low lights, highlights, silver and then pink. Pink! I have pink hair. Not because of breast cancer awareness but because I'd always wanted it. After losing my hair and finally after 17 months of growing my hair, I got it.
Curly Hair Care
It was here I tried Trepadora for the first time. The girls used the Hibiscus Pink Cleansing Clay-Wash to cleanse. It smelled amazing, like Autumn and biscuits. They also used the Acai Berry Fix Defining Gel. I came away with a bottle of this and a bottle of the Avocado Kokum. The former has meant I've gone three days without having to do a full re-wet refresh (I normally do this every other day in between co-washing). The latter, the Avocado Kokum Curl Defining Smoothie is pure genius. Finally I've found a product I can use on not only wet hair, but dry hair, for the in-between days. Both Curly Girl friendly and amazing. I can't wait to try more Trepadora products. I am so glad Hair Magic introduced me to this vegan, British brand.