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  • Writer's pictureA. Murphy

Recovery Time

Updated: Mar 11, 2020

Six weeks of radiotherapy. Although the last week I was switched to a different machine. For five weeks the radiation focused on my entire spine, head included. The last week I was on a different machine that fired radiation at just my head. It was great, only took ten minutes and I didn't have to get undressed or remove my jewellery save my earrings and necklace. Still had to wear my mask which was a little bit looser now that I had no hair. Ah, the benefits of being bald. Actually, since shaving my head I noticed a lot of benefits. I no longer have to worry about brushing it, it no longer gets in my way when it's windy, showers take no time at all, and it's very helpful when I'm hot. Plus, I'm swimmer, so now I'm super streamlined. In fact, that's what I told the kids I worked with along with some other funny reasons. Naturally those observant little scamps noticed when my long hair suddenly vanished.

"Miss what happened to your hair?"

"Well, I wanted to be faster at swimming." or "I got really bored." or "I forgot to wear my swimming cap."


"No." I would tell them the truth in the end, or rather a watered down version of the truth. Some of the kids I work with are only small, as young as two, so I didn't really feel like it was my place to introduce them to the subject of cancer. I told them I had had some medical treatment and that's why I'm bald now. No further questions. Some of the older kids were a bit more curious, they were around thirteen, so when I told them I'd had medical treatment they nearly always said "Oh, chemo?" That put me in a bit of an awkward situation. I'm their swim coach, it is not my place to discuss these matters with them. I told them that no it wasn't chemo, which technically wasn't a lie.

I was facing a common cancer problem. Now I was bald people merely had to glance at me to know what I was going through. As I've said before most people have a knowledge of cancer through media, mainly television and film. Therefore bald = cancer, the way TV tells them it does. I wore a hat, but everyone knew anyway. I was trying not to advertise it, but my coach let the cat out of the bag.

I was working at a swimming competition, calling up the swimmers for their race and so on. My arm was covered in doodles and quotes which is what I do when I'm bored. My coach turns to me and says "It would be ironic if you survived cancer only to die of ink poisoning." We were surrounded by the entire swim team. Well, they probably suspected anyway.

Anyway, my radiotherapy passed without incident, with the exception of my hair. It was over before I realised and it wasn't so bad. I think it hurt my mother more when it ended because she no longer had access to all the puzzles they kept in the waiting room. Soon it was over, and I had a recovery period of another six weeks on my hands. Life returned to almost to normal. I walked my dogs, I went to work, which sadly is what my life mainly consists of. I was no longer in swimming training as my coach wouldn't let me. He probably thought I wasn't allowed which wasn't true but at least I didn't have to swim at 5:30 in the morning anymore. It as close as I could get to normal though, I didn't even have to wear my eyepatch anymore as my vision had settled down.

The next step in my treatment was chemotherapy, which would require me to stay in hospital. So, I was going to enjoy my time being free. Now, having completed my chemo I feel like I should have savored it even more.

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Mar 25, 2020

the children you coach will have confidence in you, and like me, would have no doubt that you would get better. Tough, wise as well as fit and ... yes... despite this, healthy.

Your telling the children that you could swim faster with a bald head reminded me of my friend, who’d had a very tough Childhood on Scotland Rd, Liverpool . Her dad, in a temper , had shaved off all her hair, when she was 8, as she’d come home from school with those pesky ‘nits’. Going into school next morning , she was quick enough to preempt comments. ‘My swimming coach says I have to shave my head for my next competition’. Bless her, she couldn’t eve…

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