Mother with breast cancer started losing her hair on Christmas morning
26th December 2018

‘I had a little cry in the shower’: Mother with breast cancer recalls waking up on Christmas morning to find her hair was falling out – and donned her wig for the first time on the big day

  • Janine Vickery, 37, from Birmingham was diagnosed in November 2017
  • Within two weeks she’d had her first chemo session for Stage 4 breast cancer
  • Hair started falling out on Christmas morning and she donned wig for dinner
  • She’s since completed treatment but wears a wig to cover hair loss  

A woman who suffered with the most aggressive form of breast cancer has spoken out about the harrowing moment her hair fell out – on Christmas morning.

Janine Vickery, 37, from Birmingham mentioned a cyst in her left breast in November 2017 after attending a routine GP appointment to collect her prescription inhalers.

The mother-of-one was sent for a mammogram and a biopsy and a week later, while she was out Christmas shopping, doctors broke the devastating news that she had grade three invasive aggressive breast cancer.

She started chemotherapy around the festive period and felt the effects on Christmas morning when her hair fell out – wearing her wig for the first time at Christmas dinner. 

‘I woke up with hair all over my pillow and after I had a little cry in the shower, I put on my new wig and went around to my family’s house for Christmas lunch.

‘After the initial shock we went on like normal and had a lovely day, even though I was really unwell.’

Janine Vickery, 37, from Birmingham who has grade three invasive aggressive breast cancer, was shocked when her hair started falling out on Christmas morning last year – two weeks after her diagnosis 

Janine, 37, wearing the long brunette wig she first adopted on Christmas Day 2017, after her hair all fell out at once due to cancer treatment 

Janine underwent a mastectomy in March 2018 and finally finished treatment in September 2018, she is now a trained aesthetics practitioner who tattoos eyebrows, and aims to help women going through chemotherapy.

She first noticed a cyst-like lump on her breast in November 2017 and requested a visit to the breast clinic after a routine trip to the doctors.

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She said: ‘I’d gone to the GP to collect my inhalers but when I arrived I mentioned the cyst.

‘I’ve had cysts before and the doctor said I seemed very anxious and didn’t know why I was worrying.

‘But he said if it made me feel better he would book an appointment at a breast clinic.’

Janine undergoing treatment for grade three invasive aggressive breast cancer. She was diagnosed after mentioning a cyst in her breast during a routine trip to the doctors

As well as undergoing chemotherapy, Janine had her left breast and 15 infected lymph nodes removed

Janina has become a trained aesthetics practitioner since her cancer diagnosis, helping fellow sufferers through chemotherapy by carrying out procedures such as tattooing eyebrows lost after treatment 

Janine attended the clinic and received a mammogram and a week later she went for a biopsy and waited to get the results.

Hair loss during chemo 

Chemotherapy can cause your hair to fall out, usually two to three weeks after starting treatment.

Some chemotherapy drugs can make other hair from the body fall out, such as facial hair and pubic hair. Not all chemotherapy drugs make hair fall out, and it usually grows back after treatment finishes

Scalp cooling can reduce hair loss caused by chemotherapy. It works by reducing the amount of chemotherapy drugs reaching the hair follicles. Scalp cooling doesn’t work with all chemotherapy drugs and it’s not always possible to know how effective the treatment will be.

Some people don’t lose their hair but find it becomes dry and brittle, but they can counteract this with careful treatment to reduce further loss.

Source: NHS  

She continues: ‘The doctors said he was about ‘95 per cent certain it was a cyst and nothing to worry about.

‘I was out shopping for presents when I got a call from the clinic to go and pick up my results.

‘I didn’t think anything of it until the doctor was started asking about my family’s health history and I knew it was going to be bad. 

‘I was told I had a tumour and I was devastated – my world fell apart.

‘I was utterly terrified and the first thing I thought was “am I going to die?”

‘The doctor replied “We all die Janice.” I was shocked at his response.

‘I had lost a grandparent to cancer. This may sound very naive, but to me cancer was usually what older people get, not young women, especially not breast cancer.’

Janine is a single mum and lives at home with her daughter Abigail, 13.

She said: ‘Life was pretty hectic, I was a single mum and taking an access course to hopefully continue on to university to become a nurse.

‘I didn’t ever imagine something like this would happen to me and the hardest part was telling my daughter but she was amazing.

‘She told me we’d get through this – she was my rock.’

Before starting treatment in December, doctors ran more tests to see if the cancer had spread.

She continues: ‘It was the hardest two weeks of my life – I even started planning my funeral.

Janine is a single mum and lives at home with her daughter Abigail, 13, whose support kept her strong throughout her treatment 

‘When the news came back it hadn’t spread I cried with relief and I started chemo four weeks later.

‘It was tough going through it at that time of year but I have an amazing support system in my family around me.’

Janine admitted that after losing her hair, taking care of herself and putting effort into her appearance helped her to feel good 

Janine found out in the new year that her chemotherapy wasn’t shrinking the tumour and it grew from 2cm to 7cm.

She put her studies on hold and was scheduled for a mastectomy on her left breast in March 2018 and doctors also removed 15 infected lymph nodes.

She said: ‘The first time I saw my naked body it really didn’t faze me, I thought I might cry but I didn’t, I was just relieved.

‘I found things that kept me strong and looking good made a big difference.

‘Even on chemo you can get your eyebrows tattooed, that’s what I did and I’m so glad.

‘If you’ve got to suffer this awful journey then why not keep your head up and look glamorous.’

Two months after surgery, Janine was back on a different chemotherapy and finally finished her the nine rounds of treatment in the September 2018.

She said: ’My life is going in a different direction and I’ve trained to be aesthetics practitioner with Sata Training School and Jo Taroni at Shapers.

‘My aim is to help other women with cancer look and feel great even when they’re

‘I had to dig deep at times and keep mentally strong – cancer doesn’t mean it’s the end. You can still reach your goals and dreams.’


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