The top picture was a year ago. I was out for dinner with friends, celebrating my 40th birthday.
I smiled with my girlfriends, drank wine and laughed as they chatted around me. What no-one else in that photo knew though was that I had cried for hours that day... because while getting ready I’d found a bald patch. It was on the right side of my head and was about four centimetres across.
I remember the feeling of panic as I was washing my hair and my fingers passed over the smooth patch of skin speckled with stubble. I sat on my bed and cried for a while, and then showed my husband and cried some more.
Abandoning the plan to wear my long curly hair down, I asked my husband to help me arrange it into a ponytail that would hide the area that made me feel so sad, scared and ashamed.
The pictures at the bottom were last night, when once again I went out for dinner for my birthday. I didn’t bother wearing any of my gorgeous wigs, and I felt confident and pretty. My best friend bought me some fabulous earrings to complement my bald head. Some people in the restaurant may have looked twice at me but I honestly didn’t notice if they did.
If you’d told the me in the top photo that one year later I wouldn’t have a single hair on my body, I’d have been terrified. If you’d told me I’d be okay with that - that I’d like it, even - I’d have thought you were mad.
But you’d have been right, and I’ve learned some very important lessons over the last year.
I’ve learned that things are rarely as bad as you fear.
I’ve learned that it’s okay to not feel okay.
I’ve learned that it takes bravery to say “I don’t fit society’s idea of a gorgeous woman, yet I’m gorgeous anyway”.
I’ve learned that beauty doesn’t depend on the number on the scales, the number on your dress label, or the number of hairs on your head.
And I’ve learned that feeling beautiful has nothing to do with the way you look, and everything to do with the way you look at yourself.