For many women being treated for cancer, hair loss is one of the most challenging aspects of the journey.
- Meredith Campbell was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in July 2020
- Ms Campbell said she struggled with hair loss during her chemotherapy treatment
- Writing poetry helped her cope with difficult conversations around her hair loss
Alice Springs town crier Meredith Campbell was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer at the age of 62, in July 2020.
Last September she had her right breast removed, and the next month began a gruelling round of six chemotherapy treatments.
While Ms Campbell said she wasn't overly surprised by the cancer diagnosis, she still had feelings of shock and numbness.
To cope and communicate her feelings to the world, Ms Campbell turned to poetry.
"My appearance has changed after chemotherapy ... and for me, that is the only manifestation that something has happened," she said.
Sharing the difficult news
Ms Campbell said it could sometimes be difficult sharing the news of her cancer with others, especially in the local supermarket.
"It's a bit of a drag having to explain and sometimes I can be quite rude about it," she said.
Thus, she turned to poetry, with lines such as:
Why would a woman with a Seniors Card decide to shed her locks
One thing’s for sure it wasn’t to inspire your awe and shock
So when you see a woman with a freshly-shaven dome
Just applaud her for her confidence in getting out from home.
The cancer survivor said revealing her situation via her humour-laden poem had been cathartic.
Ms Campbell said she did not want to be defined by the cancer.
"I'm not miserable, I don't need commiseration. Misery doesn't need company."
She said humour was a survival tactic.
"When you're going through and you're coming out of what is a is a very dark period for many ... humour is the best medicine, literally," she said.
"A day without laughter is a day wasted."
Ms Campbell said her mother, who died from cancer but had been "a great joker and communicator," had been part of her inspiration for getting through.
Lesley Riley, from Alice Springs support group Bosom Buddies, said Ms Campbell's witty poem had resonated with herself and other cancer survivors.
"Be sensitive and not be blunt and aware that something's going on and just be kind."
Ms Riley, a breast cancer survivor herself, applauded Ms Campbell's strategy of dealing with her diagnosis and treatment while living in a small community.
"Some of them have had mastectomies, but you can hide that with clothing.
Ms Riley said there could be a lack of awareness that hair loss often occurred during cancer treatment.
"It's very difficult to have to tell your story over and over again," she said.
"Particularly if you're not close to the person you're having a conversation with."