breast cancer · chemotherapy · FEC -D · Hair loss

Eyebrows are History

Hairs from my eyebrows and eyelashes are falling like the first sporadic drops of rain just before a downpour after three doses of FEC – D chemotherapy.  When I look down, I observe them floating in slow motion as they singularly drop away from my face like feathers.  One here, one there.  On the iPad screen, on my sandwich, on the counter in the bathroom.  I am losing them.

Applying mascara is not the same.  Yet I persist.  Once thick lashes are so, so thin. Single hairs cling onto my eyelids as the mascara brush tries to coat them.  The eyeballs are highly vulnerable to this new exposure.  The brush can go dangerously close to these now.  This mascara stuff is tricky to apply.

Like landscapes that have been cleared of dense thickets of healthy trees. Exposed and desolate.  The remaining hairs are open to predatory threats; an eye rub, some rapid blinking, a gentle wintery breeze, tears.  The threats come frequently.

A face and eyes without eyelashes and eyebrows is strange.  I’m feeling more vulnerable at the loss of these.  Yet I have lost other things and they didn’t bother me so much.  My breast,  my long head hair,  and that state of blissful ignorance I existed in before this cancer diagnosis.  Strange.

The hairs from my nostrils have been long gone too.  The only clue a dripping nose.  Liquid once slowed and caught in the nasal cavities is now given a clear and speedy path to run free.  The intermittent nasal drips come when you least expect it. When I have both hands busy and cannot catch it with tissue. Normally in public company. Drip.  The sniffle comes too late.

In the history of mankind, not a soul has written about the history of eyebrows or eyelashes.  Because it shouldn’t be something that matters.

Oh wait, Google reveals that many people have indeed written of how cultures have long prized eyebrows in their limitless forms.

In 17th Century society, women donned mouse hide brow wigs.  Now there is an idea! There is a mouse in our kitchen on these cold wintery nights which I have been meaning to do something about and I happen to naturally be mousey brown too! Score!

Queen Elizabeth the First a real plucker.
Queen Elizabeth I was a real plucker.

Skinny brows were all the rage during medieval times in Europe, when women favored a pale, eggheaded look and plucked their hairlines to achieve it.  So just call me Queen Elizabeth I, whose bare brow and tweezed hairline enhanced the domed forehead and pale complexion she painted with a toxic white, lead-based pigment.  Of course, being winter here at the moment, I don’t even need to paint my brow-less face and my forehead goes on forever so I can carry off this look fairly well.

Also during the 1600s, people rubbed walnut oil onto their children’s eyebrows to inhibit hair growth.

Feeling a bit more like Mona Lisa everyday sans head hair.

The Mona Lisa’s (1503-1519) eyebrowlessness adds to her intrigue, but she may not have started out that way. In 2007, an ultra-high resolution camera found a single brushstroke of hair above the painting’s left brow, which may suggest that Leonardo da Vinci revised his famous painting, or that a curator accidentally removed the brows and eyelashes in a dodgy attempt to clean the work.  More interesting facts about the history of eyebrows can be found at

In high school as 12 year olds, we used to be entertained often by a Geography teacher called Mr V who was able to raise his eyebrows independently of the other.  The hilarity of it would get us back on task.  The things teachers have to do to drive engagement!

This newfound eyebrow grief has nothing to do with the fact that one of my best mates from high school who I shall refer to as ‘Bevan Lemon’  visited me on Friday.  This friendship has spanned a mere 27 years. Ever since I watched him as a tall 11 year old, smashing it on the tennis court. In those days, I thought he would grow into a form of Ivan Lendl who was number one in the world at the time. But it wasn’t to be.  He became a much more attractive adult than Ivan.

I travelled through Europe with him 17 years ago and we chased down on foot some Tour De France helicopters, running frantically against the clock from the Saint-Étienne Railway Station in an attempt at seeing a stage end of the Tour in time.

On Friday before we went out for a beautiful dinner, his gorgeous Dr wife noted that I still had my eyebrows.  And in true Bevan Lemon style he interjected with “Except they don’t look right!”   The dinner and company was amazing!  And thankfully no eyebrow hairs or eyelashes dropped on the dinner plates in the course of the dining experience. Well not that anyone noticed!

Divine food with the great company of Mr Cool,  Bevan Lemon and his amazing Dr Wife before the next dose of chemo on Tuesday.
Divine food with the great company of Mr Cool, Bevan Lemon and his amazing Dr Wife before the next dose of chemo on Tuesday.

For your amusement and to highlight the uneasiness I feel when I now look in the the mirror, take look at  Celebrities Without Eyebrows.  Of course, these celebrities got to keep their head hair and eyelashes while Photoshop took only their eyebrows, but you’ll get the picture I’m sure.

My eyebrows and eyelashes are now history. Well for the rest of 2013 anyway.

9 thoughts on “Eyebrows are History

  1. Lovely post.

    I didn’t lose my eyebrows till a few weeks after chemo finished. I felt this was DEEPLY unfair. Hang on, when was cancer ever fair?

    …. and as for the drip drip drip… I saw my breast care nurse the other day, and she said to me, “Do you have a new respect for nasal hair?” You bet. It’s so unexpected. And humiliating.



  2. I see what you mean it changes the face so much in those pictures.. You don’t realise how important eyebrows and eyelashes are to ones look.. People talk about losing their hair but not the rest.. These are all things that are never talks about especial the nasal drip.. So thank you for giving them a voice. Look after yourself… The light is out there somewhere in the future… Xx


  3. Lisa yet am gain I get a little sign from you. Take it as you wish but this morning as I made my cereal I saw an eyelash clinging to the side of the bowl stuck in the milk. Have to be honest I have never ever noticed an eyelash dropped anywhere and I was surprise and tried to fish it out but I only managed to push it down into my cereal. Oh no I said. Now I have to eat my own eyelash (I’m a but queasy about hair in my mouth. Poor old Iain haha ) anyway so seeing this blog ping through to my phone now is a sign. Like the boat named after your town in the river last week xxxxxx


  4. You’ve spoken about an “interesting” subject. There’s actually a medical condition in which one loses eyelashes and cannot regrow them–maderosis. And having it can be a disability if you are a model. Eyelashes and eyebrows protect the eyes from dust and other blowing debris. One of my former students had false eyelashes adhered when she herself had no eyelashes. I don’t know if I missed them that much. I have found my new eyebrows and eyelashes better than my old ones. I never had long eyelashes and my eyebrows were short. Now I have a longer eyebrows and more/longer eyelashes. Not that I recommend chemo for getting this new growth!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s