A fashion graduate from Middlesex University has set up an eye-catching blog in response to her experience of chemotherapy, after being diagnosed with cancer just before finishing her degree.
Twenty-five year-old Maya Lund was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma five days before she handed in her final project on her BA Fashion course last summer. And when she lost her hair during chemotherapy she responded by demonstrating her creativity, posting pictures of herself on her Belle of the Bald blog modelling different designs and adornments she had created on her head.
Maya said: “Even though I knew it was coming, the hair loss was a real shock. I had the idea of a blog because I thought people would find it difficult to talk to me about my cancer – I’m a visual person, so it was natural for me to use pictures to show people my experience. I didn’t want to do anything too depressing, but something positive.”
Maya’s blog was also an alternative to the many examples she found online of people talking about their experiences of cancer and their treatment. Once her treatment had started, she found she was simply too tired to think about keeping up a text-heavy blog.
Among the striking photos in Maya’s blog is her reaction to being stared at in the street. Maya poses with scores of eyes stuck to her head. In the accompanying text she says: “I don’t really mind the staring when I’m ready for it but on the odd occasion I do forget for a slight second what I’m going through, what I look like, and that’s the moment I find everything comes crashing back down to reality.”
She said: “A lot of what goes in the blog comes from what I go through.”
The last few months of Maya’s degree at Middlesex saw her make constant trips back to her home town of Southend-on-Sea, where she was undergoing tests. She said it was difficult to concentrate on her work but that she was pleased she was able to finish her studies before having chemotherapy.
“I was extremely tired all the time and with the long hours my degree required, the work started snowballing,” she said. “When I would get to the hospital there would always be at least a two hour waiting time and then there would be the actual consultation which always ended up being bad news. By the time I got home I was exhausted.
“Because of this I had to find ways of getting my work done in the quickest way possible. On my course the fashion shows were my deadlines and this could not be postponed. I felt proud of myself that I was still able to finish my degree despite the pressure I was under.”
She added: “My friends were amazing during this time often phoning me in the morning making sure I was up and getting ready. This was a lifesaver as it was difficult for me to get up in the mornings because I was so tired all the time.”
The fashion graduate, who wants to raise awareness for Teenage Cancer Trust, said the blog was also useful to introduce routine into her life.
She said: “With my degree there was a deadline every day and now sometimes you can get quite depressed being at home all the time. But the blog helps and I get a lot of good feedback on Facebook for it. I have chosen to support Teenage Cancer Trust as I believe it’s incredibly important to not go through cancer alone. Support from your friends and family is important but to have someone to talk to who understands your worries is important too. The nurses at the chemo clinic were amazing I couldn't have asked for better care but the people in the clinic were often older than me and their worries and concerns were different from mine.
“My education was interrupted, I had to move back home, away from my friends and my career had to be put on hold. These were issues that were affecting me and it would have been of great benefit to know that I was not the only 25 year old going through this.
“The Teenage Cancer Trust website was a big help to me. They had a forum where you could talk to other cancer patients and share your experiences. Teenage Cancer Trust has built 17 specialist units in NHS hospitals across the UK and their goal is to build a further 16 so that all young people needing hospital treatment for cancer have access to the dedicated, specialist support we provide. I believe that cancer is different for younger people and their website is an important way for young people to communicate about their experiences.”
Among the responses to Maya’s blog is a request from a PhD student to interview her for their thesis.
She hopes above all to project a positive message with the Belle of the Bald. “If someone can be seen being happy,” she said, “it’s less scary for people going through the same thing.”