‘After four months of chemotherapy, I was so fed up with finding hair everywhere that I called my mum and said: just shave it off. I felt so miserable in the shower with strands of hair in my hands day after day. I used to get rid of them by sticking them to the wet tiles on the wall. My mum is a hairdresser and wanted to shave me herself. We were kind of dreading it, but it turned out to be a very warm and sweet moment. She made a braid out of one strand, which she keeps in a frame.
Although I would have been able to keep going for quite a while, I knew that I would go bald eventually, so I had my wig ready for a while. One time, when I still had hair, my boyfriend Joost jokingly came into the living room with that thing on his head - I laughed so hard. We took a hilarious picture - he looked a lot like me with that wig on.
Going bald was quite convenient. My head was dry right after showering, I didn’t need to detangle it, and my legs had never been so smooth. However, it completely changed my appearance: I was suddenly a cancer patient. It was especially hard on my parents. I looked less ill with a wig on, but I had a hard time getting used to it. It felt as if I had a dead guinea-pig on my head - really hot and unnatural. I preferred to wear beanies, but if I wore them out and about, Joost and I would often get encouraging nods. I found that quite challenging.
I was able to handle being bald quite well: your hair or your life, that’s not a difficult choice to make. I found it harder to come to terms with the fact that I gained so much weight. Prednisone made me swell up, and I got stretch marks and bumps everywhere. I didn’t recognize myself anymore. My clothes looked different too, now that I didn’t have hair anymore. All of a sudden, I found some T-shirts too boyish. I started wearing makeup or earrings more often to look more feminine overall. Joost kept saying that he still saw the old Viora: ‘Your eyes are still exactly the same, and that’s what I look at’, he said. I found that hard to believe, but it did help. Another thing that has helped is haptotherapy. I was never miserable when I looked in the mirror. Instead, I focused on the fact that this was temporary. When the treatment was over, we would travel around the world.
In April 2019 we went travelling for a year, as we’d said we would. An amazing experience that we would never have had if I hadn’t got sick. My hair has grown long in the meantime, the kilos are gone and, most importantly: I’m healthy. Before getting ill, I was a really fit girl, always working on my weight and building muscle. Now, I exercise for a completely different reason: I want what’s best for my body. I find it so extraordinary that everything is working again. My illness has made me realize that you could lose your happiness in a split second. That makes me grateful, not scared. I recently started coaching others in dealing with adversity. My illness has given me so much. I wish others could feel as happy as I feel now.’