LAST week was my ‘chemotherapy week’ – 15 injections in seven days of a toxic material designed to kill my cancer but which also invades every other cell in my body.

My partner, Jane, said that by Sunday night she was really worried about me. I looked like ‘death warmed up’ and she checked on me several times in the afternoon while I was sleeping off the effects of the treatment.

In a way I’m lucky with my chemotherapy because I get the less toxic form of it which means I don’t lose my hair. So if you met me on the street you wouldn’t know I had cancer or chemo. But I keep meeting women with a stage three breast cancer diagnosis which is obvious because they have lost their hair.

I didn’t think much about the difference until I read the Oxford Mail on Tuesday and came across an article and photograph of a local woman, Jo Chapman from Roke. She had a full head of beautiful hair and was smiling and hugging her young daughter – all very normal except with her left hand she was holding on to her daughter’s cherry pink parka.

It was not the light touch of a happy-go-lucky young mum. It was the worried clutch of a mother with big questions on her mind. The headline right below read ‘I’ll decide when I lose my hair – not cancer’.

Jo was promoting Rokefest, a small village music and beer festival on the Spring Bank Holiday aiming to raise money – £5,000 – for cancer research.

Jo does have breast cancer and she is raising the money for a head shaving video; and she’s urging others to “be brave, be bald, be beautiful”, and shave their heads to raise funds at the annual event.

I didn’t know exactly what the problem was here or why it was a big thing until I read BBC TV’s news presenter Victoria Derbyshire’s Cancer Diary where she wrote very powerfully with the ring of honesty: “Losing my hair bothers me much, much more than losing a breast. Why is that? Because without your hair, you don’t look like you.”

I meet several people each week, women who are bald, in the Daily Treatment Unit for cancer at the Churchill Hospital, but I don’t feel like I can go up to them and ask the tough questions. So I rang a friend, Vanessa Pickwoad from North Oxford.

I knew Vanessa went through hair loss from cancer some years ago and would be honest with me and I was right.

She was typically candid about the whole experience: “Losing my hair was by far the worst of the whole ordeal of chemotherapy. It happened so suddenly. Within three days all the hair on my body vanished, eyelashes, nostrils and my normal hair on top of my head.

“Going through the ordeal makes you look vulnerable. Well, you are vulnerable, but this emphasizes that and usually one tries to hide vulnerability, doesn’t one?

“We had our first grandchild, Chloe, shortly after I lost all my hair. This baby, who was a few months old, looked worried when I put my head in her cot close to her with a hat on, so I took it off and the child smiled. I thought if this affects a baby so dramatically maybe it’s not such a good thing to wear a scarf or hat, so I went bald. I’ve never worn a wig. I’ve got one but didn’t like it so never wore it.

There is something about hair loss for women that is different. You are completely denuded.

“My granddaughter’s hair grew in at the same rate as mind did. My original hair was straight and long and grew in unbelievably curly; so I had a phase of looking like Annie Lennox, which I quite enjoyed.

“It’s very punishing. I’m a grandma, but I would do it again – whatever it takes. I’m fully prepared to take the medication.”

I now have a much better understanding of that casual glimpse of a young mum holding her daughter’s coat with determination before she has her hair shaved off to raise money for the Roke Festival starting on Friday, May 25, and if I’m in the country I’ll be there to support her.