It has been 8 years, and I still can’t bring myself to wear my chemo curls for more than a few minutes. I spent much of my life with perfectly straight hair, then chemo took it all away and gave me curls. This madness is just so BIG and FLUFFY and PUFFY, and I just can’t seem to embrace it. Yet.
Nine-year-old Danny said to me while I was tucking him into bed tonight, “I can’t imagine you bald.” That is because he was 18 months old when chemotherapy took my hair, and he has absolutely no memory of my cancer. I love that.
Raw October: raising breast cancer awareness — one fact, figure, feeling, and photograph at a time.
Warning: Chemotherapy can change the color and texture of your hair; meaning, the hair you lose will likely not be the same hair you get back. The proof is in the photo — I lost my straight, blond locks and gained a dark, curly mop.
The hair transformation is not always a forever thing, though, because my dark is not so dark anymore, and my curls are not so curly anymore. With each passing day (there have been about 2,920 of them), I look more and more like my old self.
Raw October: raising breast cancer awareness — one fact, figure, feeling, and photograph at a time.
Forget surgery, chemo, radiation, hospitalization, and more — this is what I hated most about cancer:
But, in time, you might like the benefits of bald.
Like no shampoo; no hair drying, curling, flattening; and no time at all to get ready in the morning. (No shaving or eyebrow tweezing either.)
Not that you won’t love it when your hair returns, but bald isn’t the worst thing forever. Just in the beginning.
There once was a woman who woke up one morning, looked in the mirror, and she noticed she had only three hairs on her head. “Well,” she said. “I think I’ll braid my hair today.” So she did, and she had a wonderful day.
The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror, and she saw that she had only two hairs on her head. “H-M-M,” she said. “I think I’ll part my hair down the middle today.” So she did, and she had a grand day.
The next day, she woke up, looked in the mirror, and she noticed that she had only one hair on her head. “Well,” she said. “Today I’m going to wear my hair in a pony tail.” So she did, and she had a fun, fun day.
The next day, she woke up, looked in the mirror, and she noticed that there wasn’t a single hair on her head. “Hooray!” she exclaimed. “I don’t have to fix my hair today!”
Attitude is everything.
It seems sorta silly of me to complain about my hair, because I have hair, and having hair is a whole lot better than not having hair. I should just suck it up and be OK with the fact that I got bangs back in January, but as much as I thought I would like them (I did actually feel a fondness for them for a few days), the truth is that I really and truly prefer hair of all one length. So, I found some inner strength for the grow-out process, I purchased a few clips+headbands+other stuff, and for a while now, I’ve been blending and securing the shorter hair into the longer hair. It’s not my ideal look, but it’s holding me over, until the day comes when I can let it all flow. And on that day, I will vow — one more time — to never. ever. again. get bangs.
Oh, and the blond — yea, I’m not sure how that happened. Who knew the blond I lost, which was replaced with the darkest of dark curls, would, over time, head back to blond — and almost straight (flat iron takes care of the remaining wave, which really isn’t all that much anymore).
It makes me happy to send off my wigs to friends in need, but it makes me happier to get them back — not because I need a cover-up (please, let me never lose my hair again!), just because it means those once lost in cancer crises are all done covering their bald heads. Sporting their new sprouts, they box up the blond locks and return to sender.
Back to my bedroom closet goes this hair — until someone else needs it.
(Thank you, Tina, for your sweet note. I am so thrilled by your progress.)
For much of my life, and much to my dismay, I had bangs. I kept them around not because I wanted them, but because I never felt equipped to grow them out — too many funky stages on the path to all-one-length hair, so I resigned myself to the reality that I’d have them f-o-r-e-v-e-r.
Well, reality changed. I got cancer, and I got to lose all my hair. Devastating, it was, maybe even worse than the cancer itself and its treacherous treatments. There was one little silver lining, though — the bangs were gone. And the golden opportunity presented itself: I could grow my hair all over again, and I would not cut bangs — never, ever, again. And for six years, I didn’t. Until today, when I went to my hair stylist and told her, “I want bangs.”
It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was the best one. My bangs are longish, and I’ll sweep them to the side — these are not your traditional straight-across variety. I like how they frame my face, how they add some style, how they look warm and chocolate-y with some new chunky highlights, how they’ll hide the wrinkles that will inevitably appear more visible on my forehead. I like them. I just do. Which is a good thing, because, well, I still don’t think I have it in me to grow them out.
I told you hair loss is a biggie when it comes to cancer and chemo, right?
It’s so big, in fact, that one woman (a student specializing in Apparel Product Development and Merchandising Tecnology at Central Michigan University) is studying the topic, trying to formulate the best designs for headwear in order to improve the quality of life for women whose hair is lost to chemotherapy.
And who can better communicate ideas for great cover-up solutions than women who have lost their locks?
What follows are instructions on how you can throw in your two cents on the topic of headwear for hair loss. There’s a survey (takes 10 minutes, tops, and is completely anonymous), plus a blog where you can spill the beans about what you think (also anonymous if you wish).
- Complete an on-line anonymous survey at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/HeadwearForHairLoss. (This survey is designed for women who have hair loss right now or have had it in the past year.)
- Visit the blog dedicated to this study and comment (anonymously if preferred) on headwear-related topics. The blog can be reached at http://headwearhairloss.blogspot.com/(All women who have ever had chemotherapy-related hair loss are welcome to visit and leave feedback.)
Please participate if you can — you might just make the chemo road easier for those who must travel it after you.
Hats For You offers hats, caps, and scarves for those suffering hair loss due to cancer and chemotherapy, and from the looks of this online store, there are many options, which is a big thing in the chemo game.
Hair loss is a biggie. I mean, a B-I-G-G-I-E, and sometimes even worse than the cancer itself. Just look at what some readers had to say in response to my post, “Hair Loss: How Did You Handle It?”
I did not look at myself in the mirror while I had no hair unless I was wearing a hat and then only rarely. / Caroline
I so want to keep my hair. It took so long to get it where it is, it’s really screwed up to have to start over from zero. / Tracy
This too has been one of the hardest things I’ve endured during this adventure in “cancerland!” / Lisa
I still don’t know how exactly to describe how I felt about my hair loss. I told myself and anyone that asked that losing my hair was the least of my concerns and I really believed that I would be okay with it. I mean it’s just hair, and it does grow back. I had my hair cut short for the first time in my adult life 2 weeks before it was scheduled to dissappear. Someone told me that this might make the transition easier. Many compliments and thank-yous later I found myself in the shower with large clumps of hair in my hands, sobbing uncontrollably. I had a complete meltdown that morning, the first. Privately. And I so shocked myself with my reaction and the ensuing fear that my legs gave out on me in that shower. This made it real. / Liane
Yes, options are good. See what you can find at Hats For You!
This is a really good deal — a pink flat iron (the GVP version) for $59.00, plus a free pink and black cosmetic case. Sally Beauty Supply is the spot, so head into a store near you, or you can order online. Your call — just keep in mind, these are limited-edition items, and they’ll only be around while supplies last. Hurry!
You don’t have to get the flat iron if you need other hair care gear — there are pink traditional curling irons and blow dryers, too — I just have flat irons on the brain, because mine fell on the bathroom floor two days ago and cracked into a bunch of little ceramic pieces, which lead me right to Sally’s, where I got myself a shiny new one!
Don’t worry if you don’t have a hair on your head right now, or your locks are tumbling from your head, because it will grow back, and you might end up with curls in a few months, and you might hate those curls, and you might need to straighten them. That’s how it happened for me, anyway, which is why I crank up that iron every morning, and why you should get yourself one now, while the price is right.
I’m telling you, you just might need it!
I’m not sure which I like more — the hair or the hat.
But the hair, well, that’s where the story is.
That pretty blond hair is a wig. It’s mine, and because I never did find the courage to rock my bald head during chemo, I wore it every single day for months and months. It was perfect.
Made of human hair, and with a soft cotton top, my underhair was made by Hip Hats With Hair. It’s intended for use with hats, or scarves, or something that covers the top of the head, and there’s nothing itchy or scratchy about it.
That’s why Tina loves it.
I think she’s going to enjoy how easy it is to care for, too. She just needs to wash, condition, brush, comb, curl, spray — anything she’d do to the hair that once sprouted from her head.
Tina — whom I’ve come to know via a common friend — shaved her head just this week because the darn stuff was falling from her head in clumps. The wigs she’d tried were uncomfortable, and so I mailed her mine. She received it today.
Tina’s not the first person who has used this hair, my friend Carmen borrowed it, too — twice. It just sits in a box on the floor of my bedroom closet, and since I plan to never need it again, I am happy to share. Tina’s friend calls it the “Sisterhood of the Traveling Wig,” and that pretty much sums it up. Connected by cancer, we girls must stick together.
And matters of the hair take top priority.
It’s got to be one of the hardest things about cancer — hair loss! And I know my friend is hating the idea of being bald, just like most of us do, but still, she is handling it with such grace. Her technique: she cut her very long hair very short in anticipation of the big fallout. I like her approach, which is so totally different than mine.
I kept my very long hair around until the very last moment. I think I wanted so badly to not lose it, that I fought back by making not one single preparation. Silly me. The docs and nurses and every other breast cancer survivor I’d met told me it would happen, plus pretty much exactly when it would happen (about day 11-16 after the first chemo treatment), and still, I crossed my fingers tight and hoped like mad that I’d be the exception. And on the day of my second chemo dose (day 14), I wore a hat on my head to hold each hair in its place — it was starting to fall out in clumps, wash away in the shower, and it was pulling so hard on my head it hurt — when I should have accepted the inevitable and surrendered. I did surrender that night — cut off three ponytails, and handed the clippers to my husband and 4-year-old, who shaved while I cried — but only because I could no longer hold onto the hair I so desperately did not want to lose.
My friend has accepted the inevitable, and I love that about her!
How did you handle your hair loss?
My new two-time-cancer-surviving friend Rebecca needs your vote. You see, she is trying to get a charity called Hair 4 You off the ground. It’s a great one, and the goal is that it will provide free wigs for kids and teens with medical hair loss. In order to make it all happen, though, Hair 4 You needs to become an official non-profit 501(3)c, which means Rebecca needs some funds.
No, she doesn’t want your money, just your vote (voting is absolutely free and requires only an email address and password).
So, can you pretty please stop by the Pepsi Refresh Challenge website and cast your vote for this 24-year-old, who would really love to win a $25,000 prize. Imagine what she could do to brighten the worlds of young people who just want to feel normal. And hey, you can vote once every day, so start now, then keep voting through June 30.
Rebecca thanks you.
I do, too.
Also, you should consider becoming a Facebook fan of Hair 4 You. This way, you’ll get updates on how Rebecca’s cause is coming along.
The toughest part of my dance with breast cancer was losing my hair. Seems crazy, doesn’t it, that a tumor was living in my body, threatening to take my entire life away, and I was worried about my hair. Yea, crazy. I know that now that I’m alive, probably because the same drugs that left me bald also wiped out a treacherous disease. Still, it’s heartbreaking to lose a headful of hair. Even Farrah Fawcett, who is courageously fighting her own cancer battle, hung onto her famous hair for as long as she could, only succumbing recently to the toxic hair-stealing chemotherapy drugs.
The reality of cancer treatment is that many people will lose their hair. And lots of them, like me, will determine it a tragedy. That’s why the Look Good … Feel Better (LGFB) program exists — to help women face the challenge of a lifetime. LGFB (organized by the American Cancer Society) offers workshops to help cancer survivors feel better. I attended one, and I learned how to draw on eyebrows (yes, chemo takes those too), apply make-up on blotchy skin and cover my head with wigs and scarves. I went home with my very own cosmetic kit, matched to my skin tone, and I met a whole bunch of women walking in shoes that were much like mine. LGFB also offers one-on-one consultations, self-help materials and a 24/7 toll free information and help line — 1-800-395-LOOK.
Take advantage of LGFB if you can. And suggest it to any loved ones who might need it. And do you know of any survivors who deserve to win a trip to NYC (you, maybe)? Check out this contest. LGFB is celebrating its 20th anniversary by searching for five Women of Hope they can pamper with a complimentary make-over and a trip to the annual DreamBall, a black-tie gala and the program’s largest annual fundraiser.
By the way, that’s Nancy up top. She’s a LGFB participant. Doesn’t she look good?