Chemotherapy & Hair Loss – It is a Big Deal!
About two years ago I finished up chemo. About two years ago hubby finally shaved off what little remained of my hair.
As I’ve shared with you before, I chose not to shave off my hair during chemo or when it started falling out. I waited until chemo was over. I guess I wanted to see how much of my hair would or would not fall out. Doing things that way made me feel more in control for whatever reason.
Probably more people choose to shave the hair off early on, which of course, is fine too. There is no “right way to do cancer” so there is no right way “to do hair loss” either.
I will never forget that November day when hubby and I finally decided to get out the dog trimmer (yes, I said the dog trimmer) and tackle the job of shaving my head. Even though I didn’t have much hair left, shaving off the remaining strands was still traumatic. I’m sure it was quite traumatic for hubby as well, though he didn’t let on. What hair I still had was mine and I hated parting with it, but I did. I wanted to start over from scratch.
Being bald was hard for me, especially in the beginning. Even now when I see photos of my bald self, it’s still quite startling for me to look at them.
Hair loss is a huge deal for most women and men as well, whether it’s a result of chemo, other cancer treatment, hereditary hair loss, alopecia or whatever reason. I continue to get emails about hair loss fairly often and also continue to get comments on my posts about shaving the head or not.
Some women even admit that losing their hair is harder than losing a breast. This says an awful lot doesn’t it?
Efrat Roman, a blogger I recently started following, wrote a post about hair loss and had this to say about it:
“At first, ALL I could think about, were THE CHILDREN
The thought of DEATH went through my head
But, from the moment it reached there, whenever I thought of myself,
It was ALL
Pretty powerful, wouldn’t you agree?
I always begin my responses to emails or comments about hair loss by saying yes, losing your hair is a big deal. I’m not going to pretend it isn’t. Losing your hair is a loss. If you feel traumatized by this loss, you are not vain; you are normal.
In my opinion when people say things like, it’s only hair or it will grow back, it’s really not very helpful as it diminishes this loss. You are entitled to grieve for things you lose to cancer, including your breasts and hair. This doesn’t mean dwell on these things, but as always, you are entitled to feel and acknowledge your true feelings, including those about hair loss.
Having said that, if you are about to begin chemo, or if you are losing your hair for whatever reason, I’d also like you to know that it probably won’t be as bad as you imagine it will be. And others, especially loved ones, definitely won’t care about it as much as you do.
I’m not saying it won’t be difficult. But sometimes we imagine the worst, especially when our body image comes into play, and our hair is very often a huge component in determining how we see or do not see ourselves.
“A bad hair day,” need I say more?
My advice for helping a loved one who is, or will be losing their hair is pretty simple.
Instead of saying, it’s only hair, think about saying something like, I’m really sorry you are (or will be) losing your hair. That must be hard. Add in a hug and I promise that will be enough.
For whatever reason, I’m finally feeling ready to share a few photos of myself when I was bald. Sharing these photos is emotionally difficult for me even now, but at the same time it’s something I want to do, I’m not entirely sure why. My intention has always been to use this blog to share candidly about my experiences with all, or almost all, aspects of the maze that is cancer. Seeing my photos might help someone else. Or perhaps sharing them is part of my own healing. I don’t know.
I do know this:
Hair or no hair, you are still you.
It isn’t just hair, but then again it is.
Note: If you are facing chemotherapy and/or potential hair loss, check out my book called, Getting Past the Fear: A guide to help you mentally prepare for chemotherapy. In my book, I address this fear of hair loss and offer practical advice on how to deal with it.
Have you ever lost your hair for any reason and if so, how did that make you feel?
Has anyone every said to you, it’s only hair, and if so, did you find those words to be helpful?
Do you have tips for dealing with hair loss?