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Hair, Hair Cuts & How Much Do You Share?

I’ve written about hair many times. Hair posts seem to strike a chord. If you’re a woman, hair is always on your mind. Well, maybe not always; but hair is on your mind at least once or twice a day, probably many more times if you’re honest. Maybe this is true for men, too, but it’s not quite the same deal.

Hair and/or the lack of hair is a bigger deal if you happen to be female. This is not at all fair of course, and we might not like to admit it’s true, but this doesn’t mean it isn’t.

Need proof?

Well, no one cringes when they see a bald man out in public; but plenty of people cringe, or at least do a double-take, when they see a bald woman, or even just a woman with really “bad” hair, whatever that means to whoever is doing the looking.

And let me just say again, I hated being bald. Hated it. I know some of you say you find/found it to be freeing. I respect you for thinking like that, but I just never felt freed by my baldness.

If truth be told, I felt even more “imprisoned” by cancer when I was bald.

Fast forward a bit…

Eventually, post-chemo  I did manage to grow some new hair. However since chemo, since being put on AIs, therefore since cancer, my hair has been nothing like it used to be. And my hair used to be one of my “better” features – in my mind anyway. Today it’s more sparse, more unruly, more difficult to style, more stress-inducing, more of a whole lot of what you don’t want to be true about your hair. I definitely no longer see my hair as one of my “better” features. Sometimes I wonder if I have any “better” features anymore… but that’s another post.

Of course, none of this means I’m not grateful to have some hair. I am. But still…

When I finally did grow enough hair to require a haircut again a while back, I had a lot of explaining to do to my regular stylist because of course she wondered where I’d been for the last year or two.

I explained. I told her. You know what that means.

Yes, I told her about cancer. I told her about chemo. We had had a good relationship before cancer, so it wasn’t too awkward to share bits and pieces of my cancer story with her. She was very kind, caring and understanding. She was gentle, and I don’t just mean with my hair. I confided in her about my new hair struggles, too, and have never allowed anyone else to cut my hair in the past two years or so since.

Then it happened. She up and quit; hence this little rant!

The last time I walked into my usual chain salon that I go to for my regular trim, she was gone.

That old familiar feeling of dread, self-consciousness yes, even panic set in as I realized I had to start all over with someone new.

That old dilemma once again presented itself. You might know the one…

How much do I tell?

How much do I share? Will the new stylist get it? Does it matter? Yes it does. Why do I care? Because it’s my hair. I have to tell her something because my hair (I have to face it) is a little weird. I can say that ‘cuz it’s mine.

So, I shared just enough with her.

Too much? Not enough? Will I eventually like her?

On all counts, who knows?

In the scheme of things, none of this is a big deal I know.

But it’s still hard. Even now.

And I miss my old hair.

Cancer or no cancer, do you have hair issues?

How much of your cancer experience do you generally share with others?

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29 thoughts to “Hair, Hair Cuts & How Much Do You Share?”

  1. Yesterday at IKEA, I noticed that the lady beside me had a bald head under the little scarf she wore. I asked her how she was doing and shared my experience, gesturing vaguely at my head. I don’t know if she went home feeling good about knowing there are others out there surviving along with her. Or did she curse me or her head for making it another day she had to talk cancer. I don’t know. Bald head, PICC line: they shout cancer for all the world to hear. And some days, it is the last thing we want to talk about.

    As for my hair, while it is approaching normal, I am having trouble growing it out. My hairdresser, who I drive 45 minutes to see, has been terrific. She cried with us when I went in for my shave. She has had cancer too, but dodged the chemo bullet. Bless her heart, but she cut a little more than I wanted last time. I am having trouble styling it and it just doesn’t feel like me. Maybe that is the challenge. We want to recognize our old selves in the mirror. Instead, my hair is duller, my belly fatter, and my cheeks ruddy. I’m not happy with the new me. I’m certainly not new and improved.

    1. Kate, Thanks for sharing about your experience talking with that lady. You’re right of course, there are so many things that shout cancer and being bald is certainly one of the most obvious. I also think you’re right that we want to still at least recognize our old selves when we look in the mirror. I’m not looking to go back or anything, but sometimes it’s hard to see the old me at all. Sounds like you have a wonderful stylist. Thanks for sharing and for always “getting it.”

  2. My hair was never the same after chemo for primary bc. Now I have mets and am on oral chemo, so my hair is thinning month by month, I have a see through scalp now. Before I shaved it all off because i knew it would grow back. This time if I do that, I don’t know if it will ever grow back because I will effectively be on some form of chemo regime for the rest of my life. In the grand scheme of things, it is a minor thing, but it is these little things that are part of us, and we lose too much to this disease and the treatment.

    1. Amanda, Hair loss is hard isn’t it? “In the grand scheme of things, it is a minor thing, but it is these little things that are part of us”… your words expressed that perfectly. Do you mind if I quote you sometime? Thank you.

  3. My hair was long, still brown (OK, I was covering a little grey)and wavy. Since it has grown back it is fine, lifeless, breaks easily, and grey. And there are bare and super thin spots.
    I have come to accept this is probably as good as it gets. But, I miss my hair.

    I had a wonderful hairdresser who was experienced with post-cancer hair problems, and so helpful. She left for nursing school. I’ve tried a couple of others and they are nice, but so far I just haven’t found someone I am comfortable with.

    1. Elizabeth, Once again, you and I are experiencing similar things here regarding our hair and about finding that hair stylist who gets us. Thank you for sharing and for understanding.

  4. I’m so sorry your stylist left you hanging, and you need to feel much of this again by sharing with another person. It’s so frustrating to be frustrated.

  5. The hair was not as big deal for me as the potential loss of breasts. But I still thought it insensitive when people would say “it’s just hair, your health is more important” type of comments. For me, the issue wasn’t the actual hair, it was what it symbolized: my normal, pre-cancer, healthy life. Before cancer, the first thing I did each morning as I woke up was throw it into a ponytail to keep it out of my face as I made coffee, walked the dog, etc. After I shaved my head to get rid of what was falling out, each morning I sleepily reached up to put my hair in a ponytail, and it wasn’t there, so I was immediately shocked into the reality of “I have cancer”.
    For 20 years I’d been coloring my hair—crazy purples and reds during college, then normal shades as I aged. I was shocked at how much grey was there when it came back. I have not colored since. So the wiry grey hairs are out of control and the rest is limp and awful So many people told me it would come back better—that did not happen. I’ve had long hair most of my life and am now thinking of a shorter style.

    1. Cancer Curmudgeon, I hated it when I heard things like it’s only hair or it’ll grow back. Insensitive for sure. I love what you said about what your hair symbolized – your normal, etc… That’s it! Good for you for keeping your greys. And my hair certainly did not come back better either; I’m wondering if that’s yet another myth. Maybe going shorter would be fun to try?? I have horrible colics all over my head, so short hair is hard for me. Why didn’t those disappear? Thanks for sharing.

  6. I am 5 months from completing DD chemo and 3 months from completion of high dose radiation.

    I don’t have hair. I have wool. My hair came back completely grey, and VERY thin. Growing more on the sides and back then on the crown. After 5 months my hair is only 1 inch long on the sides and 3/4 inch on top. It is painful!

    I have rejected Arimidex because of the possible side effects and hair loss. OK…I’m vain.

    1. Kerry, You are not vain, you are a normal woman caring about these things. Perhaps you could try the Arimidex though. Not everyone experiences the side effects. Good luck with your hair and all of this stuff. Thanks for reading and commenting. Sharing helps.

  7. this is what I recently wrote on my Facebook status:It occurs to me that by looking at my posts it appears that I am obsessed by my hair. Those who know me probably get it, but in case you were wondering….it is just a visual metaphor for what I am going through, losses and recovery, patience and frustration. Making do with what I wake up with, a spikey and uncertain path ahead of me.
    I am very open with everyone about what I have been going through. On a recent long weekend in New Orleans I “met” three other women with head scarves or brazenly bald and the tell tale bulge of a port on their chests. We smiled as we recognized one another as members of the same community.

    1. Marlavus, I don’t think you’re obsessed, I think it’s quite normal to think about your hair a lot and yes, to miss it too. You’re right about that visual reminder about what you’re going through… And your last sentence says tons. Smiling here too. Thanks for sharing.

  8. My stylist shaved my head with my first chemo, and she still does my hair, and as you know I’m metastatic so I’m still on lots of drugs. She notices changes. I still have super thick hair but it used to be curly and now it’s straight, but I have a section that is getting kinky. Very strange what meds can do to your hair.

    I’ve been on 7 chemos – I forget now which, but one other caused my hair to thin. Most people lose it on that one, but I didn’t that time but to me it felt horrible having it that thin. She laughed and said “Now you know what normal hair is like.” 🙂

    Like you, I hated being bald and couldn’t wait to have hair again. I also didn’t like short hair so couldn’t wait until it was a decent length which it almost is. It’s in that “ugly” growing out stage but I’m happy that it is getting where I want it and hope a future drug doesn’t knock it out.

    It is grey and it’ll stay grey. I used to color it and I wish I could still but my health means I cannot keep up with the upkeep required. I’m not happy with grey but I am NOT dying with roots. 🙂

    Yeah, I think we all have hair issues, or most of us anyway.

    As for sharing my experience, I doubt I’d tell a new stylist I have cancer as it is long and thick enough to seem normal. If she suggested coloring it I might, or I might just say I wanted to keep it grey. I wouldn’t share unless I was on a drug that was going to make it come out again. But I don’t know, if we got friendly and started sharing our lives I’d probably tell, it’s not a secret. 🙂

    I think they see a lot more hair stuff that we do and probably would think nothing of the way your hair was if you hadn’t told her. You are probably self-conscious but to her it’s just normal. Plenty of women have thin hair or even are balding without having had cancer in the past. So it’s up to you if you want to share or not, to them it makes no difference I think.

    1. Ann, Thanks for all your insights. You are one of those people I’ve always envied who have thick hair. Yours looks fabulous by the way. I saw the photo of you and your new sweet grand-baby. Both of you look darling. I suppose you’re right, I wouldn’t have to tell any stylist about why my hair is so weird. Somehow I feel like I have to explain things and I know I don’t, but… Strange all the little affects cancer has on a person’s life. I guess I just miss that stylist who I had for so long. She really understood everything, plus she had thin hair herself. That’s another huge reason I miss her. I do still color mine, but I totally get why you don’t. It’s hard to keep up with that. Thanks for sharing, Ann. Enjoy that new grand-baby!

  9. Hi,
    Newbie here. Today was my first chemo treatment (CMF) and I’ve been told that my hair will probably not fall out but will thin. Not bad except it has been thinning for the past couple of years due to stress. Not sure what to expect but what will be will be. I am vain about my hair and looking ‘normal’ so having my hair thin even more is anxiety provoking! A friend of mine uses Viviscal suppelments to boost her hair regrowth (she does not/did not have cancer just thinning) and has had great results. Anyone try that? Any suggestions for me? Thanks in advance!!

    1. Maureen, Welcome! Sorry you need chemo. Thinning hair is difficult to deal with; this does not make you vain. You’re a normal woman with normal feelings about her hair. I have not heard of Viviscal supplements. Thanks for sharing and good luck with chemo.

    1. Marie, Losing your fertility is heartbreaking for a woman like you who dearly wants children and I realize a loss like this is on a whole different scale. I know you have suffered a great deal of emotional pain over your loss of fertility and I’m so very sorry, Marie. Thank you for sharing. xxxx

  10. I got a wig when I first began chemo and had my head shaved. Now, treatments are over, and my hair is growing back in, wavy this time and thick, but still white. But I loved being a blonde, with the wig. So I have opted to go for a “younger look” that makes me feel good without the trouble of dying my hair. I keep my own hair short underneath to make wearing the wig easier. I love my wig. I never have a “bad hair day” and it’s no trouble to maintain. It’s far easier than my own hair. I love being a blonde and look ten or more years younger. So far, I’m very content with my new look.

    I really appreciate all the topics you discuss on your blog. It helps to know one does not face these challenges alone.

    Wishing you love and sunshine,
    Honey Bee

    1. Honey Bee, It sounds like you have found the perfect solution for you! That’s great. I actually liked my wigs too, but they just never felt that comfortable after an hour or two of wearing them. Thanks for your kind words about my blog. Join the discussions any time. Sharing does help doesn’t it? Thanks for reading and commenting.

  11. As you know,, Nancy, I didn’t lose my hair. I cannot imagine this horrible effect of treatment! I know I would hate it, absolutely hate it. It’s not vain to say this: bald women are perceived differently than bald men, as you say.

    1. Beth, I think women are judged quite differently regarding their physical appearance than men are period. And hair, well, when it’s gone or even thinning, it can be traumatic or at least quite stress-inducing for some. And isn’t it strange that when you have chemo and don’t lose your hair, this presents a whole different set of sometimes difficult circumstances? Thanks for reading and sharing, Beth.

  12. I had chemo in my mid 20s…and my hair is super thin now. Most of it did not grow back even though they said it would. It’s hard to be in your 20s… a few years out and have a bald spot on the top of your head. It just raises questions. Which are annoying after so long. I want my hair back! I’ve only cut it twice. I think it looks horrible but I have anxiety about cutting it..

    1. Melissa, I understand. Hair is always a big deal and it’s hard when your hair doesn’t grow back as good as it once was. I have the same problem now and I hate it. Every time I go in for a haircut it’s stressful now. All I can say is I understand and you’re not alone. And the people who love you don’t care about your thin hair or bald spots. But yes, it’s still hard. Thanks for sharing. It helps!

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