Should a chemo patient shave the hair off and if so, when?
I hope the photo of me below with my disappearing hair doesn’t scare anyone away. It was actually taken a few weeks ago when I had MORE hair.
Before beginning chemo, Dear Hubby and I signed up for a required chemo class at the hospital where I would be receiving it. We already knew quite a bit about chemo since my mother had had it a couple years earlier, but when you are going to be having it yourself, suddenly you can never know too much about it.
At the class, we received a packet full of information, watched a video and listened to a chemo nurse talk about what to expect.
Surprisingly, to me at least, during class that chemo nurse looked at me and said, “Nancy with the drugs you will be receiving you will definitely be losing your hair.”
I know she meant well and was only trying to prepare me, but that comment made in front of the entire group was unexpected and I felt unnecessary. I mean, is there really anyone on the planet who doesn’t understand that chemo usually (though not always, so don’t assume) equals hair loss?
“Yes, I am totally aware of that,” I managed to answer as if it would be no big deal to lose my hair. But, I kinda wanted to slap her.
That wouldn’t have been very smart though as I knew she might very well soon be MY chemo nurse.
Anyway, here I am post chemo session 7, and I still have some hair on my head. Granted, it’s not much, but there’s still some there.
If you saw the Leonardo D’Caprio movie Shutter Island, I look like the creepy crazy woman with thin hair standing in the flower garden at the beginning of the movie when he arrives on the island. If you saw the movie and have had chemo, you know exactly who I’m talking about.
I think there’s a message in there somewhere that if you have thin hair you are scary looking, and I don’t think I like that message very much, but that’s a topic for another time.
It seems most chemo patients shave their heads as soon as hair loss begins or even before. It makes them feel more in control they say. Not me.
I’ve hung onto my hair as long as possible. I lamented when it began to fall out in clumps, and I still carefully pluck strands from the back of my clothes as if saying goodbye to old friends.
Don’t get me wrong, I have adjusted to having almost no hair surprisingly well. (Not like I had a choice though). I even walk around the house without wearing anything on my head.
Dear Hubby just laughs and says, “Oh, I got used to that a long time ago.” (Even though we both know fully well it’s no laughing matter and neither of us has really gotten used to it.)
And my kids don’t care. Neither do the dogs. In fact, the dogs get more nervous, eyeing me suspiciously for a few moments, whenever I put a wig on. They don’t miss a thing; they totally know it’s fake hair and that I look different. My dogs prefer my “natural” look.
Does not shaving my hair off like most chemo patients do make me weak, vain or just plain weird?
Am I unable to face reality?
Or did my defiant rebellious side kick in that day at chemo class?
I don’t know or care.
I do know when I’m finished with chemo, (and I fully realize unlike me, those with mbc will never be finished) I will shave off any remaining hair on my head so I can start over from scratch. Otherwise, I’ll end up with some freakish mish-mash of length, color and texture even I am not willing to deal with.
I guess the point of all this rambling, is that you can and should do what you want about shaving your head. Shave it all off early or let it fall out slowly.
So, should a chemo patient shave the hair off and if so, when?
You decide. It’s your hair, it’s your cancer and it’s your decision.
Update: Other posts about chemo you might want to read:
If you have had chemo, did you shave your head as soon as hair loss began? (or if you know someone who has had chemo, what did they do?)
Note: More information about chemotherapy is available in my book, Getting past the fear: A guide to help you mentally prepare for chemotherapy. For all your purchasing options, click on the book image below.
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