Since chemo, every day is a bad hair day!

Since Chemo Every Day Feels Like a Bad Hair Day – A Little Rant!

In by gone days (this really means pre-cancer days), I generally considered two of my better physical features to be my hair and my eyes. Not that they were anything all that great, but they were two features I could work with.

Then along came cancer and chemo; suddenly in addition to no more breasts, there was also no more hair and no more eyelashes.

Losing body parts completely stinks.

The “lesser losses” like hair, lashes and brows aren’t much fun either.

In some ways losing my eyelashes was harder than losing my hair because while I could plop a wig on my head whenever I felt I needed to or wanted to, my bare eyes were suddenly just, well, bare. And I had absolutely no desire to attempt fake eyelashes. Plus, I was told the glue is often problematic for chemo patients anyway and who needs glue problems when going through chemo, right?

When chemo ended, I often wondered “how long would I have to look like this?” I waited patiently for my hair to regrow.

I waited. And waited. Actually, I’m still waiting.

Things progressed slowly, ironically except in places where I didn’t want hair. Is that more than you wanted to know? Sorry.

Today the hair on my head is nothing like it used to be.

I hate to admit it but when my family members and I go out, one of their jobs now is to check the back of my head for bald spots. If I’m strategic enough and if it’s not super windy, I can usually fluff things around enough to make do. Depending on where we’re going or if I’m out by myself, often times I simply resort to wearing a hat or cap because it’s easier and a whole lot less stressful than wondering what the person standing behind me in the checkout line might be thinking about my bald spots.

As for my eyelashes, they remain pretty sparse. The art of putting on mascara now requires even more expertise to avoid that unattractive clumpy-stuck-together look.

You’re probably thinking by now that vanity is one of those deadly sins, right?

I know in the scheme of things hair and eyelashes are insignificant, but still…

I miss my old hair and lashes. I hate how cancer treatment took what I perceived to be two of my better physical features.

There I said it.

I feel better.

What on-going side effects from cancer treatment are you dealing with?

What’s something you miss about your “old self”?

Do you have something you’d like to rant a bit about? 

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Since chemo, every day is a bad hair day!
Since chemo, every day is a bad hair day!



45 thoughts to “Since Chemo Every Day Feels Like a Bad Hair Day – A Little Rant!”

  1. One can never fully understand the pivotal importance of brows and lashes until one loses them. Devastating. Not a point of vanity, but of basic sense of self.

    What do I miss? The slightly arrogant attitude, akin to mental confidence. Maybe that one just mellowed with age, but for me, cancer and feeling my age seemed to go hand in hand.

    And feet that don’t tingle and burn. I miss my non-neuropathic feet. Chemo-induced neuropathy is like herpes: the gift that keeps on giving, only you don’t have to inform sexual partners that your feet are on fire.

    I used to have long, big hair. It took me almost until 2000 to begin giving up the big 80’s hair that I didn’t get until the 90’s. I reined it in by the time I turned 40, but since cancer, I have not been as attached to it, and not afraid to hack away at it and try new styles. Lately it seems I keep cutting it shorter and shorter. Probably in subconscious expectation that at some point in this cancer roller coaster I am likely to be called upon to again sacrifice my hair to the vengeful chemotherapy gods.

    1. Shelli, I agree that losing brows and lashes can be quite devastating, at least until one “adjusts.” I hear you on the neuropathy. I have it mildly in my feet and it must be awful to have a bad case of it ongoing – and yes, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. ha. It’s good you have adapted and are now comfortable trying out various short hair cuts/styles. Good for you. I hope you don’t have to make that hair sacrifice down the road. Ugh. Thanks for chiming in on my little rant post, Shelli.

  2. I doubt anyone reads this and even considers the idea of vanity. Wanting to look like yourself isn’t vanity – that’s just part of reclaiming identity after such a huge trauma. I’m sorry to hear it hasn’t grown back fully. How annoying that is comes in strong in certain places (ah hem), and less so in the preferred areas.


    1. Catherine, Thanks for understanding. I guess we do keep trying to reclaim our identity don’t we? And yes, even re-growth would be nice! Thanks for commenting.

  3. I am so glad that you wrote about hair and eyelashes. My hairdresser has tried several things to make my hair thicker and sleeker. It resembles a Brillo pad most of the time. I have resorted to a semi-permanent color every 6-8 weeks which seems to work best. But, that still does not cover up those bald spots. Anyone have a mascara to recommend which can be applied on recovering eyelashes?

    1. Karen, Aah yes, the Brillo pad look and feel, I hear you. I use a semi-permanent color as well, but as you said that can only cover up so much! Great question about the mascara. I wonder if there is a good brand for post chemo patients… thanks for asking that.

  4. I still miss my breasts, my un-scared body.

    But what I want to rant about is lymphedema. I am so tired of wearing compression shirts. When I do, I am too hot. If I don’t I feel puffy and have more nerve related pain. I hate it! I should wear compression shirts and sleeves when I exercise and climb. It is usually too hot to wear both, so I choose to wear one or the other – depending on my whim. I hate it. I hate having changing in the gym, having the young women look at me, at the compression shirts or sleeves and wondering what they are for. How I wish, now that I am flat enough to, that I could wear sports bra or little tank.

    I am tired of having to manage my lymphedema. I am tired of getting MLD every week. I am tired of worrying about every rash I get, wondering if I could be getting cellulitis again. I am tired of being paranoid about getting cut or scratched. I don’t like feeling like I should be cautious.

    I just hate it.

    Thanks for the chance to rant…

    1. Lisa, Yes, I miss my former body too… I’m sorry about all of your lymphedema issues and frustrations. It can’t be easy trying to manage that to stay on top of things. No wonder you hate it. I don’t blame you one bit. I hate wearing the sleeves and must admit I’m not very good at doing so except when I travel. How long have you had lymphedema? Thanks for commenting, Lisa. I hope you feel a bit better after joining me on a little rant. Sometimes it’s just what a person needs to do.

    2. Oh, I totally understand. I try my best not to use the right arm to lift or carry, but it’s my dominant side. Grrr. I finally got a pump that works for me, but I’m still sleeping in a Velcro sleeve every night after the hour of pumping. I’ll do just about anything to keep from going through celluitis again.

  5. Nancy, I really didn’t have any lymphedema related problems after my first surgery (two lumpectomies and a SNB in 6/08), but have had lymphedema since my bmx in 9/08. Sigh…

    RE Sleeves, my le therapist got some really sexy black opera style sleeves for halloween. She doesn’t have le, but wore them anyway – for the effect.

    Ranting always makes me feel a better . . . 🙂

    1. Lisa, I guess you’ve been dealing with it for a while then. Sorry. Rant away here any time…sometimes it does help! And what an idea your therapist had there!

    2. has some awesome sleeves. I’m 67 and love the looks I get wearing my tattoo or leopard print ones.

  6. I miss the sense of security I used to have in my physical health.It’s not entirely gone, but it is certainly shaken. I also wonder if my memory issues are due to chemo, Tamoxifen, or just the aging process. It could be all three. Thanks for a forum to allow us to rant a little.

  7. Oh, Nancy, I so understand about the hair and (in my case) eyebrows. I cannot seeme to draw eyebrows that look close to normal! And my hair is really weird. It’s thin on top and Brillo on the side. Haven’t tried color yet but maybe that the way to go. And , for some reason all my BCS group members who have had regrowth in the past year have regrown beautiful hair! Even my newest friend who is 89. Her hair regret in full , black with grey at the temples and ome grey highlights!!
    Some days I think shaving it all off would be better. Going bald was icky but tolerable. This is just icky!

    1. Meg, Your hair sounds like mine! Sorry. It is hard not to be envious when you hear about and see other people having such wonderful hair regrowth isn’t it? I’ve never even attempted fiddling with my eyebrows. For some reason they have never really been affected too much though. That’s something I guess! Thanks so much for understanding and for chiming in.

    2. Hair, eyelashes (now I know why God gave us those) and eyebrows. Gosh I miss all three. I kept waiting for my hair to change to what it was before, but no. My thick hair is now thin and baby fine. Ugh! One highlight. I don’t have to shave under my arms any more

  8. I identify too. I thought my hands were one of my best features, and the swelling was really depressing. But i had it really mild compared to some other people.

    1. Betty, Lots of us identify that’s for sure. That helps. It’s true and worth keeping in mind that there is always someone worse off than we are. We do need to keep things in perspective, but I also believe everyone deserves to rant now and then about whatever is bothering them. Do you still have swelling issues? Thanks for sharing about your hands, Betty.

    1. Lindsay, Well, thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed this one. It’s helpful (and I believe healthy too) to allow yourself a little rant now and then.

  9. My eyelashes are stubby now, where before they curled naturally. They looked better when I was taking drops for high eye pressure–caused they think by chemo or herceptin or tamoxifen or who knows what. The high pressure is gone now, so are the drops, so are the good eyelashes. My eyebrows also grew in more sparsely. To others it’s small stuff, but really I look different to me. And that’s the point. Of course I deal, but it’s just one more spoke on the wonky wheel after cancer.

    1. Peggy, Yes, one more spoke on the wonky wheel after cancer – that’s a good way to put it. It’s small stuff, but then again it’s not. Thanks for sharing.

  10. I had long hair before I lost it to chemo. 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. The whole time my hair was gone, each morning I sleepily reached up to put my hair in a ponytail, and was immediately shocked into the reality of “I have cancer”. Without my hair, it was like I never had even a split second of respite from the knowledge of cancer and my mortality.

    1. Wendi, I know exactly what you mean, as do many others. The thing is, even now, things are so different for me physically – the reminder of why that is – cancer – is always there. Thanks for your comment.

  11. Nancy,

    You have a right to rant. Enduring so many losses is devastating. I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose one’s hair and eyelashes, but it sounds horrific.

    I feel sad that things aren’t like they were before.

    For me, my losses are bone loss, the loss of my breasts, as well as a whole variety of other things. I hated losing my breasts. At the time I really wanted them gone and hated them, but now I really wish I didn’t have to make the choice (some choice) to get rid of them.

    1. Beth, Thanks for your understanding. Sometimes we just need our feelings about the losses validated. I wish our doctors would do more of that.

  12. Nancy it’s refreshing to see your rant. People don’t understand what it’s like to have no hair. Every time I tried to put eyeliner on to try to have people see me eyes, there was no line from my eyelashes to follow. I too lost hair later after it grew back. The hardest part was seeing it grow in because you can’t see the top of your head in a mirror. Also losing our breasts. Our bodies changed. I also got osteoporosis after chemo and had a slight fall. I was a dancer and very athletic and I broke my hip. Luckily I am working hard at the gym to try to get my body back but there is no denying all of the changes. Thanks for reminding us that we are not alone.

    1. Susan, Oh thank you so much for understanding, Susan. Sometimes I hesitate to rant because I don’t want to sound like a complainer, but then again… Sorry to hear you have osteoporosis. I have some bone density issues now due to ongoing treatment. I’m so darn disgusted about that. Good for you for working hard at the gym. Thanks for commenting and no, we aren’t alone that’s for sure.

    2. My hair stylist suggested Vital Protein. It’s cheapest at Costco and she uses it. It’s supposed to thicken hair and also good for nails I believe. I’m going to try it. Desperation is setting in!

        1. Donna, Thank you for clarifying. I would have been searching in the protein drinks section. 🙂 Actually, what section is it in? The health/beauty products or pharmacy area?

          1. I’ll be in there Wed and I’ll let you know. I’m guessing I might find it with the biotin, etc. But not sure as yet. I’m def going to give it a try.

  13. Great post — something we all deal with. My hair was thin to begin with, but now it’s thinner. I’ve learned to work with it. My eyelashes are also thinner and somewhat uneven. If I have to be somewhere that makes me conscious of my appearance, I use a whitish undercoat/primer on my lashes first, then apply the brown-black over that. The undercoat makes my lashes appear thicker and longer.

    1. Eileen, My hair has always been somewhat thin as well, but now it’s a real nightmare at times working with it. My eyelashes are also thin and uneven, I wonder why they come back unevenly… My eyelashes used to be one of my better features. I hadn’t heard of the undercoat/primer for the lashes. I’ll have to look into that. Thanks for the great tip!

  14. Nancy, thanks for this post. I had very thick hair and now, 14 months past chemo, it’s a shadow of it’s former self. It covers the top of my head, but just barely, although the back is thick as ever I think. The white eyelash produc t works very well and I did find a maybelline mascara that worked well for thin lashes. The mascara itself is nothing special but it has a very fine thin brush that did not glom product on your eyelid.

    1. Nancy, I have never had thick hair, but I did have “decent” hair before chemo. Now it’s really sparse on top and it’s difficult and frustrating for me to constantly be stressing about bald spots showing through… Sounds like your hair and mine or sort of similar now, as mine is pretty good around the back as well, but the top… Thank you for mascara tip. I am going to look for that maybelline product. Hope you are doing well.

  15. I miss my long brown hair, it came back very fine and grey with bald spots. Oncologist never had anyone develop bald spots after? Really? I know several other women who have them after chemo. I didn’t have really great eyelashes before, but they are so fine and sparse now that they are totally invisible without mascara. I miss my breast. I feel I can’t wear half my clothes because even slightly scooped necklines show a difference all the way to the collarbone. Still struggling with adhesions interfering with arm and shoulder movement. And then there is good old lymphedema. And fatigue. And side effects of hormone drugs. But the very very worst thing is that my husband, who is so proud of himself for standing by me, and so proudly tells friends and family that my lost breast makes absolutely no difference to him, he will not touch me in any way at all – no hugs, kisses, handholding, and of course no sex. And if I need to cry or express anger or even complain about side effects, I sure better hide it from him. If I try to talk about any of this, he usually says “Would you rather be dead because that was the alternative.” (I am about ready to say YES!) Since I was laid off from my job shortly after the cancer diagnosis, I am trapped as he is my only income and my health insurance and I will be in treatment forever as stage 4.

    1. Elizabeth, There is a lot to miss isn’t there? I’m sorry for all the losses you mention. I understand. I miss those some of those same things myself. Adapting to life is difficult and as a stage IV person, there is no end in sight for you as far as treatment goes. It’s a lot to deal with. I’m sorry your relationship with your husband is not as it should be and that you feel trapped. I would recommend that you discuss this matter with someone you trust and get some help. You deserve better. Good luck with everything.

  16. Microblading, permanent makeup, tatoo’d brows, gels, powders, dyes, on and on, ad nauseum! I never thought with my formerly thick dark brows that I would now be searching every ad that promises to thicken brows that have nearly disappeared. My hair, lashes & nails took a beating from chemo. At the time, I was just thankful to get my Stage 4 breast cancer into remission But now, over 9 years later, I am annoyed that I feel the need to fill on or draw on my eyebrows each day so I can at least attempt to resemble my former self. I don’t like the wan look of my sparse brows…I look less energetic, a shadow of my former image
    I’m reluctant to do anything permanent, so I continue to use brow powder daily before answering the door or venturing out. I guess its part vanity, part loss of control of my life, and part longing for my pre-cancer self. I won’t apologize for any of it!
    At this point, I’ve had to stuff too many feelings inside while I put on a smile I’ve endured too many losses of family & friends with MBC and other terminal conditions….and I’ve experienced too much pain and discomfort to be concerned with how others perceive me. I’m not bitter; I just feel I’ve earned the right to my feelings. I invite anyone to walk in my shoes, as that’s the only way they could possibly understand.
    Thanks once again , Nancy for bringing up some of the sore spots and inconveniences of living with a cancer diagnosis

    1. Carol, You have earned the right indeed. It means so much to know you understand. Sometimes, those of us who are not metastatic feel we can not mourn or talk about those things we miss. As Shelli wrote: “One can never fully understand the pivotal importance of brows and lashes until one loses them. Devastating. Not a point of vanity, but of basic sense of self.” Love that so much. I miss her.

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