Almost twenty years ago, I lost all of my hair with chemotherapy. ACT, also known as the Red Devil, took away every hair on my body. You’d never think that eyebrows are important, but they really are. Unfortunately, I was never really good at drawing them on and we didn’t have the stencils back then that are so popular now. So thank goodness for stencils for those of you who are enduring hair-loss due to chemotherapy!
We also didn’t have the cold caps that I see women wearing during chemotherapy. They weren’t an option. We simply lost all of our hair. We wore wigs or scarves because believe it or not, a bald head feels cold sometimes! Those of us lucky enough to have supportive family and friends, well, sometimes in the company of those special people, I wouldn’t wear anything on my head. I wouldn’t cover up. I would just allow it to be what it was: bald is beautiful!
I remember that I began losing my hair in clumps quickly after the first week of chemotherapy. I had shoulder length hair at the time so I had it cut really short, but not before I put it in little pigtails tied with pink ribbons around my head and snipped those off myself. To me, that felt like I took back a little control. Needless to say, all of my hair fell out shortly afterwards. I would awaken with little hairs all over my pillow in the mornings until they were completely gone. For me it was easier to handle when my hair was cut short rather when long clumps were coming out while washing my hair in the shower. I remember how devastated I felt when that first clump was in my grasp. Sobs overwhelmed me in the shower that day. It was like a punch in the gut that I had to endure this indignity too. Bad enough I had lost my breasts to cancer, but my hair too? At least with the breasts, it wasn’t really obvious, but my hair? Well, that was obvious.
My hair finally did start coming back after the chemotherapy was over. It took a long while for it to return, but it returned. I had friends whose hair returned really curly after chemotherapy, even though they had straight hair before chemo. Theirs stayed curly for about a year and then straightened back out on its own accord. So don’t worry if this happens to you.
Once you’ve lost your hair, you realize that just having hair makes it a good hair day. You appreciate the warmth your hair gives your head. Although I will say it was easier to put a wig on than to style my hair in the mornings, I like my own hair even though it’s thinner and sparser than it once was. There’s a freedom in being bald if you can deal with it. You find that your inner beauty has a chance to shine brighter when you’re not bogged down by looks. The way you carry yourself during these dark times draws that inner strength up and out into your aura and when you own that this is me, well, it’s empowering.
I’ve talked with many women enduring chemotherapy and losing their hair. So many find their beautiful hair their crowning glory and don’t know how to manage without it. But again, I remind you gently that you are more than your beautiful hair. Your beauty shines from within.
It is hard to accept that you have cancer, that chemotherapy is necessary and that you will lose your hair and be sick for long periods of time. That in itself is daunting to all of us. Add in the fear that the diagnosis of cancer brings and it’s brutal.
But you can do this. You are not alone. Hair grows back. Chemotherapy kills cancer cells. Do what you feel is right for you. I’m here if you need a friend.