5 Ways to Cope with Hair Loss from Chemo Therapy
One of the hardest side effects of chemo therapy is hair loss. Chemo has many side effects like nausea, fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea. These can often be controlled through food choices and medications. The final blow for most people, men and women alike, seems to be the hair loss. We are used to looking at ourselves with hair. It becomes a part of our identity and when that hair is gone it is hard to recognize the stranger looking back at us from the mirror. I am personally on my second round of chemo therapy in the last year. The first time I lost my hair was the hardest. It had grown to over 36 inches in length and it was bitter to lose it. This time around it isn't quite the same emotional disaster. It has grown to about 5 inches in the 7 months I was in remission. I know that when this chemo therapy ends I will more than likely be in remission again and the hair will come back. Besides it may come back a different color or texture and that can always be exciting. As it is daily thinning I am thinking of ways to bring back that self esteem. Here are some tips to help cope with hair loss if you are facing this ordeal:
Make a hair donation
A great thing to consider is a hair donation to a charity that will make your hair into a wig for an adult or child who needs a wig due to cancer or another medical condition. Locks of Love is a great place to start. Their website is very comprehensive and will explain exactly what is needed to make the donation. This can help to cushion the emotional blow of losing that hair. Somehow it can make everything seem a little more "right" to know that you have helped someone to feel better about themselves. Especially a child suffering from a serious disease.
It is also a good idea if you have very long hair to cut it shorter before it begins to fall out. This makes a bit of a bridge from long hair to no hair.
Try a wig
The American Cancer Society has a great catalog called TLC. It offers a variety of wigs in both synthetic and natural hair. There is a wide range of colors and styles, and prices for all budgets. Also check with your oncology clinic as they may have wigs available for use from patients who are in remission and no longer need their wigs. Unfortunately wigs can be hot. There are caps available to wear under the wig to help keep more comfortable. Check with your health insurance as some plans will offer coverage with a prescription written for a "skull prosthetic".
Love those scarves and hats
Scarves and hats are great. They are cheap and easy to wear and the colors can really lift the spirits. Even bandanas can be found with really cute designs and can easily be tied around the head. Lots of women like the turban. It is another real fast cover up when someone is at the door and you have to move fast! Get a selection of hats and pair them with scarves for dress and casual. I have about four hats ranging from the big floppy style to the traditional baseball cap. Hats are also great as most chemo patients have to watch being in the direct sun. So they are a fun fashion statement as well as having a practical purpose.
A pair of dangling earrings can really feel right if a person is used to feeling hair around the face. Earrings can be lots of fun to match with scarves and can also lift a sagging spirit. One of my favorite combinations is a bandana with monkeys holding bananas paired up with dangly banana earrings. This combo gets a lot of laughs in the chemo bay from other patients. It feels good to be able to lift others spirits too!
Loss of eyebrows etc.
Hair loss is hair loss. Depending on the chemo therapy the patient may actually lose every hair they have. Eyebrows can be penciled on, painted on or brushed on with appropriate colors. Putting those eyebrows back in place can sure improve that old self esteem and be a big help in recognizing the person looking back from the mirror. Nose hair can also unfortunately vanish, so smells can be more intense and the nose can really start to run. Buy some fancy handkerchiefs and keep the skin well moisturized. A great side effect of hair loss is not having to shave those legs and armpits, plan to enjoy that little vacation!
Hopefully these ideas will help those facing the dreaded hair loss from chemo therapy. The first and best thing to remember is that the hair loss is indeed temporary. It always comes back when the therapy has ended. Sometimes the color and texture can be different. If it was straight it could come in curly, or if it was curly it could come in straight. Either way that hair will be back, and in the meantime enjoy getting creative with all the options available. Keep your spirits up, feel beautiful and you will be beautiful. Life is full of stages and this is another one that although it may not be the most fun it is still life and has much to offer.