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Coping With Cancer Hair Loss

Updated on September 11, 2015
Marie (The Manikin) Antoinette
Marie (The Manikin) Antoinette | Source

You Will Lose Your Hair In Twelve Days.

Sixteen years ago my oncologist said," You may or may not lose your hair with chemo". My hair looked like straw after six months of chemo, but I had plenty. Last year when cancer came back the doctor said, "You will lose your hair in twelve days". I chuckled, "Now your sure"? He was sure.

The pain of cancer is exacerbated beyond all else when it comes to hair loss. Even with a really good support group losing your hair is really hard.

Marie The Blond

Wig forms don't pack well.  Since I was frequently carrying the head around under my arm this wig was named Marie. Antoinette is her last name.
Wig forms don't pack well. Since I was frequently carrying the head around under my arm this wig was named Marie. Antoinette is her last name.

Plan Of Action: A Wig , A Hat And A Haircut.

Big Nurse, my clinical trails nurse said, "Get a wig" Big Nurse is always right. I went to get a wig. Some years ago I read an article about a beauty salon called Anita's that specialized in fitting wigs for cancer patients. I went in with a full head of hair. The first thing they said, " We are sorry, Have you heard about Look Good Feel Better?" I was fortunate that there was a clinic in a few weeks. Look Good Feel Better is a clinic sponsored by the American Cancer Society. Mark, the cancer specialist asked, "What chemo will you get". "Taxetere", was my answer. " You will lose your hair in about 12-14 days", he said.

My wig ordered, I went home and called the American Cancer Society to register for Look Good Feel Better. I didn't really want to go. They mentioned free make-up and they would discuss tying scarves. I always wanted to know how to tie scarves. I thought scarves might be my thing, I didn't think I was a wig person. I had lots of ball caps. I got a sassy short haircut. The wig arrived. I was set.

First chemotherapy therapy was on April Fools Day. Ha!

Short Sassy Haircut Before Chemo


Angelique The Red

My red wig
My red wig | Source
Long red wigs only work in the winter.  They feel like fur hats and are sweltering hot in the summer.
Long red wigs only work in the winter. They feel like fur hats and are sweltering hot in the summer. | Source

On The Twelth Day

Horror on day twelve. I ran my brush through my hair and strands came out in my hand. I couldn't believe it was happening to me. Every time hair came out I winced at the reality of my loss. Everyone knows someone who has lost their hair. The opinions on what to do when the hair loss starts vary. Some say, "Shave it immediately". Some like me, go into denial keep telling themselves, "You don't look like you have lost too much hair".

I was out of town at a conference the day my hair began to fall out. I woke up with hair all over the hotel pillow. To wear Marie the wig or not was the question. My colleagues said you look fine either way. I didn't wear the wig and was horrified at how sickly I looked in the group picture.

I went home and my son buzzed my head. Deciding when to start wearing the wig or if you will wear a wig is as big a cancer crisis as treatment decisions.

Tireless The Hairless

Smile when you are hairless: it makes people wonder what you've been up to.  It also helps people cope with your pain  "ALWAYS WEAR EARRINGS WHEN YOU ARE HAIRLESS"
Smile when you are hairless: it makes people wonder what you've been up to. It also helps people cope with your pain "ALWAYS WEAR EARRINGS WHEN YOU ARE HAIRLESS" | Source

Look For Support

My clinical trial infusions took an amazingly long time. I was a science experiment. They needed to check every little thing. While I was sitting in the infusion chair during treatment 2 there was a gal next to me. Some people want to chit chat in chemo. This was her first round. Her nurse was having trouble getting her IV started. Cheryl would tense every time the nurse started near her. I usually mind my own business. I waited to start a conversation. The hospital where I get chemo is 25 miles from home, When the gal and her nurse started talking about my town, then the church they both went to, I just jumped in with my church's name. Cheryl said,"My parents go there." She relaxed while she was talking to me and the IV slid in nicely. We talked about her parents, the wigs we got at the same place and Look Good Feel Better. She asked, "Do you want to go together"? "O.K." We exchanged phone numbers and went several days later. When you feel icky it really helps to have someone else motivate you. Temptation was great to back out on Look Good Feel Better but I felt that I had to try for Cheryl's sake.

When things seem too out of control get a red Wig!

Look Good Feel Better

The same man who fitted my wig was the main presenter. He and his assistants showed how to tie scarves and apply make-up. Learning how to make soft hats from old tee shirts was a life savior. When you don't have hair your head is sensitive. Another gal had an attractive turban on her head. Underneath the turban was something she called a Buff. Buffs are wonderful! They are soft and can be twisted into 12 different styles. I still wear mine when I bike ride, ski, and exercise. The gal with the turban volunteered to have a make-over and they had her take off her turban. I thought I was going to faint. She didn't have any hair. She was very courageous to take off her head coverings. People like her give me courage. Cheryl let out a soft gasp.

Until the lady took off her turban, then the buff, I never imagined being hairless would equal cold. Look .Good.Feel.Better. prepared me for months of sleeping with a hat. When you have no hair you get cold. A wonderful friend brought me a couple of lengths of very soft light weight knit fabric that I tied a knot at the top to make a sleeping hat. I believe it was the same material use under casts. You will have to talk with your doctor about this material.

Love This Young Girl And Her Enthusiasm

Freedom From Hair Hell

The hair on the top of my hair is curly. It grew back thick. I don't know what color it is yet. It takes time for your DNA to start working correctly after chemotherapy. I may be stuck with mostly gray and a little brown. Big Nurse had clear hair when I met her 3 months after her chemo. A year later it is luxurious dark brown. My blond friend had her hair return black. There is no telling what color you will get. My hair returned to my natural light brown after a couple of years.

Perspective is everything. When you shower after a swim showers are really short. You don't have to cream rinse your hair. Another friend congratulated me recently on freedom from Hair Hell? She said, "You know, when you want to stop coloring your hair, but can't because the roots show". Only people who have chemo are successful at escaping the bottle".

You Are Beautiful

Losing your hair may represent losing your femininity and beauty. You are so much more than your hair. You can have lots of fun changing your wigs and hats. People don't recognize you with a wig.

One day, I was walking into a friends house when another really close friend walked in behind me. She was incensed. What was my husband was with a lovely looking women she didn't recognize. She demanded of my husband, "Where is Tireless"? She just cracked up when she realized I was the lovely lady with my husband.

Enjoy people. Do not hide because you have no hair.(Wear a germ mask if you have too because your white cell count is low) don't hide because you're hairless. The fact that you are alive makes you beautiful. Take heart, hair comes back. I understand Oblation hair therapy works if your hair is a little slow returning.

If I see you, I will walk up to you, and say with complete honesty, "You are beautiful! You are alive". And the man or women next to you will beam, because they think so too.

Laughter Makes Everything Better

A friend with a marvelous sense of humor had great fun at Christmas. There were 50 guests at the family party which, they held in their barn. The guests were playing "Where's Debbie"? She kept changing wigs all day. Everyone had a grand time.

Suggestions To Friends

One of my sons friends was diagnosed with cancer her freshman year of college. Everyone on the dorm floor shaved their heads to support her. When nobody else has hair what's the big deal?

Friends help friends laugh. Find stuff to laugh about. When the kids were little we would lay in a circle on the floor, each with somebodies head on their stomach. Then everyone started to laugh. There was nothing funny, except we looked funny laying on the floor. Once you start to laugh you laugh more and more. Laughter really is great medicine.

Friends buys friends hats they would never buy themselves.

I would like to tell you losing your hair is not the end of the world. I won't lie, it seems like it when you are losing hair by the handful. It is until you realize it is just hair. There are more important things in life than hair. Your are amazing. Nobody else can fill your shoes. You are wonderful.


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    • prettydarkhorse profile image

      prettydarkhorse 5 years ago from US

      You are an amazing woman, and you are beautiful inside and that is what matters most! :-) Take care and this is an inspirational hub!

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 5 years ago from California

      SomewayOuttaHere, I want to say something to help , but the losses you live with are so much more than losing hair. Hang in there dear one.

    • SomewayOuttaHere profile image

      SomewayOuttaHere 5 years ago from TheGreatGigInTheSky

      excellent hub!...your words will be heard.....

      Peace to you Tirelesstraveller...................................xo!

    • profile image

      whowas 5 years ago

      That's a great hub, thank you.

      I have known so many people living through cancer - my mother, father-in-law, friends...

      You are an inspiration. The effects of chemotherapy can be a real struggle but I have always been deeply impressed by those who come to realize that hair loss, whilst a very real challenge to our sense of well-being and confidence, need not be the 'end of the world'.

      Indeed, you can be just as beautiful and charming, intelligent and loving without hair as you can with it (as you so clearly exemplify) These lessons are for us all to learn: that it is what is in the heart and how we live that matters most in the last analysis.

      It is also worth remembering just how many famous, beautiful, admired and successful people don't or didn't have hair - even by choice: think of Yul Brynner, Buddha, Natalie Portman, Sinead O'Connor and many, many more...there's a hub by Anna-Marie Bowman that is called 'Bald is Beautiful' and might be well worth checking out, for anyone who is concerned about baldness for whatever reason. here's the link:

      Thanks tirelesstraveller and lots of love and respect to you!

    • healthylife2 profile image

      Healthy Life 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      I found hair loss difficult because what it represents and the strong desire to give my mind a break from the stress. I wore wigs in August which was a challenge. I now have hair extensions but difficult to blend with my crazy curly hair but so much easier than wigs. I told very few people I was going through cancer treatment so the hair thing was a challenge. You look so beautiful with a smile and thanks for the inspiration!!

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 5 years ago from California

      Amy, LOL You are so right wig just wasn't my best feature.

      The wigs were hard on my husband. People kept asking who he had been with. My original straiht baby fine hair in now amazing. I get up wash and go. It looks like a perm. Think I will add the new me. Thanks for visiting.

    • Amy Becherer profile image

      Amy Becherer 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Not that you're asking, tireless, but I love the picture of you with your buzz cut much better than the wig. Your cheekbones, eyes and mostly, that smile look like model material. I think, however, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who wants to lose their hair. It's bad enough to deal with the traumatic shock of a cancer diagnosis, the treatments and to top it off, the complete loss of your "crowning glory". Even for someone like me, with my mother's baby fine, poker straight hair, it is only human to experience a sense of loss with that kind of change. It is a constant, visual reminder of being ill.

      Thank you for writing this piece, which will serve to remind everyone we are all far more than just a reflection in the mirror. Bravo!


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