Breast cancer survivor talks hair loss
Every woman has one physical attribute that they are most proud of. For me, from my teenage years into middle age and my 60s, it has always been my hair. I felt it made up for other self-imagined deficiencies, such as being too tall or too much in need of a diet.
On learning of my Stage 3 breast cancer diagnosis, I knew many changes would come my way. Chemotherapy and radiation are often not kind on the body and one of the side effects most patients experience is hair loss. From stories I had heard, I thought I would dread it.
I wanted to prepare myself ahead of time so the loss of hair wouldn’t be too much of a shock. Told that I would start chemo a month after my mastectomy, I visited a local wig store soon after surgery to check out styles, prices and availability. Good thinking to prepare ahead — I had to order a wig that took a few weeks to arrive.
But while I was at the shop I also discovered a fun, wonderful array of scarves and hats that would hide my coming baldness without the discomfort of the wig. My favorite scarves had an elastic band in the back that allowed them to fit my head without having to be tied. And the hats came in an unexpected wide variety of styles and hair colors. I’ve always been a blond, but here was the chance to see how I would look as a redhead or a brunette.
Before my first chemo treatment, I went to my hairdresser — accompanied by two of my closest friends — to get my hair cut short, hoping this would cut down on the horror of seeing large clumps lying on my pillow or falling on the floor of the shower. It worked. When the hair loss began, it was far from traumatic.
Besides, the honest truth is this: When it came, I welcomed it. Why? Because that’s when I could see the physical evidence that the chemotherapy drugs were doing what they were designed to do — killing off rapidly growing cells that could carry cancer and, hopefully, saving my life.
Soon again I was back at the hairdresser, ready to get my head shaved. And it didn’t bother me a bit. Admittedly, I had shed a few tears in the beginning. But I was now focused on a battle far more important than worrying about my golden locks.
At home, I was happy to walk around without a covering on my now bald pate. I did, however, keep one of my ball caps with the fake hair handy by the front door in case the UPS driver or pest control man showed up unexpectedly. (Wonder if they ever noticed the change in colors.)
Six months after my treatments ended, I was happily growing a head of curly, light brown hair. Now, five years later, my hair is almost back the way it was.
More importantly, I’m still cancer free. So, losing that hair wasn’t such a bad price to pay.
– By Linda Kleindienst Bruns, diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013