Chemotherapy and Hair Loss: What to Expect During Treatment
Many women struggling with breast cancer undergo severe hair loss during chemotherapy. Here are some insights from one cancer survivor’s experience as she dealt with an evolving self-image.
Hair loss was definitely one of the more traumatic side effects of cancer treatment. Nothing prepared me for the sight of cursed hair strands in my hands every time I ran my fingers through my hair. I struggled to look at myself in the bathroom mirror—it was like I was slowly losing a part of what made me, me.
The reality of my cancer diagnosis first hit me when I first saw huge clumps of hair on my pillow about two weeks after my first treatment. It was like the wind had been knocked out of me. I knew that hair loss was a common side effect of chemo. Through research, I had found that about 65 percent of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy experience hair loss. I told doctors I understood but secretly I hoped and prayed that it wouldn’t happen to me.
Unfortunately, I was in the majority and I was angry. As much as I wanted to convince myself that everything would be okay, I HATED that people could finally see that I had cancer.
As much as we may deny it, for many people, hair is a big part of who we are (as it was for me). Whether we like it or not, physical appearance impacts confidence and I felt like I had lost all of mine.
Coping with the change
My family was a major reason for helping me through this distressing time. One thing that really helped me move past the grief were the little notes they left around the house—messages of positivity, encouragement, and little chores to keep me busy.
The same mirrors that I was previously unable to face were filled with heartfelt (and often funny) notes of reassurance and inspiration that kept me going.
Focusing on the positives
The good news is that hair loss isn’t all bad, there are some perks that can ease the pain a bit. For instance, you can try out new and bolder looks with wigs and head coverings. It can even be a fun experiment to try out henna crowns and different makeup techniques.
By far, the best part is that you don’t have to shave as often. One peek at my smooth legs, and I’m reminded that this benefit isn’t all that bad. And eventually, I know that my hair will grow back in time.
Dealing with cancer is undoubtedly a challenge, but things can get easier when you have friends and family members to support you during rough days. My CareCrew is one of the best apps for cancer patients with several tools to help you manage your schedule and coordinate support.
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