When I was getting ready to start chemo I was mortified about losing my hair. I thought it’d be an instant identifier to others that I had cancer (but seriously why did I even care so much of what others thought???). I’ve had medium to long hair for most of my life and I definitely took it for granted. I was convinced that losing my hair would make me look like a preteen boy…not even a man but a young boy!
So on June 26, 2016 when I hopped into the shower that morning and my hair started falling out in clumps I was devastated. It was by far the worst thing I’ve ever gone through…I might even say it was worse than actually going through chemo (because at least with chemo I had drugs). I immediately came out and told my husband that we HAD to shave my head. Here’s the thing right before you lose your hair your scalp burns, hurts, and is extremely uncomfortable! So by the time I actually starting losing my hair I was pretty much done with it anyways (yet not done with it all at the same time).
So that evening, in the summer heat, my husband and I went out on the porch and he shaved my head. I didn’t let him see it but I had tears in my eyes and told myself to just laugh this part off because at the end of the day it’d grow back and this wasn’t worth losing it over. To be honest I really just wanted to be strong for my husband’s sake because as hard as this moment was for me I promise it was probably worse for him.
From that point on if I was at home I’d either go without anything on or one of my cotton hats, if I was at work I had my wig on and if I was out and about after work/weekends I’d wear my head scarf or hat. See another thing that I didn’t really grasp prior to cancer is how awful wigs are on an irritated scalp in the hot summer heat! Especially when you have just been pushed into menopause and are constantly having massive hot flashes that make sweat run from the top of your head to your toes (yep cancer is super glamorous).
Head scarfs were by far my favorite. I think the side bun wrap style was the closest to how I used to wear my hair pre-cancer and so I was able to trick my mind into thinking this was just my hair (this was especially easy if I saw my shadow). Also for some reason when I was Googling, Pintresting, and YouTubing away looking for solutions to losing all my hair I barely found ANYTHING!!! Yet today when I go look on YouTube for the video of this awesome lady talking about the different ways of covering her head there are so many videos I can’t even find the one I wanted to share with you all. Needless to say I did find a few gems that really helped me along the way – MyCancerChic.com was one of those. Anna doesn’t know this but her positivity, her bright smile, her drive to still be feminine and beautiful saved me from a really dark place. I’ve been following her journey ever since I found her last June and she still finds ways of inspiring me to try new hair styles and to just keep smiling…she gives me hope!
By mid-August I had all but given up on my wig, they are expensive and if I hadn’t been so self-conscious I would’ve just jumped right to head scarfs and hats but alas I didn’t want to have to explain to every person I met why I didn’t have hair and a wig was a good transition point for me so that I could first get comfortable with not having hair and then when I was ready transition to no wig (and the obvious explanations for why I all of a sudden had no hair). Lucky for me my best friend bought my wig for me but there are many other great resources for getting a hand-me-down/donated wig usually at your local cancer hospital. If you are in the state of Oregon and can make it into Portland, Brenda Kay Hair Specialties is amazing. Brenda made that whole experience extremely comfortable and was very conscious of the emotions that I was feeling during that process.
I finished chemo on September 15, 2016 and immediately wanted my hair back…now a new dread was upon me…the regrowth process!!! UGH…you know why no women ever actually shaves her head? Because regrowing your hair to lovely long locks is a labor of love. Ever heard of the ugly stage? Ever heard of chemo curls? Ever heard of hair growing at far different speeds on different areas of your head? As much as losing my hair sucked, regrowing it has definitely been just as emotionally taxing. Here’s the thing, once your hair starts growing out people expect you to kick the wig, the hats, the scarfs and just rock this awful buzz cut but what they don’t realize is your wig, scarfs and hats are like safety blankets that you’ve used to hide the fact that you have cancer not just from those around you but from yourself!
I still daily think about just throwing on my head scarf and heading out the door but finding courage to step out with nothing has given me the confidence I lost with my long hair a year ago. I will post an additional post this weekend/early next week about different ways I dealt with the “regrowth” phase so stay tuned!
If you have gone through chemo comment below with your tips/tricks or people who inspired you during that phase in your cancer journey! I want to hear from YOU!!!