It’s Just Hair

by Debbie Twomey on June 12, 2017

It’s only hair—you know who says this the most? Those people who are already losing it and have to accept, those who never liked their hair anyways and those who think bald is beautiful which may be mostly males.  I know many women in chemotherapy say this too because they know it is inevitable so they accept sooner than some, but it is still a difficult process. For me, it was like Samson only not so much my strength as the only healthy aspect of my body that I always treasured.

I grew up in the 70’s, the era of HAIR. We had an anthem the song Hair by the Cowsills. “Give me your head full of hair, long beautiful hair…” In those days the guys hair was just as long as or longer than many girls. Now, I liked my hair long in those days but as I aged I discovered the shorter hair was a better look for me. In 2008 I started growing it for Locks of Love, in honor of a few cancer patients I knew at that time. I grew it almost to my butt before I finally got it cut and that was a chore because my hair is very heavy. But I thought if a cancer patient could go through what I then only heard of, I could suffer through carrying that hair.  

 

                                                           2005 and 2017

 

 

 

 

This experience of losing my hair to chemotherapy has been the most devastating emotionally. I thought I could handle it but I was so wrong. I cut my hair shorter so there would be less coming out but it still was traumatic. It started very quickly 10 days after my first chemotherapy. And it was coming out in clumps if I just ran my hands through it. What I really was not prepared for was how much it hurt. My scalp really hurt and it has never been sensitive so I am not sure why. Then the hairs that came off would poke in my neck like razors which was also very uncomfortable. And I am talking about the hair on top and my pubic hair as well. So I was in agony head to almost toes.

I read up on this hair loss and some women have discomfort while others minor scalp itch. Of course, I had to be one who had pain. Add insult to injury as far as I am concerned. Hair loss or alopecia is a side effect of chemotherapy.  Chemotherapy uses cytostatics which are drugs aimed specifically at destroying the quickly dividing and destructive cancer cells. In that process they not only kill cancer cells but healthy cells as well. Hair follicles are one of those cells destroyed which causes hair loss.

Chemotherapy may cause hair loss all over your body — not just on your scalp. Sometimes your eyelash, eyebrow, armpit, pubic and other body hair also falls out. Some chemotherapy drugs are more likely than others to cause hair loss, and different doses can cause anything from a mere thinning to complete baldness.

Hair Loss and Cancer Treatment

 

 

 

 

What is hair loss and how is chemotherapy related?

  • Believe it or not, hair loss (alopecia) due to chemotherapy is one of the most distressing side effects of chemo treatments.  
  • Hair loss happens because the chemotherapy affects all cells in the body, not just the cancer cells.  The lining of the mouth, stomach, and the hair follicles are especially sensitive because those cells multiply rapidly just like the cancer cells. The difference is that the normal cells will repair themselves, making these side effects temporary. 
  • Hair loss does not occur with all chemotherapy.  Whether or not your hair remains as it is, thins or falls out, depends on the drugs and dosages.  
  • Hair loss may occur as early as the second or third week after the first cycle of chemotherapy, although it may not happen until after the second cycle of chemotherapy.  
  • Hair loss can be sudden or slow.  
  • You may lose all of your hair or just some of it.  
  • Often it comes out in clumps rather than an even pattern.  
  • It is common for hair loss to include hair that grows anywhere including eyelashes, eyebrows, and even pubic hair.  http://chemocare.com/chemotherapy/side-effects/hair-loss-and-chemotherapy.aspx

Like I said I really thought I was prepared. But my hair was coming out in clumps and hurting me enough to cry. So, I decided to go to my hair dresser Karla and get it shaved off. I got a few cute chemo hats and went over knowing it was going to be distressing. I told her to just shave it but do not have me face the mirror. And when it was over I cried but I think poor Karla cried harder. I really felt bad for her because it hurt her too. She did not charge me for this service but did it as a friend.

I told her I would be okay just don’t look at me in my car (that is where I do most of my serious crying). I really did not lose it till I pulled in my driveway. Then it just HIT me.

You see, my hair is important to me; I have always taken pride in it. And I am not the kind who has a nice face without the cover of hair no matter what anyone tries to tell me. It is what I see reflected back and I am just not ready to see that head without hair.

I covered my only mirror and still refuse to take the cover down even 3 weeks later. I don’t want to see it daily, I am sorry but I don’t. I have not even really looked at it, only seen quick flashes in a window or the toaster. I did let my daughter take a photo of me with my youngest granddaughter and until today, had not seen the image. But, it is how I look to my little Leah and to McKenna so I know I will eventually accept it. I just prefer not to have that head staring back at me anymore than I have to, plain and simple.

I know I am in a battle with a formidable foe. I know these side effects are devastating and hair loss should be minor in comparison to the constipation, nausea and weakness (I cannot even fathom what the damage looks like inside my body but I picture monsters in there tearing it up). My head knows these facts but my heart hates that I had to look and feel ugly while facing cancer. And believe me, in the throes of pain and vomiting, I do not give a damn about my hair, I just want it to end and all this be worth what I am going through.

But, I am vain about my hair and I do not like aspects of my face that my hair covered and a mirror reminds me of that. So, for now it will stay covered and I will pretend I am not a chemo patient, I am just Debbie. It may be minor to some, but it is major to me and I will be thrilled when it begins to grow back. And I can concentrate on getting through the truly painful parts of this toxic cocktail I have been taking. One more of the “red devil” and then I will be on 9 new treatments. I can hardly wait!!! Just sayin’.

Live Laugh Love

Debbie

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Nan June 14, 2017 at 9:50 pm

Deb, I wish you would have asked one of us, your sisters to go with you!. I know how emotionally draining this can be after watching Christie go through it at only 25 yrs old. I truly hope you get through this and the cancer is gone,but remember, everyone has trials and tribulations. I'm so amazed with Christie sometimes and others it just breaks my heart. She has so many things wrong, PAH, Lupus, thrombocytopenia now they found 4 spots on her lungs,her spleen is very enlarged and problems with her liver function. But you know what really got me; she can't go outside in this weather, no swimming,walking, biking or really anything physical. I know now you can relate to her situation must better, pain is pain! No matter the cause. So for both my sister and my daughter, I will always keep you in my heart and my prayers because I ❤️ you both so much! I know I make catty remarks but it is only to make you laugh!😘Good luck tomorrow with your next treatment! 😘 

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