Losing Your Hair During Chemo
by Christie Perkins
You know, the one who never loses her hair. I wanted to keep all that hair (see picture below). One day I believe my prayers are working that I’ll be that one who never loses her hair and the next moment it goes dead (if hair could ever be called alive). It was like my plump lush flowerpot after one hot day in the sun: withering and lifeless. Just one. That’s all it took was one little chemo treatment.
I expected hair loss to be more gradual. But why would it be? Everything in my life was suddenly on fast forward, well, until chemo hits then its like watching someone build a sandcastle one grain at a time. The rush and sudden pause of cancer gives you whiplash. Anyway. My hair was losing vivaciousness.
So much for school pictures. Not that I’ve ever had school pictures at this age in life. But, if I wanted to, the opportunity was botched. Then the hair dropping began.
Hair That Keeps Dropping and Plopping
Day 1. My scalp started hurting. I discover a head lump. All I can think about is my Grandma on her death bed when her cancer spread everywhere. Big knobs were all over her head. It’s a tough day.
Day 2. When I touched my head 4 pieces of hair dropped. I amused myself for the next thirty minutes touching my head with 3-5 pieces of hair dropping each time. It was a magic trick that worked every time. I saw compassion in my children’s eyes. They know how hard this is for me.
Day 3. Today the count averages to about 23 strands of hair. I still washed my hair but the tub was disgusting. My hair kept falling and crawling on my arms all day. It’s a little frightening if you’re afraid of hairy spiders.
Day 4. Today the count bumps to about 46 strands. The kids now own werewolf suits for clothing as it is weaving its way through the laundry piles. And it’s not even Halloween yet (it’s called preparedness- hey, hair loss has it’s perks). Combing the hair becomes frightening. My hair is driving me crazy.
Day 5. I don’t remember the hair count but I was starting to look like my husband before he shaved his head (minus the 5 o’clock shadow). Comb overs really are a comfort…I totally get it now. But, since it’s my little guy’s birthday I refuse to ruin it with tears. It’ll just have to be a bad hair day. I tie back my hair into a very thin ponytail (which tugs out more hair).
Day 6. There were 96 pieces of hair plopping each time (yes, I actually counted them). I avoided any head touching (there wasn’t much there anyway). I can’t wait to shave my head. We shave my head as soon as my husband gets home from work.
So what should you expect with hair loss? Here’s a few tips that I discovered that you may not know.
What Can I Expect When I Start Losing My Hair?
Head Is Tender: It actually hurts to lose your hair. Not just emotionally but physically, too. This was the first sign that my hair was about to drop.
Lumps on Head May Appear: At my Grandmas death (she had breast cancer) I felt large lumps on her head because it had spread through her entire body. Imagine my surprise when a lump appeared on my head with my hair loss. I soon learned that as the hair follicle loosens they can get swollen. No stress, no extra worries. It’s all okay. The lump disappeared in less than a week.
Eyebrows and Eyelashes Drop Too: This came as a big surprise. I could handle the hair loss, I think. But when I realized my stubby eyelashes and eyebrows would be gone too I wept. Any beauty markers at all would be wiped out. Luckily, though, they are the last to go. I continued losing mine after chemo. I got down to one eyelash on each eye… it looked stupid. And it looks really silly putting mascara on 5 lashes, but I did anyway. Hey, it’s called embracing what you have!
Not Everyone Loses Their Hair: I hope you are the lucky one that doesn’t. But if you do, it will come back in. Hair can change color and texture when it grows back in. Curly hair is common. Some keep the curl and some don’t.
Easy-Peasy Hair Loss Tips To Make a Smooth Transition
So, what do you do to deal with the hair loss? Here’s a few tips I discovered while morphing into that beautiful bald head.
Wait an extra day before shaving head: I waited one more day than I wanted to because it was my little guys birthday. He was indifferent to my hair loss. So, to avoid a bummer birthday, we waited. I was more than happy to shave it by the following day. I called, begging my husband to hurry home from work.
Let your family shave your head: Each took a turn with the clippers. My older boys were excited for payback. It was the only time in my life I sported a Mohawk and a mullet in the same day. I actually liked my haircut when the mullet disappeared into baldness. Thank you boys.
Sleep with a beanie: It’s drafty at night. Need I say more.
Have a cry moment, then move on: It’s okay to mourn your hair loss. I actually only shed a couple of tears when I got in the shower to rinse off. My big tear moment came initially when I learned I would be losing my hair and eyelashes. But, you have to feel your emotions to properly deal with them.
Speed up the hair loss with a washcloth: Yep, speed it up. You are going to want to speed up the hair loss so your head will stop hurting. I discovered if I ran my hand over my head stubby hair pieces would fall out. A wet washcloth in the shower was much more effective. Scrub lightly and smile, your head will feel much better. I knew I would eventually lose it all so it wasn’t a big deal to speed up the process.
Soap or Shampoo? This was the constant debate between my husband and I. He was pro-bald and turned slick many years ago. He uses soap, I used shampoo. I laughed at him, he laughed at me. Whatever you do, just keep it clean. (Oh, and how I learned to love getting ready in 15 minutes.)
My hair was halfway down my back and I was suddenly bald. I just convinced myself it’s just hair. And when you are feeling sick and energy zapped it is quite a blessing to not have to worry about hairstyling.
Embrace the good things about hair loss during chemo: a quick hair do, simple make up moments, funny wig moments, ect. Find the smallest positive thing about your situation and it will be amazing what joy you can find in a journey through cancer.
Hope you enjoyed reading. On some devices my share buttons are a little tricky to find. To access, click on the comment bubble to load up my share buttons and scroll to the top of the page. My share buttons are underneath my title. Click and share! And oh, have a fantastic day!