The One About The Hair

Of all the things I expected to get upset over during this whole cancer thing, losing my hair was actually fairly low on the list.

I’ve already declared my excitement to wear cool spy wigs, but I haven’t really talked much about the hair thing since The Shedding began.

First, let me make it clear that losing my hair was a lot more traumatizing than I ever expected it to be. I have never been attached to my hair, having it every cut and colour under the sun. I was more worried about losing my appetite than my hair (as if my appetite would ever go away, ha).

But there are really no words to describe the feelings that come with that first clump of hair in your hands. In some ways I was happy because it showed the chemo was working. In others it was a punch in the face of “Holyhellthisisreallyhappening.”

There are two ways most women deal with losing their hair on chemo. Some will jump the gun and shave it all off before any more has a chance to fall out. It’s a way to avoid having to pull out clumps or find strands all over the place, and a nice little “eff you” to cancer and chemo.

Another way to deal with it is by massaging the hair out. Working the fingers through the scalp to push the hair out, pulling out as much as they can. This is a lot more natural way to do it, but again, still not a good time.

I got all kinds of recommendations on what to do about the hair situation. Some said shave it right away, others said cut it really short. Even though I waited a month to start chemotherapy, I still felt really unprepared when the first day came. I was overwhelmed by all the suggestions, so I ended up doing nothing about it. I cut my long hair to chin length and left it at that.

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Turns out, leaving my hair as is was the best non-decision I’ve made throughout this whole thing.

I was told that my hair could be gone in a matter of days when it first started falling out six weeks ago. I couldn’t bring myself to shave it all off, nor could I let myself pull it all out at once. So I just let my hair do it’s thing, picking strands off my shirts and out of my food the whole way along.

My hair is quite thin now. My bangs are slowly disappearing in the front and I’m always concerned a small breeze will expose the pink skin under the thin layer of hair. But still not bad enough to make people stare. Choosing to just let it be gave me six extra weeks with my hair I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Pulling strands of my own hair out every day is actually really scary. It’s upsetting. It’s annoying as hell. But I think it’s also given me the time to come to terms with what is happening rather than trying to put an end to it. It’s turned into a time where I say goodbye to my old self a little bit each day. And it’s helped me say hellloooo to the new blonde in town.
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Now I just need a trenchcoat to go with my spy wig.

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Posted on September 21, 2011, in Cancer and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 56 Comments.

  1. Hey, I say you made the right choice! I made it all the way thru the 6 months of AVBD without losing all my hair… the nurses all said it would be gone by the 3rd treatment. Mine was short to begin with, and it sure did get thin, but as you said not to the point where people might stare.

    LOVE the last photo… very pretty!! :o)

    • I’ve heard of a lot of people who didn’t lose all their hair on ABVD – I think this losing your hair thing is a crock! Haha. Everyone is really surprised when I say I’ve had 5 treatments because I still have so much hair on my head. My eyelashes and eyebrows are sloooowly thinning too. And my leg hair is growing much slower. At this rate, I’ll probably end up losing most of my hair if I do all 6 months of treatments. But if I do less treatments, I may get away with having it just thin.

  2. You do look amazing in that wig!!! Perhaps you’ll go blonder when it’s all over. It’s a good look for you. Looking good is a small consolation for losing your hair but at least you have that on your side.

    My Mother wore wigs as a style choice in the 60’s. It’s hard to believe but true. She had quite a few of them and popped them on before going out.

    With cooler weather coming, the wig will be more comfortable.

    Best luck with it!

    Bev

  3. Hey there hottie! You look awesome.

    I can’t imagine how emotion the process of losing your hair has been. As you said, something minor in the grand scheme of cancer actually symbolizes a lot. It’s like this tangible thing that you can see, since you can’t always see what’s going on inside (but I’m picturing little chemo warriors with spears and bow-axes trouncing those icky cancer cells!). You are such an inspiration in how you are dealing with this If letting your hair just “be” helped you adjust through the process, then you absolutely made the right decision!

  4. Love the wig!! You look awesome!!!

  5. I really thought you were going to say that you were afraid the wind would blow your hair out instead of expose the skin underneath…

    To go with the trench, I think you also need some giant sunglasses.

  6. Hi There,

    For what it’s worth: You look amazing.
    Loved your old look, but I think the wig ‘s really pretty too.
    I hope you can come to terms with it.

  7. Poignant post; GORGEOUS new blonde in town. “Hellloooo!” :-)

  8. Hot blonde is looking pretty damn good!! Sometimes I’m tempted to shave all my hair off, because those I know who have grow back the most lustrous locks.

    Love you and your strength and writing.

    Ate salt cod in your honour a couple of nights ago.

    x

  9. You do look wonderful in the spy wig :)! I love your description of how your non-decision has enabled you to continue to let go of the previous “you” and accept the new (and eventually, I guarantee) and improved you! These posts will serve as your own collection (ahem, book) of tips and coping strategies for living a day at a time with cancer and cancer treatment.

  10. You’re braver than me. I probably would have shaved it right away. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t handle watching my hair slowly fall out.

  11. I think you should get a black wig, some tights and maybe a spy mask, then you should write spy stories … when I was a kid and I read Harriet the spy, I actually spent about a year trying to decide if that would be an appropriate career path … hell maybe I should rethink it right now :P

  12. love how a nondecision became a great decision! i am a frequent decision waffler.

    do you have any extra large sunglasses? i think that would complete your new look.

  13. Gorgeous! With or without hair. I LOVE the spy wig! I am actually going to show that pic to my hairdresser. I want my bangs like that!

  14. Your hair is sooo cute :).. It is a really good look for you. When your hair grows back, THIS is the look you should keep :)

    LOVE IT!

  15. Susan you look awesome!! That wig totally suits you!

    I can imagine that losing your hair is a challenge. Makes it seem more real I bet. When my dad was sick – he said one of the hardest things was that he didn’t LOOK sick, so he had a hard time recognizing that he was sick and so did other people and he found that a challenge.

    • Yes!! That is a huge problem too! Because I still wear makeup and have hair people think I feel good because I still look good. But how you look has nothing to do with how you feel. The concealer covers the dark eye circles and constant fatigue. It’s definitely a challenge, because I don’t want to look like crap just to get my point across.

  16. I can’t imagine how stressful it must be losing your hair, especially for a women but I must say…you picked the perfect wig. You look stunning.

  17. You look as beautiful as ever, Susan. And completely natural – no one would ever know unless you told them. They’d just think you had a great hair cut.

    This just reinforces that a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do when it comes to handling her own life. Great to get input but ultimately – only you know your body (and your spirit) best.

    PS – I do like the idea of telling any illness to ‘eff off’ – keep on doin’ it!

  18. Sounds like you completely went with the right decision by making no decision!

    And I cannot wait to see you rock those wigs, girl :)

  19. You look beautiful ~

  20. Losing hair is so traumatizing. I’m so happy for you that yours isn’t falling out very fast! Mine fell out FAST with the chemo I had so I had to shave it. Your wig looks fabulous, rock it :)

  21. You look super!! I also just cut about 8 inches from my long hair, since the addition of another chemo drug to my regimen (for colon cacner) is said to cause more alopecia. Right now my hair is also quite thin but probably will not totally fall out.

    I hear you on the traumatizing thing – it’s just such a public “announcement” that you are a cancer patient.

    Strangely, it can cut both ways. I feel like crap on chemo but I get a lot of “well you look great!!!” as though people maybe don’t really buy that I am on a seriously major regimen.

    You do look fab in the wig though. And FWIW, I have heard that rogaine is safe to use even while on chemo – helps to keep the hair you have and regrow a new crop :)

    Hang in there!!

  22. You look gorgeous! The new look is very pretty but I honestly think that your best feature is your smile… and no amount of chemo can ever take that away. Great post!

  23. Hi Susan. You look great in the spy wig. AND…love the spy sunglasses beside you!!! My friend Kathy who is having chemo right now had her husband shave all her hair off when the clumps started coming out. They had some fun with it and emailed me photos as each section came off. By the time it was all gone (and photographed in the bag)she was rolling on the floor laughing and didn’t shed a tear, which she was sure she would. No word as to whether he shaved her legs at the same time! Some things are best kept private! :)

    • One thing that people don’t talk about is that when you lose hair from chemo, you lose it from everrrrywhere. But some things are best kept private! Haha.

  24. I’ve said it before, but I SERIOUSLY love that wig on you. Once the chemo’s done and your hair starts growing back, I think you should keep the look! And also, learn to speak with a Russian accent. If you’re going to go spy, you might as well go ALL the way. ;)

  25. Love the wig – you look absolutely beautiful! No one will be able to tell its not your natural hair!

  26. Your wig looks fabulous :) So interesting to hear about all of this.

  27. You look beautiful! Thank you for sharing.

  28. OMG Susan you look amazing! Although I think you look good in the second picture with your chin-length hair too – I agree with the person who posted a few posts up, you have such a nice smile you’d look beautiful with any (or no) hair :) The most important thing is how you feel of course, and it sounds like as usual you have a great attitude. Now we need to see the pink wig! :D

  29. Also your post title sounds like a Friends episode title, I don’t know if that was on purpose but it made me laugh

  30. You are such an amazing person sharing your story of survival with the world. You are beatiful!

  31. You are beautiful :)

  32. And, as we can see, you already have the sunglasses to complete your spy look! Now you need a new name to go along with your spy identity. I hope you can appreciate the irony of the name of the most well-known female spy in all of spy-dom — Mata Hari. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mata_Hari {although, as it turns out, she may have not been a spy after all}.

  33. The wig looks FANTASTIC!

  34. First of all you look gorgeous with your wig, I wear them too so I can spot fake hair from a mole away and yours does not look fake.

    Fortunately, I do not have cancer but alopecia. My hair fell out slowly too but I don’t think anything prepares you for how you will feel. I remember looking at my shoulder one day in the shower and there was this hugeee clump of hair sitting there, then I pulled at my head and hair just simply came out…. I can not explain how I felt, it was almost like I was horrified because it’s not natural. The same thing with my eyebrows, it’s not fun to rub your eyes or eyebrows and find 10 lashes on your hand.

    However, if you can think of it like every hair you lose, the more the chemo is working then that is wonderful. Yeah it’s just hair or eyebrows or eyelashes, but don’t ever feel bad for getting sad about it because being able to pull hair out is quite traumatizing.

    I hope you get well soon:)

  35. You look so gorgeous with the blonde wig and without!

  36. You look amazing in that wig & really, just reading thru this, your courage shines thru!

  37. Wow, that wig looks amazing on you! I can’t get over how realistic wigs look these days, when I compare them to when my mom had hers — HUGE difference. Rock it!

  38. So once upon a time I had this friend, Mandy. She told us she had cancer. She shaved her head. We had a big fundraiser for her. $5,000 was raised (psh, pocket change compared to TGFA, right?) She still had her eyebrows. We asked why–she said they were fake. Um, this was fishy. You SHAVE your head because you know you will lose your hair, but you go to the trouble to get fake eyebrows–that look REALLY real?

    SHe didn’t have cancer. She took that money and moved.

    This post reminded me of her. I had since erased the experience from my memory but this reminded me of it. What a bitch. Ugh.

    Anyway–I love you and you are a strong lady for dealing with all this shit.

    • We’ve had some scams like that in Canada too! My family wondered how people participating in TGFA knew I wasn’t doing the same thing, but it’s not like you can just fake a month in the hospital (or the tube hanging out of my arm, I guess)

  39. Girl, you are so right on with your decision. I think I’d go the same way if I were you. And you look hot with short hair, just sayin :)

  40. My hair stylist in New York is the designer of the first cancer wigs and he provides free cancer wigs to people that cannot afford them. we need more good people like that in this world.

  41. Great post! The spy wig is awesome. I found that I cared much less about losing hair during treatment than I do now that it’s growing back. I pray for the day when you’re done with treatment. If you ever (now or anytime in the future) need to vent about the hair situation or anything else cancer-related, just email me at citygirlblogs (at) gmail.

  42. So so pretty!

    I think I told you about Dean, the phlebotomist at my Dad’s hospital who also coincidentally had lymphoma. He complained because he lost all the head on his body but none of the hair on his head!! what what! That’s a girl’s dream!! haha.

    I can’t wait to see how it looks when it grows back- I’m sure you’ve heard all the stories. Sometimes it grows back all kinds of different than before! (maybe it’ll grow back black and spiky!)

    Love you girl.

  43. Thank you for your words! My hair has begun to fall out and you’re the first person to put the words on how I was exactly feeling but couldn’t express it! Not real sure if I want a wig but I don’t want to feel the stares that I feel will come. Any advice on that would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!

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