How to Handle Hair Loss During Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy and hair loss
Hair loss

Robin Roberts, the anchor on Good Morning America, battled cancer and one morning shortly after starting treatments she graced us with her presence. She was looking alive and well and she discussed her fight with cancer, particularly her hair loss due to Chemotherapy. Now she is the morning host of GMA and has a bright future.

It is funny that of all the trials you must go through while fighting cancer, the trial of losing your hair is the most devastating. As women we define ourselves by our attributes and hair is one of the most significant ones. Some of us look okay bald, but for the most part, we all look pretty bad with no hair. Robin discusses the fact that many women hesitate and even refuse to do their chemo because of the impending baldness.

We all think, “not me, I’m the one that won’t lose her hair,” and even when they tell us it will happen we go into denial mode. Those of us that don’t go into denial simply want to refuse treatment. Who willingly wants to take a tour of hell? But in the end we all experience the same thing, our hair comes out in handfuls until we are losing our minds along with our hair.

You say to yourself, “I should have shaved my head like they told me too.” So you finally go to someone that has clippers and talk them into shaving what is left of your hair off. When you have you head shaved, you have to bow your head for them to get the back of your head. In that moment you experience the posture of defeat. Almost bowing your head in shame, it feels like one of the biggest failures in your life.

Here’s the deal, though. This is not defeat. This is the way you survive, the way you live to see you children grow up. Ten years out from your chemo and radiation you will be proud of your fight and never look back with shame. And here is the good news; your hair may very well come back better than it was before. Chances are your hair will come back a different color.

Of course, sometimes this is not the case, but sometimes, when using the right method to regrow hair naturally, it comes back curlier and thicker, or straight and like silk. Funny how that worked for me, my hair came back with a vengeance. In some cases, you might even loose your eyelashes and eyebrows. Chemo seems to wipe your features away, but in most cases, they simply grow back thicker and fuller.

The one way you can help yourself is to consider the many ways you can cover your head during this time. The Chemo gave me what I call burning headaches. I felt as if my hair was stinging me, and my scalp becomes hot and itchy. I tried wearing a wig, but when I put it on my head it felt really uncomfortable, I hated wearing it.

I found that wrapping my head in soft cotton felt the best. It was like swaddling a baby to make it feel secure. My head felt most comfortable tied securely in soft cloth. Then I remembered my head wraps that I used when I had danced in a Middle Eastern troupe. Muslim women use a material in the most interesting ways. They use material like it is hair, tying, wrapping and draping cloth around their heads. Egyptian cotton was my favorite because is was soft and had a good drape to it.

Play with different pieces of material, but I think you will find that if you tie your head up in cloth that you will feel much more comfortable and secure. Tying up your head in cloth may even make you look better than some of the wigs that are out there. Of course, if this all happens in the winter all the better, because you are expected to cover your head with hats at this time in winter. I used a head bandanna and wore a beret over the bandanna. It had a funky look to it, and it felt good.

You can do this; it is hard but in the end, you will be the winner. Survival rates are up but only if you don’t hesitate and take the appropriate action quickly. If you want to live you have to fight and if it means losing your hair, then so be it. Once you are done with your chemotherapy, there are different shampoos, vitamins and oils that can help grow your hair back. Hair grows back and at the end of it all you can joke that any day with hair, is a good day.