Chemotherapy, the system of treating some cancers with chemical drugs, can cause some people to lose their hair (usually this is temporary and the hair grows back after the treatments stop). As if cancer isn’t devastating enough, there is the added indignity of losing your hair as well.
If you or someone you love is experiencing this now, you have my sympathy, support, and prayers. I wanted to share a few tips that may help you to cope with the temporary hair loss.
Get a Good Short Hair Style
First, if your hair is long or mid-length and you know that you will have to undergo chemotherapy, see your hairstylist and get a good-looking short haircut first. This way, if you do start to lose your hair, it will be far less devastating to lose small tufts of hair, not great big long hanks of it. There’s something very demoralizing about losing a lot of hair at once.
If you’ve lost all or part of your hair, please remember that your newly-exposed scalp will need daily applications of sunscreen if you go outside. The last thing you need now is the additional discomfort of sunburn.
There are companies dedicated to making headgear specifically for woman who have lost their hair, but you can find great hats at anywhere from K-Mart on up. You may find that your head is very sensitive, so you will want softer materials.
Depending on how bold you feel, you can get oversized berets, knit hats, or even close-fitting 20’s-style beaded caps. Scarves are another comfortable and good-looking alternative. Most places that sell scarves can usually show you how to make a good-looking head wrap.
You can also find books that will step you through creating the breathtaking head coverings that some African-American women wear. When my friend Nancy had chemo for her breast cancer, she often wore cute cotton and lace mobcaps.
Here’s a tip that Carol Channing, actor and singer, uses: she loves hats, and owns hundreds of them. Since her own hair is on the thin side, she also has many wigs. Some of her favorite hats have had parts of wigs or hairpieces sewn into them to create a look of real hair coming out under the hat.
You can always look into getting a wig or two. Besides the fact that they will cover your head, they are a lot of fun to experiment with. Ever wish you had long curly red hair? Well, now’s your chance! There are all kinds of wigs out there, from decent-looking fakes to real hair. It all depends on what you want to spend, and what feels and looks comfortable. You may feel that having the wig helps transition you from semi- or total baldness to the time when your hair grows out again.
Grin and Bare It
You might find that you don’t like wearing anything on your head at all. If so, don’t forget your sunscreen!
But believe it or not, earrings will make you look (and feel) more finished. I am not making this up—my friend Nancy got good and sick of her caps during a particularly hot summer.
She left her head coverings at home, had more holes pierced in her ears, and for the rest of the summer she wore lots of silver hoops in graduated sizes, plus lots of eyeliner! (Actually, it was a pretty good look.)
Ultimately, it is our attitudes that help us through any situation. Living with cancer is a whole new ballgame, and requires different strategies than in "normal" life.
I realize that how your hair looks at a time like this is a pretty small concern and I do not wish to trivialize the situation in any way. However, part of recovery is feeling good about yourself.
If any of these tips help get you through another day, then they have served their purpose.
Do your best to stay positive, hold your head up high, and walk with the confidence that you are a survivor!