I have many motives for writing this article. Recently I was accused by a visitor of only promoting "fluff" hair pieces on Hair Boutique.
Although we do try to include all sorts of hair articles that cover a wide spectrum from hair loss and hair traumas to hair fun, maybe it is true that the majority of Hair Boutique articles are not as scary or serious as they could be. Who knows what is fluff and what isn't?
At any rate, I received inspiration from this article when about 3 months ago I spontaneously called a friend of mine, Bevy (pronounced Bev-e), whom I have known and loved since the 70s.
Meet My Dear Friend Bevy
I met Bevy in my home town of St. Louis at my very first job out of college. Bevy and I were instant soul mates. She could outwalk outtalk and almost outwork me (not quite). Bevy was wildly independent, very wise and definitely savvy. Even in her early 20s, Bevy was a constant source of inspiration. The girl had guts. And I loved her for it.
Bevy and I grew a deep friendship history over the years as we supported each other through rotten jobs, career angst and relationships with jerky guys.
I could tell lots of great touching stories about my friend Bevy, but the purpose of this article is to share her recent journey through the path of hair loss.
Bevy and I have that type of friendship where you can lose touch for a few years and pick up right where you left off. So when I called her a few months ago, we had not talked for almost 3 years. Life is busy, we both work beyond reason and for the past 15 years we have lived in different cities.
I fled to the big city lights of Dallas and New England born and bred Bevy settled in to my old Midwestern St. Louis neighborhood.
When Bevy told me about her recent diagnosis and trip through chemotherapy, I was filled with terror. This story sounded all too familiar to me. I lost another very special friend, Judy, to breast cancer many years ago. When Bevy told me her serious news, I was not ready to give up another special person in my life.
Luckily Bevy caught her cancer very early and it appears that she is on a path to a good recovery. We talked at length about how she felt about her illness and the weird changes her life had morphed through.
One Of The Weirdest Things - Losing Hair To Cancer
As we talked about her life and disease Bevy told me that one of the weirdest things was losing all her hair. Inspiration struck me....why not get all of her experiences down on paper and share it with all my friends at the Hair Boutique.
Bevy instantly agreed to share her hair loss experience. We continued talking and began a marathon chat all about her hair loss journey.
The interesting thing is that Bevy knew from the very beginning that her hair would go. Her doctors warned her that the type of chemo that they use for her type of breast cancer rarely spares anyone from the hair loss side effects. The hair goes. But only the hair on the head.
Bevy explained that at first she was looking forward to not having to shave her legs or arms and that if she had to lose her hair, there had to be a bright side. Unfortunately, as I have learned from studying the effects of the H37 hair vitamin, I know that the hair on the body is controlled by different organs. The hair on the head is not really connected to the hair on the arms or legs or even parts of the face.
Sure enough, while Bevy's hair shed, her legs continued to expose random stubble. Bevy said that it made her annoyed that she had to still shave her legs than the fact that her hair fell out in huge clumps. We laughed about her "life is not fair - I still had to shave my legs" antedotes.
One side effect was the loss of her eyebrows and some of her eyelashes. Again, different organs are at play with different parts of the bodies. Many breast cancer chemo patients will also lose their eyelashes and eyebrows.
Cut Your Hair Before It Starts To Shed
Before she was diagnosed with cancer Bevy had worn her light brown hair in a medium business like Bob to compliment her job as an executive for a Fortune 500 company. Right after Bevy made peace with the fact that her hair was going to go, she got her hair cut very short in a type of Pixie cut.
She explained that she felt that it would be a lot easier for her to lose her hair when it was short to begin with than if it fell out in long strands from her original length.
About the same time that she got her hair cut very short she was referred by her doctors to a company in St. Louis that worked with her to fit her for a custom wig that was similar to her original hairstyle.
Bevy told me that she was referred to a shop that specialized in alopecia and hair loss. Bevy explained that while most people with cancer and chemo treatments grow their hair back, many people with alopecia are not as fortunate. She said the whole thought of losing hair for whatever reason is definitely sobering.
Getting Fitted For A Wig
Bevy's experiences with having her wig fitted was extremely enlightening. She told me that the shop she visited explained to her that they really understand the pain that people experience when they lose their hair, whether through cancer, alopecia or other reasons.
Because their compassion for people suffering from hair loss, the shop where Bevy went is specially designed to provide ultimate privacy. Each hair station is separated from prying eyes and the hair consultant offers the client the option to remove any mirrors.
Bevy explained that most shops that specialize in similar services are very sensitive to privacy issues.
When Bevy visited the shop the first time, she still had a majority of her short Pixie hair left, By the time her wig was ready, she had gone through some chemo treatments and had decided to shave her rapidly balding head.
The people at the wig salon shaved her head for her. Bevy chose to face backwards and not look at her head. She decided that she wanted to take her time and get used to having no hair at all when she was ready.
Bevy said that her wig is well designed and looks amazingly real. She also said that after she got through the shock of seeing herself with no hair, she became comfortable with only wearing her wig to work.
Cold Air - A Major Challenge
After a short time Bevy shared that she became very comfortable living wigless in a wide assortment of baseball caps.
While the wig was a mainstay at work, she become so comfortable with her chemo induced baldness that she was able to run to the local grocery store, cleaners and bank with just her baseball cap.
There were even time, when she felt fine with no cap at all. However, she decided to spare other people's feelings, that she would always have some sort of head cover in public.
Since St. Louis tends to be a cold climate, she discovered that keeping her head warm was a new challenge that she had not figured on. She invested in some woolen ski caps and would keep them on her head at home to stay warm.
I asked her to share some other surprises. Bevy said that keeping her head warm was most difficult when she was getting right out of the shower before she could get her head covered. She said the wetness and the air seemed to penetrate even more intensely.
Hair Conditioner or Skin Lotions?
Bevy also experienced problems with itching, dryness and chafing on her scalp and head. At first she decided to try a variety of lotions. She tried face lotions and hand lotions and a variety of things.
After much experimenting Bevy discovered that using her regular shampoo and conditioner on her bald head did the trick. The shampoo and conditioner served to keep her skin soft and moist and removed all itching.
Bevy mentioned that she asked others about their experience with this and they all seemed to have a different way of dealing with the dryness. Bevy's way was to shampoo and condition as if the hair was still there.
Other Related Hair Loss Experiences
Bevy told me that she would tell anyone suffering from breast cancer to cut their hair as short as possible to get ready for the inevitable hair loss.
Although some people do escape with their hair intact, Bevy's doctor told her that with breast cancer chemo the odds are very hair that hair loss will results.
Bevy also recommended that a wig consultant be located as soon as possible. Although Bevy really liked the consultants that were her first choice, she expressed strongly the opinion that every hair loss client should only work with a wig maker that showed compassion, consideration and understanding.
One of the strange things that Bevy had to adjust to was having no hair at all. Bevy explained that she went through a brief period of feeing completely naked. Then she adjusted to the feeling and was able to ease into wearing her wig and baseball caps.
Because Bevy does wear a wig for business, she is required to have it cleaned on a regular basis. She explained the process which is sort of like taking your car in for a quick oil and lube.
Bevy pops in to the shop, hands them the wig, reads a magazine and in approximately 30 minutes her wig is back on her head, newly cleaned, adjusted and she is off to wherever life next takes her.
Thoughts For Others
I asked Bevy if her head was extremely sensitive. I told her that I had read an article some time ago about another hair loss victim who complained that only the softest of pillow cases would work on her balding scalp.
Bevy did not experience this problem. Only the itchy dry skin and the intense sensitivity to cold air. Which were definite problems for her intiially.
Bevy did stress the fact that while it is scary and difficult to lose your hair, losing your life could be worse. She also explained that once you lose all your hair there is the possibility that it will grow back completely different. She can't wait to see what her new growth will look like.
Some people who experience total hair loss because of chemo will experience regrowth that is a different color, texture or even growth pattern.
When I last talked to Bevy, a few days ago, she was doing very well. She had made it through chemo and was doing radiation treatments.
Bevy jokingly told me that even after the radiation treatments she did not glow in the dark and that her scalp was now covered with a light patchwork of fuzz.
She is still wearing her wig to work and still hanging out in baseball caps in off work hours. However, with the advent of Spring she said that the constant head chill seems to be diminishing on a weekly basis.
I reminded her that I was going to write this piece about her experiences and she was pleased. In true Bevy fashion she announced that if her experiences in losing her hair to cancer could help just one other person who visits Hair Boutique, it would be worthwhile.
Thanks Bevy. I will always cherish your willingness to share this painful experience and to be the best friend a girl could have.