Chemotherapy can save years of life, but for some breast cancer survivors, the prospect of losing hair during the treatment can lead to mixed emotions. Hair is a big part of what makes many women feel beautiful, an important part of our feminine identity, so it’s only natural to feel sad when it’s gone. Even so, survivors who feel that they should do everything they can to stay healthy for their families and loved ones may feel guilty for mourning the loss of their hair. Breast cancer survivor Allison Prendergast faced this conundrum as she began her treatment.
“For most of my adult life, my long-thick curly hair was just about the only thing on my body that I liked. Like many women, I always felt I needed to lose weight. So it was tough to lose my hair. It was my identity in some ways. I went into chemo knowing I would lose my hair and knowing I chose a drug combination that had a small chance of long-term hair loss. But I wanted to know that I had done ALL that I could to fight cancer recurrence. I tried not to feel guilty that I was sad about my hair loss and turn it around by feeling proud I made a brave choice to do all that I could to stay alive as long as I could.”
Breast cancer treatment is a life and body altering experience. With that in mind, breast cancer survivors should allow themselves time to reflect on these physical changes, grieving when necessary. However, as Allison found, the process doesn’t have to be all sad.
“My college-aged daughter helped me shave my hair off. But instead of it being a sad time, we made it a girls pamper night with mani/pedis! My hair had been long for so long, that we documented with pics going shorter. I even have a picture of my hair in a mohawk! We literally laughed at every step along the way!”
Losing your hair doesn’t have to mean giving up fun and femininity. In fact, it can even present you with the opportunity to experiment with a new look! Youtube and Pinterest are full of tutorials on tying a head scarf, drawing on eyebrows, or even picking out a wig. Allison offers women who are currently going through chemo the same advice a fellow survivor gave her when she began this process.
"When you start losing your hair, take charge. Shave your head before it starts falling out. Wear wigs, wear scarves, wear hats, and big earrings. Own it!"
Luckily, breast cancer survivors in Louisiana have access to many personal care services tailored to their needs; everything from make-up artists and wig shops to reconstructive surgeons. To find personal care resources near you, visit our resources page: http://www.survivedat.org/personal-services-1
-Amelia Robert, LCP Communications Student Worker