Donna Kim-Brand

Have you ever realized that we often don’t notice things until we are at risk of losing them? In this case, I’m referring to our hair, that mass of protein perched atop our heads that we naturally maintain as part of our self-care and self-image.

A cancer diagnosis throws most people into a tailspin, thrusting us under duress into rearranging our life priorities and daily activities. When chemo-therapy is called for, the prospect of losing our hair may not be the first thing on our minds. But when the time comes for actual treatment, fear of hair loss and how it makes us look and feel becomes a real concern for many. Why?

Of course everyone has their own reasons, but a common issue is that hair loss is an external signal to others that something is not ‘business as usual’ with us. We are then put into a position of having to explain uncomfortable things, like the precarious state of our health, to inquiring people- friends and strangers alike. Or often worse, we have to endure looks of pity or discomfort from people who have assessed that we are, in fact, undergoing chemo. They don’t know how to handle the situation, sometimes causing mutual awkwardness.

On the other hand, an even trickier issue is that of dealing with our own self-image; how we think hair loss makes us look weak or ‘ugly’ at a time when we need to be strong and positive.

Here’s the good news. Not all chemo treatments cause hair loss, so it may not happen to everyone being treated. But if it does, most hair loss from chemo is temporary, with hair growing back within three to six months after treatment ends. You see, the drugs used in chemo are a potent cocktail that attacks rapidly growing cancer cells along with other rapidly growing cells in your body. Hair cells all over your body happen to be among them, including eyelashes, eyebrows, pubic, arm and leg hair. So once the bombardment stops, your hair follicles tend to regroup and kick in again, although sometimes with hair a slightly different color or texture.

I am in the position, even as I write this, of supporting a close friend and colleague who is undergoing chemotherapy. In fact, as a result of his diagnosis six months ago, we are now writing a book on ‘healing energetics’ and how to ‘Heal-thy Self Now’. He was almost more upset that his hair only thinned rather than losing it all. Why? It was more noticeable on a man used to having a full head of hair. Being bald is considered trendy and virile in our modern culture, at least for men. Except for hats worn to certain social functions or caps to prevent sun exposure, head-coverings for men are less common than for women. So hair thinning or loss is harder to disguise.

Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the topic of hair loss due to chemotherapy features prominently in discussions among women. It’s just one aspect of the considerations faced when diagnosed with breast cancer. What we now know is that with early diagnosis and treatment the disease can be cured. In the same vein, pre-empting the possibility of hair loss gives a woman more a sense of control over her body, appearance and self-image during the process.
In the next post we’ll discuss how to set yourself up for success, under the circumstances, pre-chemo, during and after chemo-therapy in regards to hair loss. Please join us next week!

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