In this guest blog, Natasha describes how she felt when she experienced hair loss through chemotherapy.
It’s just hair. It’ll grow back. It’s no big deal. I’d rather be bald than have cancer’
These are some of the things people said and, indeed, I told myself when I was having chemo.
And all of these things were true. It would grow back. Being bald was better than having cancer.
Yet it wasn’t really ‘just hair’ for me. It was about the loss of control. The fact of suddenly looking ill. Looking at myself in the mirror and watching the person I knew morph into someone else. Someone with no hair. No eyebrows. No eyelashes.
Being bald because your hair fell out as a result of illness is totally different to being bald because you chose to shave your head. That is a choice. Cancer takes away that choice.
To me it was an outward symbol of my illness, of the loss of control I felt. I dreaded it, even as I said ‘ It’s just hair’.
To try to take back some control, I cut my long hair into a pixie before chemo. I planned to go visit my wig specialist to have it cut back the day of my second chemo. I knew it was going, but I was determined it was going on my terms
Then my second chemo was delayed. My mastectomy wound was infected. I was in the hospital when my hair started coming out in handfuls. For four days I sat in a hospital bed, watching it fall. Handfuls on my dressing gown, my pillow, if I ran a comb through it it came away filled with hair. I had a shower and cried at the amount that went down the drain.
When I eventually got to the wig specialist about 75% of my hair was gone.
By then it was a relief to just cut it off , and yet even in the relief there was sadness. I was bald. I was having chemo. I really did have cancer, the nightmare was real.
And then it was gone. And I was bald. And you know something it was ok; it really was. I embraced wearing hats, matched them to my outfits, learned how to tie headscarves..
The hair on my head went first. Eyebrows and eyelashes disappeared slowly, over the course of several weeks. When I looked in the mirror and saw my bald head and bald face I barely recognised the person looking back at me.
And then it started to grow back. Slowly. Just a soft fuzz at first, then more and more. Eyelashes and eyebrows came back more quickly. I cannot describe the elation I felt the first day I put on mascara. Such a simple thing. Don’t take it for granted. I know I never will again.
If your loved one is starting chemo please be mindful of what you say regarding hair loss.
If they say it’s ‘just hair’ then fine, but please don’t say this to them if they are upset about their hair loss.
Listen to them. Be there for them. Grieve with them.
Because while it’s true it will grow back, it really isn’t ‘just hair’ at all.
For advice, tips and links to resources for hair loss through chemo, visit our hair loss support page.
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