Baldness During Breast Cancer & Chemo
Baldness during Breast Cancer & Chemo is not an easy side affect for most women. You could walk around for weeks, months without anyone knowing you have breast cancer unless… wait for it… you’re on CHEMO, especially the type that causes hair loss!!! The sight of a women who is bald is a forgone conclusion and truly screams, “I’m on chemo and have cancer!” It’s just not an easy pill to swallow, excuse the tongue in cheek. Many forms of chemo cause hair loss in women. It did for me and the brave women who volunteered to use their photos to be in this blog post. They all willingly shared their pictures for a reason. We did it to support another woman who is going through chemo as I write this blog. But, whether you have been through chemo, are currently going through chemo, or it’s on your future radar, this post is for you.
Statistics from the American Cancer Society state in their report that well over 200,000 women in the U.S alone will develop some type of breast cancer this year. Not all of those women will face chemo and possible hair loss but for those that do it can be one of the most difficult realities of breast cancer. New devices have been developed over the last few years that may slow down or prevent hair loss. They are in the form of cold caps but not all are covered by insurance nor do all women want to use them because of the complexities of their use. You can read more here.
I’m going to be bald!
Hair loss doesn’t happen overnight but the reality hits you like a ton of bricks the minute someone tells you that your treatment for breast cancer will include chemo. My first thought, besides the fact I knew I was going to feel weak and sick was, MY HAIR!!! I’m going to be BALD!!! After a couple of rounds of chemo it begins. You touch your hair and gently swipe it off your forehead and end up with a clump of hair. You don’t even want to run a brush through it in the morning for fear you’ll end up with patches of baldness on your once full crown of hair. You start shopping for wigs, hats, scarves, ball caps or decide that you will bravely walk out the door with your bare noggin in full view.
Time to buzz the locks.
Then the day comes that you decide you’ve had enough. Out with the clippers or off you go to the barber to “finish the job” that chemo started. I sat down in front of a mirror after my second round of chemo and had my husband and youngest son give me the all too familiar “buzz” cut. I had prepared myself for this moment and although I didn’t like it, I sat there with a smile on my face. It wasn’t until I woke up one night and stumbled through the dark to the restroom that the tears flowed. I caught a glimpse of my bald self. I looked like a ghost as I passed by the mirror. Not a happy moment.
I want to personalize this post and tell you my motivation for writing it and how I came to know Julie and the other women in this picture.
I am a strong believer in the positive connections that can be made through social media. With a targeted audience and purpose, there is valuable evidence based research and information that can be shared as a tool to educate and inform. That is how I met Julie. Our on-line friendship blossomed through our breast reconstruction/social media connection.
We have spent late night chat sessions cussing and discussing the affects of breast cancer, chemo, reconstruction and everything in between. At times our comments ended with a flurry of hearts and other nights with expletive deleted comments about how grueling the process can be. The day I saw the video she posted on Facebook of one of her friends finally “buzzing” her hair off was my inspiration to write this blog. I know Julie is a fighter and to detail what she has been through the past few months is tantamount of climbing Mount Everest barefoot with nothing on but shorts and a tank top.
Your bald sisters in solidarity ~
I suspect the stories are no different for the women in the photos or for the many others who have done this before us. So Julie, we honor you in solidarity as “bald breast friends”. We are all on the other side now and that is what we want you to carry with you as you complete your chemo on the toughest of days. We will follow you through to the other side and know that you, too, will get through it. I know this because of our conversations, your tenacity, Faithful support and the love of your friends. I wanted to share a few comments for you from these ladies and also a bit of their background. I want to add that my friend and cohort in crime, Val, was instrumental in contacting some of her followers on social media to be a part of this post. Thank you Val! As we always tell each other, “You’re a rack star!” (Rack is not a misspelling)
I think if you go into chemo with a positive attitude and well prepared, it can make a world of difference. I would get well hydrated prior to chemo and after. When my taste buds went flat, I went to something tart like lemonade or Jolly Ranchers. And for the aches and pains, an Epsom salt bath is the ticket! And embrace your new you!! Bald Chicks are Hot!!
Stay positive, live life to its fullest, love yourself and others, take care of your body with proper nutrition and exercise, and never give up hope! God is on your side!
The best way I found to get through my chemo treatments was to let people help. I rested often throughout the day. I also took the medicine I was given for nausea setting alarms through the night so I didn’t miss a dose. I felt fairly good if I wasn’t nauseous. I also kept in mind that I was doing chemo to fight the cancer and that I would be done very soon.
Read more of Diane’s poignant account of her experience through all things breast cancer at her blog, Double Whammied. May I just share that Diane and I had an outstanding day together at Fred Hutch Cancer Center in Seattle where she is a health writer. Through our social media connection, she agreed to arrange a tour of the Fred Hutch facility for me that day. Thanks Diane!
Jessica is a young women who will be going through DIEP flap breast reconstruction, the same type Julie and I had, in late January. We wish her well!
She’s got that gown on for a reason. She finished her college work during chemo! Commendable to say the least, Molly!
Amanda is from my home state and I couldn’t be prouder of her grit and determination as she faced chemo and reconstruction with three small children.
Brenda is a member of my DiepCJourney Facebook group and although I don’t know her personally, I am forever grateful for her willingness to participate in the project when I reached out to members to help.
Sondra was recruited by Val to participate in this project. Thank you so much for your positive message and “Surviving Gracefully”, Sondra!
Inger & Melanie:
I don’t know either one of these gals either and they were recruited by Val. Suffice to say, the smiles say it all. And Inger, the tutu is beyond epic!
Yes, Julie, I get the last word! I apologize in advance for the “bird” perched on my chemo bag in my picture. That’s how much I disliked wearing that “red devil” around my waist! One evening as we were chatting on line, I told Julie that a friend of mine gave me a button to wear during my chemo treatments. I sent that button to Julie and she is now the proud owner. So Julie, when you’re having your toughest days wear that button, as if I haven’t told you that a time or two already. The button says, “I feel like shit”. Not only did it speak true to the really rough days I had on chemo, but it always made me break out in a bit of a grin. Smiling is a good thing. Enjoy the smiles on these faces!
I am happy to report that since writing this blog early this year, Julie has finished all her chemo and radiation. She’s got some great looking curly locks going on and is preparing for some further reconstructive surgery at the end of 2016. She made it through the storm.
To all women warriors facing hair loss during chemo, we share our baldness in solidarity!