If you’ve ever been there, then you know IT’S NOT JUST HAIR! Hair loss is often one of the most difficult and feared side effects of chemotherapy. The first question a woman often has upon learning she will need to undergo chemotherapy is “Will I lose my hair?”
When I have to get through days or weeks in helpless anticipation of an event I so wish I could avoid, I find myself imagining all the worst-case scenarios. My anxiety can snowball out of control. I know I’m not alone. Upon learning they will lose their hair to chemotherapy, many women immediately begin anticipating the event and its impact on themselves and others (such as their children). The resulting anxiety can be paralyzing, but only if we allow it to take over. Instead, take control and channel that anticipation into action. Here are just a few tips to help you rise above the drastic assault to your self-esteem posed by chemo-induced hair loss.
1) Watching your hair fall out can be traumatic. Cutting your hair short or shaving your head prior to losing the hair can help you feel more in control and avoid difficult emotions triggered by having to watch it fall out.
2) Have a sample of different head wear options on-hand before hair loss occurs. It’s hard to know what you’ll prefer until you’ve actually lost your hair. Buy 1 each of a few different head wear items so that you’re prepared. If needed, you can buy multiples of your favorite/s later.
3) Chemo-induced hair loss is almost always temporary. Keep this in mind when choosing a wig that best suits your needs. Talk to other women who have worn wigs and research reputable wig salons. Many women feel more secure having a good wig on hand for some public outings.
4) Comfort and Convenience are KEY!! Whatever you wear, you’ll potentially be wearing it for hours on end. Tight hats, scarves or wigs will cause headaches. Head wear that is not sufficiently snug will have you feeling insecure, wondering if will stay in place. When choosing scarves, pre-fitted and pre-tied styles are most convenient, especially if you’re recovering from surgery.
5) Color Me Happy! If neutral tones are your preference, you may choose to stick with them. Bright and bold colors can help brighten your self-image when you feel you’ve lost definition in your face.
6) Keep your noggin warm! Without hair, you may find that you’re more cold than normal, especially at night. Soft, comfortable sleep caps can keep you snug and warm through-out your hair loss nights.
This is a time to pamper yourself, to give yourself permission to seek out whatever it is that brings you peace, confidence, and joy. Taking proactive steps to prepare yourself for hair loss can help you rise above this emotional storm and give you a greater sense of control over your changing appearance. A greater sense of control can ease or lessen feelings of fear and depression and help empower you to take control of other aspects of your that contribute to a greater quality of life during cancer treatment.
Think you’re alone? Think again. Here are letters from just a few women who are walking or have walked this same path before you. If you have any hair loss coping tips for others, please share them with us and make another woman’s journey a little bit easier.