My Story: How I Deal With Hair Loss
Losing your hair is one of the most visible side effects of breast cancer, and because of that, it can be one of the most emotionally upsetting. People deal with it in different ways: some use wigs to keep up appearances, some use more colorful covers, some wears hats for warmth and some don’t cover it at all.
Here, four women share their stories about their reactions to hair loss and how they chose to deal with it.
Susan Marotta, 49
Medford, New York
Diagnosed with stage IIb triple-negative breast cancer
I cut my hair into a short pixie cut prior to losing it. I felt that, had I left my hair the way it was before diagnosis and then lost it, it would have been harder on me emotionally. I felt I needed to control my hair loss at the time. So I took control of the situation and made it my own.
I started losing my hair about 10 days after my first treatment. I remember being in the shower running my hands through my hair and I ended up with a huge clump of hair in my hand. My friend, a hairdresser, came over. She dried my tears and I told her to “take care of it.” My husband held my hand, while my kids (ages 18, 15 and 11 at the time) watched. They rubbed my bald head every chance they could get. While on my breast cancer journey, my husband shaved his head to support me. That’s what true love is all about.
Once I was bald, I started wearing hats and scarves. Some scarves were given to me as gifts and I had a friend knit some cotton caps for me, but most I paid for out-of-pocket. I have very good insurance (excellent is what the vendor said), so my wigs were covered 100 percent. Not many people are as fortunate as I am; when it comes to benefits, I am one of the lucky ones. That’s why I give back to my cancer treatment center every month.
Christina Allen, 46
Newtown Square, Pennsylvania
Diagnosed with stage IV hormone receptor-positive breast cancer
I was a teacher and a mom to two daughters, ages 5 and 7, when I was diagnosed. I remember going into the school office and all I could mutter through my hysterics was, “How am I going to tell my kids that I’m going to lose my hair?”
Chemo started, and 10 days later my hair started to hurt! I had already cut my hair short, and was not expecting hair pain. By day 17, the clumps were coming out and I went to the local wig store to have my head shaved.
I did not watch my head getting shaved, and my scalp still hurt from the week before. The ladies tried to put on the wig, but that hurt too. My good friend, who came with me, ran out and bought me a scarf to wear.
It took me 3 weeks to look at myself in the mirror. I wore the wig one time. It made me super self-conscious. I wore scarves the rest of the time. I had some pretty awesome scarves too. They matched all my outfits.
By the time May came about, and I was through chemo and radiation for my bone mets, I would take off the scarf and go bald.
Do what feels comfortable for you. I chose to wear scarves, but I did wear my wig as part of my 2015 Halloween costume: Velma from Scooby-Doo.
Judi Blue, 59
Diagnosed with stage I triple-negative breast cancer
I was 47 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in the tail of my right breast. My medical oncologist told me that I would lose my hair, so I got a pixie cut. She was amazed that I still had my hair after the first dose. I still had my hair until the day after the second dose when I shampooed my hair and it all went down the drain, all at the same time. I was relieved and not upset, because I felt that my hair falling out was proof that the chemo was working ... finally. I wore a wig for other people. I didn’t mind having a bald head but I thought Dad was going to cry when he saw me emerge from the bathroom with a completely bald head. As soon as my eyebrows returned in November, however, I just sported a bald head, which I covered when outside with hats that I crocheted. I wore a close-shaved head for a year in case the cancer returned and then I let it grow back.
My hair thinned in the most unusual places, so 11 years later, I now wear hairpieces that I make as well as hats that I crochet or other handmade hats. I am rather happy to be alive and be able to live to tell my story and inspire others. I am thinking about creating hairpieces and hats for other older women who have hair loss due to receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer.
Marilyn Pelehach, 64
Oak Ridge, North Carolina
Diagnosed with stage I breast cancer
I dealt with losing my hair from chemo extremely well. I never cried nor let the hair loss upset me. Having an aggressive cancer, I embraced the treatments knowing they gave me the best chance for survival. I chose to wear a wig that closely resembled my own hair color and style. Living in a small town, I didn’t want to call attention to the fact that I was going through treatments. I only shared the diagnosis with my family and closest friends, so it made sense to look as much like myself as possible.
I have a different perspective on my current hair loss, which is a result of medicine I am on to prevent a recurrence. I have experienced thinning hair for several years that I have found difficult to deal with, because I understand that it probably won’t grow back when I am finished taking the medicine. It bothers me that I am so troubled by this hair loss, as I am so fortunate to be living a very normal life.
I recently started using a product called Boost N Blend which is a powder I can sprinkle on the thinning parts to help mask the hair loss. For my son’s wedding last month I wore a hairpiece over my own hair for fullness, which gave me more confidence. It’s hard to understand how being completely bald bothered me less than thinning hair!