When I was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma in Feb. 2011, losing my hair was the last worry on my mind. For a lot of women, I know that this isn’t the case. Losing your hair can be a very emotional and challenging experience. When my mother was going through chemo for a brain tumor she refused to let our hair dresser, a woman I have known since childhood, cut my mom’s hair shorter than was possible with a pair of scissors….and my mom wore a wig or a scarf all the time once her hair started falling out. Even though with the chemo that I received, total hair loss happens in almost all cases, it didn’t happen for me.
My hair looked like this when I was diagnosed…
Then, in anticipation of treatment, I cut it shorter and like that, treatments began.
And then my hair didn’t all fall out. I felt so defeated and lost. Women are so often challenged by hair loss and I was yearning for it to happen to me! My hair thinned and I could easily pull handfuls of strands out by just running my hands through my hair but the mass of my hair stayed. Leg hair and arm hair totally disappeared but still, enough of the hair on my head stayed for me to wonder that maybe….just maybe, I wasn’t being affected very much by the chemo. Sure, my stomach hurt most of the time and I was very very prone to bouts of crying at the drop of a hat. Sure my mouth hurt for a few days after treatment so I couldn’t always eat the things that I wanted. Sure I was fatigued a lot of the time and had trouble concentrating…. but my gosh darn hair was still attached to my head!
Isn’t it amazing how grief and stress and shame make one think such silly things?
After two months of thinning hair I finally got rid of it all. One night, my fiance (now husband), two of our friends (who are completely and utterly awesome by the way), and I all buzzed our heads. It felt freeing to no longer have to worry about it. Sure my head wasn’t bald but I didn’t have to deal with those long strands falling out in the shower anymore. I was immediately kind of psyched to not have to worry about it all anymore.
But then I started second guessing myself a little…and the comments started. Being a young adult with cancer, most of my peer group hadn’t gone through what I had with my mother’s cancer treatments nor with my own. Well meaning people would proclaim that I looked beautiful…but also soo nice with longer hair! They said that in the picture of the four of us from the night when we buzzed our heads, they did a double take and wasn’t sure who the fourth guy was (it was me…). I would think and think about how I had basically chosen to have a buzz cut and so maybe I had chosen wrong? Like I said, grief and and stress and shame make one think such silly things.
The bottom line though is that having a buzz cut made my difficult and cancer filled life easier. Sometimes I wore a wig or a scarf, but eventually I gave up on both of those and walked around with just my buzzed head. I would love to tell you that I also learned to always stop listening to the people with silly, negative comments…like those who told me that I looked like a guy with my short hair or how the office had been so much quieter without me there during my summer chemo treatments….but I think that I am still actively working on that one 🙂
Once my treatments stopped, my hair slowly started to come back.
You’ll never guess what I learned about my hair once it started growing back. 🙂 I still have about an inch at the bottom of each strand of hair with these funny bands…it turns out that after each chemo cycle the new hair growth of each strand would be much (much) thinner than normal and then the hair strand would eventually return to its normal growth before my next chemo cycle. The end of my hair, to this day, looks zebra striped in its alternating bands of thin and normal thickness hair 🙂 I guess that chemo had an effect after all…maybe I’ll just give myself, and my hair, a break next time I am having a hard day