Tips on coping with hair loss

There are two days from 2008 that I remember like it was yesterday:

  1. The day my mom told my family that she was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer.
  2. And the day I saw my mom without any hair for the first time.

For an 11-year-old girl who was so used to seeing mommy’s beautiful, thick, dark curls, this was a huge change.

I remember the exact moment I saw her. I felt a wide range of emotions, but mainly:

Sadness.

Confusion.

And even guilt.

I felt bad that I had hair and my mommy didn’t. It made me want to shave my head and give her my own hair. It was a lot to take in for a little girl – especially since I was already going through puberty and watching my own body change.

But this day wasn’t only memorable cause it was the first time ever seeing my mom bald,

It was the first time I saw her as a cancer patient.

The first time I clued in.

The first time I looked at my mom and thought,

Holy cow, my mom has cancer.

It was the first time everything felt real and that I realized our cancer journey was about to begin.

Fast forward ten years to present day. Same thing is about to happen. My mom will be starting an IV chemo treatment soon where she’s going to lose all of her hair. But since I’ve already been through this once, I know how to cope.

Based on my personal experience, here are some tips to help you and your mom (or loved one) cope with hair loss:

1. First, remember that not all chemotherapy treatments cause hair loss
  • I think we have this common belief that cancer automatically means chemotherapy and hair loss. But just because your mom (or loved one) is treating their cancer with chemotherapy, does not mean they are going to lose their hair. As I mentioned in a previous post, there are several different chemotherapy treatments that have different side effects, many of which don’t include hair loss. If your mom (or loved one’s) treatment causes hair loss, their doctor will let them know before they begin the treatment.

 

2. Consider shaving their head before treatment begins
  • My mom did this ten years ago before she started chemo. Like her, a lot of cancer patients choose to shave their heads before starting treatment because they feel more in control shaving it themselves than seeing it fall out on its own. Shaving their heads beforehand also prevents hair from falling out in unwanted places, like the kitchen floor and clogging up the shower drain.

 

3. Ask them if they’re comfortable with “cancer hats”
  • “Cancer hats” are designed for patients who have lost their hair from chemotherapy, and while us daughters may think they’re cute and advocate their illness, not all patients want to wear a hat that screams “I have cancer!” My mom is especially vocal about this – she doesn’t like drawing attention to her cancer. So before buying your mom (or loved one) a hat with a cancer logo, make sure they’re comfortable wearing it.

 

4. Be open to their opinion on wigs
  • My mom always wondered what it’d be like to be blonde, so she was excited to try on all sorts of wigs. Although we had some fun picking out different kinds, she quickly learned that wigs just weren’t for her. She said they got hot and itchy, especially in the summer, and they didn’t sit well on her head. At first, I couldn’t stand the thought of her not wearing wigs, but then I realized I just wanted her to be happy and comfortable. She eventually found comfort wearing baseball caps instead of wigs. So while wigs might be suitable for some patients, they’re not for everyone. Just listen and be open to their preferences.

 

5. Most importantly, constantly remind them that they’re still beautiful
  • A lot of cancer patients feel less confident and physically attractive when they lose their hair, so make sure you’re constantly validating their beauty. It’s also important to remind them that it’s just hair they’re losing, and it’ll eventually grow back. My mom used to constantly worry about losing her hair, but then she realized there were more important things to worry about than her hair loss. However, if your mom (or loved one) is still struggling to feel confident, there are some great makeup tutorials for cancer patients on YouTube.

 

Every cancer patient is going to cope with hair loss differently. Whether they decide to wear hats, wigs, scarves, or nothing at all is entirely based on personal preference. Regardless, just make sure you’re there supporting their decisions and making them feel comfortable.

2 thoughts on “Tips on coping with hair loss

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  1. Because hair and long hair is so tenuously tied to constructions of femininity, hair loss can have such a detrimental mental and social impact on female cancer patients. As always, I love how you use your personal experience with your mother at the root of your advice and your posts exude a mentality of empathy and support. Much love bb <3

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