Breast cancer survivor rants (a little) about her post-chemotherapy hair shortage.
Barbara Tako is a breast cancer survivor (2010), melanoma survivor (2014) and author of Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools–We'll Get You Through This. She is a cancer coping advocate, speaker and published writer for television, radio and other venues across the country. She lives, survives, and thrives in Minnesota with her husband, children and dog. See more at www.cancersurvivorshipcopingtools.com,or www.clutterclearingchoices.com.
Hair does not seem like an important topic until it is gone. I remember most of mine falling out from chemotherapy, and I remember some of it returning. Lately, I have been looking through old photos. This is a bad idea, apparently. I become depressed and appalled by earlier pre-cancer photos of me with an incredibly full head of hair. What the heck? Hey? What's up? What happened? Breast cancer. I fantasize about reaching up and feeling the full thick excessive hair I used to have on the top of my head.
Truly, I am glad and grateful to be alive. I just miss my full head of hair. It is merely annoying, but it annoys me every day when I try to hide the bare areas and when I try to create a look of fullness that isn't real anymore. "Really, cancer, and this too?" I try to stay snarky and sarcastic about it and not get too sad. After all, it is just hair, or at least that is what everyone who hasn't had theirs fall out in wet clumps by the shower floor drain says.
My hair is now thinner, more brittle, and there is less of it. My hairstylist tries to encourage me by telling me I rock a short haircut (I actually kind of do). Still, it would be nice to be able to grow my hair long enough that I could wear it pulled back or in a ponytail or wear under a hat without smushing my tiny bit of blow-dry created volume. Hats are the arch nemesis of short artfully (artificially) lifted short fine hairspray-ed hair. And, of course, I like hats. It is also ironic, now that I am an established person with the financial ability to have a hairstylist and purchase good hair products, that I no longer have the hair!
The wig I wore during chemotherapy calls to me from its box down in the basement. Honestly, it looks nicer and fuller than what I naturally have now. Seriously, I am contemplating wearing that thing again? Whoa. What else?
Every now and then I ask my hair stylist or I do a little online research to see if there is a miraculous new, but safe way to grow my hair back. I am usually deterred from trying anything, either because of cost or because of the negative reviews of the products out there. Some day, I just know there will be a product or technique that prevents or reduces the hair loss. I sigh. I pout a little bit internally. I move on to other "more important" things.
If you have lush full hair, will you do me a favor and run your hands through it for me? Yes, I am being petty and yes, I still miss my hair. A thousand other things are more important than the amount of hair on the top of my head, and still, I am a little bit sad. I am fine with fewer eyelashes and thinner eyebrows. I don't know why it is, but the hair shortage sticks in my craw. Why are we culturally trained through advertising and television to obsess about areas of our bodies that don't measure up to some almost unachievable standard? When did a woman's hair become her crown? Why are we all so judgey?
Life marches on and it will be OK. The penalty for being around to get old is, well, getting old. OK then, I will try to act my age. Just remember, though, some days it is just an act!