Archive for May 23rd, 2010

Your hair and Chemotherapy.

One of the worst things about having
chemotherapy, for many people, is the
thought of losing all their hair.
It can be harder to deal with than having the
actual treatment. For some, the news about hair
loss doesn’t really sink in, all they can think about
is being told that they have cancer.

When you speak with your Oncologist, the doctor will usually
tell you about your chemotherapy and the side
effects – whether you are likely to lose some, or
all of your hair. Not just the hair on your head,
but your eyebrows and eyelashes and body hair
(including under-arm and pubic hair). The hair
usually begins to fall out anything from several
days to two weeks after your first chemotherapy.

Coping without hair.

■ Take extra care in the sun: wear a shady hat and use
high factor sun cream.
■ Be careful in the shower. Warm water on your bare
head can feel unexpectedly hot.
■ You can still use deodorants even if you lose your
underarm hair.

You know its going to happen,but when your hair begins to fall at it can be devastating and there is still the shock and impact of loss.

Finding hair on your pillow after a nights sleep,clogging up the plug in the shower,trails of hair follow you where ever you go.

But how do you know when your hair is going to start falling out? This seems to

vary a lot from person to person, and depends as well on the chemotherapy drugs you are

having. The fi rst sign seems to be a strange and tingly sensation on the scalp – and then

hair loss begins.

Whatever you choose to do, it’s helpful to prepare yourself: emotionally and physically.

You may decide just to accept the hair loss, and let it happen naturally, or

you may want to manage the situation by getting your hair cut short.

This is good advice whether you’re going to lose all your hair or some

of it. People have said that when their hair started to fall out it was a

much gentler approach to have it cut shorter, so they could adjust to

hair loss before eventually having it shaved off . Stylists recommend a

well-balanced and shaped cut. Shaving can be fashionable

but not too short in case you nick your scalp. However

thin your hair, always keep your hair clean, this

will make it look healthy. Using good quality

products and conditioners is important. Colour

conditioning rinses can also be used to give your

hair a clean healthy appearance.

Talking to family and friends can help. It’s not

always easy to know how to tell children

what is happening, but Cancerbacup has a

useful booklet ‘What do I tell the children?’

Ask for a copy at the Cancer Information


Some women like to wear a disposable

soft cap at night to collect all the loose

hair and then just throw it away.

What can you do about your eyebrows?

You can lose some or all of your eyebrows. People with fair hair colouring say this is not too much

of a problem as their eyebrows are not very visible. Many don’t do anything. If you wish to, you can

mark the shape with an eyebrow pencil to create the illusion of eyebrows, or paint them in with a

dark face powder or eye shadow.

Wear a head scarf or a hat…

You can choose to wear a headscarf or

hat most of the time or as an alternative

to a wig. Wigs can make your head

feel hot. There’s a selection of styles

to choose from: baseball caps, furry

hats. Natural fabrics work best for

headscarves. Choose a cotton fabric

which is cool and comfortable to wear

and won’t slip. Earrings are also a good

form of decoration. You still want to look


Your skin colour may change with

treatment and your usual ‘favourite’

shades may not suit you so well.

Try the headwear close to your skin

before choosing.

The Internet is a good place to search and  there is a wide range to choose from. Wigs by Revlon ,was a good choice for me and I bought several in different shades. However, July and August were very difficult months. A wig no matter how light it may weigh, is uncomfortable in Spanish heat and I could not wait to go home and rip the damn thing from my head.

Go natural…

Some people feel they can cope – just

with make-up and earrings! Be aware that

going with a bare head, you will feel the

heat and cold more. Take care in the sun.

The scalp can be particularly sensitive. Be

sure to wear a high factor sun block. Also,

many people are surprised at how cold

they can feel without hair, so when it’s

cold and windy, make sure you cover your


KOJAK style was not for me, my vanity would not permit. I did however not bother with my wig  for the two months I spent in Oncology. We all looked the same ,bald shiny heads, in pale blue pyjamas walking up and down the ward with our wheeling aparatus and all tubes attached feeding us with what ever treatments were needed to keep us alive.

Many nights I would watch from my bedroom as the nightly ritual was performed. To an outsider ,we looked like aliens ,we did not speak ,just walked up and down like clones of each other.

It was a very depressing time.

Hair loss was the least of our problems.

The JOY of when your hair starts to return.

Hair usually begins to grow again about

4 to 6 weeks after your last treatment.

The texture and colour can be different.

The advice is to be gentle with it: wash

your hair carefully with gentle products

and if you want to colour it, use a natural

herbal colour without chemicals.

This summer I have hair , not as much as I would like . But at least I can go out without a wig although I do still use them for those ‘Bad hair’ days. I have days when I cry and scream at Stephen I have lost my looks and my hair. When these moments of self pity arrive, Stephan shows me a photograph  he took when he thought it would be the last time he would see me alive, in the hospital.

The first time I saw this photo I was shocked and had to ask who it was. ‘Its you’ he said.

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