I thought I had things under control. And then came hair loss.
It’s widely known that one of the side effects of chemotherapy is the loss of hair. No big deal…it will grow back. After all, I had watched my mother deal with losing her hair not once but twice as she tackled the ‘Big C’. I had fooled myself into thinking that the hair loss was the least of my worries.
My first chemo cycle was not as rough as I had expected, yes I had some slight nausea, pains in my feet and hands but overall I just felt weak and fatigued. Nothing too unbearable. When there was no hair loss in the immediate days after that first cycle, I was like…”Maybe I’ll be lucky and not lose my hair”. And then a week and half later it began. At first it looked like normal shedding, but then it got progressively worse. Next thing I knew there was hair everywhere, on my pillow when I woke up, in the bathroom sink, on the floor….just everywhere.
Exactly 2 weeks after my first chemo treatment, I headed to the hairdresser to do a big chop. Again, no big deal right, especially since I’ve worn my hair in a ‘teenie-weenie afro’ many times over the years. Once I had cut it I remembered how much I loved wearing my hair short….yeah I could do this again.
Except I was still losing hair. If I so much as brushed my hand across the top of my head, hair came out. Pretty soon, I had resorted to only touching my hair once for the day in the morning. Less than a week after cutting it while market shopping, a friend hinted that I might need to start wearing a scarf. A bald patch had now appeared in the back of my head.
The next morning (last Thursday in fact) on the dreaded chemo day, as I massaged hair product in, the hair loss was more profound than before. Literally the side of my head had peeled out. I sent this picture to my sister who joked that I looked like a little birdie. My response to her…. “more like a peel head jankro”.
It threw me into a tailspin. For the first time since this whole experience began, I felt real depression. I had planned to go into work for a few hours that day before chemo at 5pm but I simply couldn’t move. Over the course of the day depression turned to guilt, guilt because it felt like I was being vain to put so much stock in my hair of all things. Turns out losing my hair was actually harder than losing my breast. It hit me like a ton of bricks that no matter what I did, I had no control. No matter how much I cut my hair, it was still coming out.
Later while scrolling through Instagram, I came across this post from The Laurus Project (@thelaurusproject), a non-profit organization focused on helping breast cancer survivors thrive.
The image and caption was just what I needed in that moment. Better to take control and just shave it off. So on the way to chemo, I made a quick stop at the barbershop.
BEST. DECISION. EVER.