The following is a guest post by friend and garden writer, Jenny Peterson. You can find Jenny on her blog, J Peterson Garden Design or as the Southwest Garden Guru for Proven Winners. Tune in tomorrow for Jenny's Top Ten Tips for Coping with Changes from Chronic Illness.
2012 was gearing up to be a fairly spectacular year. I started talks with a publisher about writing my
No one was more surprised than I was — I’m a pretty healthy eater, fairly active and in good shape. Proof that cancer doesn’t really care about such trivialities. There will be many more blog posts to come about the infinite number of facets to living with cancer and living through treatment, but today it’s all about the hair. In fact, the day I was diagnosed, I cried for a couple of hours and then announced to Brett, “Get me a glass of wine. I’ll be in the bathroom flat-ironing my hair.” After all, just because I felt like crap didn’t mean I should look like it, right? I’m a Southern girl — aliens could be dive-bombing my neighborhood, but my hair and nails will look good going down with the ship.
My oncologist told me to expect total hair loss between 2-3 weeks after my first chemo treatment. I had long blond hair that I loved, and losing my hair did not seem appealing to me in the least. Plus, I meet with design clients and I wasn’t sure how to do that if I was bald. I wanted to look healthy and inspire confidence in my clients, not give them reason to question my abilities. And I wanted some semblance of normalcy in the midst of a pretty traumatic time.
So here’s what I did:
- One week before starting chemo, I cut my hair off into a pixie cut. My friend, Kylee, made the suggestion. “You’ll be more in control of the process,” she said. She was right.
- I took my cut-off ponytail into the wig shop to choose a wig. They used my hair to color-match as closely as possible. My friend, Terri, took me and then we had lunch together — another girls-only day that I treasured.
- Two weeks after chemo, I met my family at a salon where I had my pixie cut shorn off into a
- When I felt my stubbly hair really falling out a week later in the shower, I had Brett come into the bathroom to shave it clean. Trust me, you don’t want to walk around looking like a baby chicken sprouting feathers. Hair doesn’t fall out in a neat and clean pattern — it was very inconsistent and odd-looking. Better to take it all off.
My type of chemo made the hair on my head (and other parts of my body) fall out, but my eyebrows and eyelashes remained full. Every type of chemo is different; ask your doctor what to expect from yours.
It’s been 7 months since my diagnosis. I’m done with chemo and almost done with radiation. I’m still bald, but my hair seems to be growing back in now. I wear my wig most days, and other days I’m all about the awesome scarf or doo-rag; it depends upon what I’m doing and how I feel. I’m not gonna lie — I hate having cancer, and losing your hair sucks. Hair loss affects a woman’s sense of femininity and attractiveness, but it’s also an opportunity to reinterpret your beauty in a newer, fiercer way. I look in the mirror most days and see a woman who has no hair, who hangs pretty tough and who knows that this is temporary. If you are facing cancer, chemo and losing your hair, take a deep breath — you can do this. You can get through this. I am, and so will you.