5 things they don’t tell you about cancer hair loss

by Ann-Louise Holland

When you have cancer, you really have got a lot on your plate - strategizing with your doctors about how to stay alive and such, so hair can come way down the list of considerations. Reading the many blogs from cancer sufferers (and survivors) the hair loss factor falls into two distinct camps. The ‘I don’t care what happens to my hair as long as I live’ camp, was where I had firmly pegged my tent. Losing my hair seemed like a small price to pay for the rest of my life and to me, it didn’t matter.  Others in the other camp, I know, are horrified that through all this suffering, their hair has to go too.

It is horrific to go through the process of having your hair fall out at any time, and when you have cancer, this agony is often over looked in favour of pressing medical concerns. Here’s what they don’t tell you:

It Hurts Like Hell

This isn’t the short cut (‘scuse pun) to looking like The Rock or Lupita Nyong’o, where you just shave and go.  This hurts.  It hurts like hell and you gradually realise that you have to get your hair off because it is actually causing you pain.  The pain from the weight of hair, the pain of it on the pillow or with any slight touch. The whole hair seems to hurt, so at first you cut it impishly short in the hope you won’t actually lose it all.

Little Black Dots

As a blonde, I couldn’t figure out what the little black dots where around my feet in the shower.  Had the shower head broken?  Had my husband cleaned his razor out?  No. it was my hair follicles actually jumping ship and going down the plug hole; leaving me, like the minion deserters, that they were.  They literally fell out of my head without any encouragement and I went from Sigourney Weaver in Alien (post battle with said alien) to an actual proper and unmistakable cancer patient.  This is highly confrontational to yourself in the bathroom mirror every morning, let alone anyone else.

Cold Cap Misery

I wasn’t even offered this hair saving device as it was certain I was going to lose all my hair, however the misery and hardship of the cold cap, combined with the lack of consistent results are hardly encouraging.  It has been likened to ‘having a severe ice cream headache or brain freeze for 10-15 minutes’ and even Breast Cancer Care website says ‘its effectiveness varies from person to person’.  Only consider this if you are absolutely desperate and utterly determined not to lose your hair and do check Breast Cancer Care herefor other women’s experience on this.

TheInstagram Brow’ Is A THING

Who knew there was an army of influencers out there encouraging young girls AND boys, to create an arch brow with a soft squarish middle and a finely tapered outer end?  Yes, there are endless ‘how to’ videos with varying degrees of professionalism showing, in detail, how to achieve the perfect brow.  Cancer cruelly takes your eyebrows too, and pencilling in my brows, something I would never have considered before, was now my daily go-to make up.  Now I was a convert and realised a whole world of brows was happening and Instagram was where it was all at.  The world has moved on since this trend peaked, but I was a small part of it, for a moment.

You Can Do Amish Impressions

Wigs scratch a poor sensitive scalp like an army of red ants. Hats are great for outside but too hot for inside.  Scarves are great, but when you go to bed, you will need a little cotton cap to protect and soothe your scalp.  I’m not kidding, you will look forward to putting this antique looking, floppy thing on. But then prepare to be amazed: without make up and the right pyjama, you do look like an Amish girl/boy or Elizabeth Moss in The Handmaid’s Tale.  It’s easy to feel defeated looking at yourself in this new get up, but if only there was a YouTube channel for our best night cap wearing impressions, we could all club together and feel a whole lot better as a family of The Waltons. G’night JimBob.

I had stage three breast cancer and am six years clear  You can read my survival story blog post here and do feel free to get in touch and share your chemo or cancer story.  I absolutely believe in sharing our personal stories to help and support others going through their own cancer process.