Thursday, February 03, 2005

Chemo Hair

I have needed a haircut for over one month. Yesterday, after the doctor's appointment, Nurse Sis drove me over to see Shawna, a sweet, perky, young hair stylist. She had cut my hair before and I'd been thrilled with the results. But since she was a long way from our house I used someone close by for "quickie" trims. My hair just got straighter and straighter.

Think I have to back up here for a minute. Up to age 5 I had naturally curly strawberry blonde locks. We moved to a higher, dryer climate and my hair lost it's curl and started turning brown. From then on it was a reddish brown (even when it had to say so on the box!) and eventually reddish blonde(different box).

We didn't know what was going to happen when I got to the "impressive university". The local docs said that I had an inoperable brain tumor. The Chief of Neurosurgery said bring her in. I figured I had an 85% chance of getting my head partially shaved. The thought of having half a head of full length hair and the other half bald made me nauseous - so, I took control (see Control Freak mentioned elsewhere).

I got a punk cut - we left it about an inch long and jelled it into little spikes. If I was going down, I'd go down looking like Susan Sarandon. All the techs, nurses, etc. and there was a bunch of etceteras loved my hair - and left it alone. I had my cyberknife procedure (see Son's Chapter 6) and when home with my inch of hair, feeling just a little silly.

At my first Chemo appointment I was warned that I could "experience hair loss" in about ten days. On day nine I woke up with what felt like feathers in my mouth - it was hair. Once again I wasn't liking the thought of what was coming next - so, guess what? I got a buzz cut - you can't lose what you don't have! Well, I think the buzz cut worked - it scared the rest of my hair so badly it stayed put. In fact, it started to grow out again.

Eventually it did all fall out and stayed out for months. When it started growing back in it was grey (Why of All Things!) but CURLY. Kid Sis and I tried to dye it my usual reddish blonde and it turned BRIGHT orange-red. Other things they don't warn you about.


There, hopefully I've just saved someone some money and lots of embarrassment. What worked for me was a color with ASH in it (check with pros about this, please).

So, finally you're up to speed (bottom of paragraph one)... I begged Shawna to give me a cut to bring out the natural curl she'd found before. She pulled, she tugged, she lifted, she snipped away and gave me her final report:
- Straight hair 17 - Curls -0-
The rest of her analysis was much more promising: the change in texture was a good indicator that the Chemo was out of my body. My God, this young 'un is so smart!! (Turns out her Mom has cancer and Shawna has done a lot of research on hair.)

Last night I realized that my finger nails had stopped splitting and peeling off like mica - even my toe nails were starting to look better! Seventeen months after Chemo STOPPED my body was continuing to reclaim itself. The healing process is not over...the possibilities are endless...the Cavalry is on the way!!!!!


I may fill a book on the crap that can happen that no one tells us about - in fact, how about a few lectures in medical schools about what REALLY happens to the PEOPLE they see? The fear, the wondering if a tingle is a good or bad thing, the not knowing our bodies, the holding of our breathes until after the next MRI's or CAT scans, the touching a sore spot and wondering if...


At 3:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Mom. Kid Sis here. I know how you look forward to people's comments, and since you haven't had one yet...let me be the first to say

Great Post!

Keep it up. Bravery and honesty are what the world needs.

At 3:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are one beautiful lady. Your humor shows your incredible stregnth and bravery!Thank you for sharing your story -your family and friends are lucky to have you!
Kate M.

At 3:33 PM, Blogger Clickbank Mall said...

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At 6:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I appreciated your comments so much. I would like to learn about having a permanent wave done to someone who has been in chemo for a few months. Will all the hair come out or will it be all right?

At 4:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for help on hair dyes!! One thing that I found out they don't tell you about before using your hair that is essential. Never underestimate the importance of NOSE HAIRS. If they had told me that, I sure would've avoided some embarrassing moments. Bonnie W.

At 7:14 AM, Anonymous Aaron said...


I am from and was just looking around the internet for other people's chemo hair stories. Your blog is excellent and full of very astute details about the sometimes overlooked side effects of chemo.



At 3:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I finished eight months of intensive chemo for Burkitts Like Lymphoma the end of Feb. 08. Was searching for information on hair color and came across your blog. You are right on about all the things they don't tell you. I was thinking today that there should be a manual with all the info in it cancer treatment specific and given to each patient after treatment. I really related to "everything" you said, except about hair color. No experience yet. Thank you.

At 2:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

2005 - 2008

You never know who you are going to touch or how long it might take.

My wife is losing hair. This was a nice Google-hit.

Thank you for sharing.

At 6:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

THANK YOU!!!! People kept telling me I'd have this wonderfully curly hair - NOT! I was actually hoping for curly as I had naturally wavy - instead, it is almost entirely white, (prechemo was chestnut), and it is now a poker straight crew cut! I am really a girly-girl, but am looking very Annie Lenox! Rebecca

At 6:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just read you story WOW!. I was just goggle hair dye after Chemo cause I want to lighten my hair after breast cancer. I will double check before I have neon hair.LOL. thanks for you story. Natalie

At 12:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here I am looking at myself with the "New Grey Curly" Look after Chemo that ended in January - wondering if I have the guts to dump my "Brown" - great looking full head of hair wig - for my short Spiked Curly Grey Look. My hair dresser feels I should wait at least another 3 or 4 weeks before I colour it - I will mention your experience - but in the meantime - it is getting warmer and if I wasn't so vain - I do have enough hair to actually make the transition. I never wanted to look like a Cancer Patient or recovering Cancer Patient. My wig allowed me to look great through this whole procedure of Chemo and Radiation.
Wow - what a big decision! Enjoyed your site and comments!
Good Luck and Good Health to everyone!
Marlyn Chadderton

At 7:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has anyone discovered any correlation between having permanent waves every 6 months for decades during adult life and brain tumors? I have straight hair but I like my hair to be loose ringlets. I had radiation for a falx bt on 11/11/2008. Three weeks to the day, my hair started to fall out in 12/2008. It eventually grew back. I believe that taking biotin daily helped. Anyway, I'm afraid to get another perm. Thoughts? Thank you, Alice (I'm 62 and live in New Jersey)

At 11:39 AM, Blogger Becky said...

Like others who commented, I just happened to land on your blog because I was Googling for hair color on chemo hair. I too have my regrowth pure white and it would make me look 20-30 years older if I left the wig off now. I have tried coloring it twice with no luck, it would adhere to my hair at all. I have been told that I probably wouldn't be able to color it until 6 months after my treatments stop. Unfortunately, I am still taking treatments (I have been for a year next month and have been told I will for another six months)So, needless to say, I will be wearing a wig for a long time to come. I have been told that there is a possibility that Hennalucent might work, so I am going to give that a try for the last attempt.


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