What to expect when you lose your hair to cancer.
Updated: Oct 30, 2020
I’ve been bald twice now. (Three times if we count losing some very short hair that grew between two types of treatment.) Here is what I learnt, how you can prepare and what to expect when it drops.
YOU ARE NOT YOUR HAIR
You are wonderful. With or without hair, you are the same fabulous human being. You will still have your smile, your warm eyes, sparkly personality and your amazing spirit. A lack of hair is not going to change that. And whoever gave us the idea that ‘hair means beauty’ are assholes and have obviously never had cancer.
CHOP IT SHORT
Ever wondered if you could pull off that super short bob? Or one of those half shaved hipster cuts? Well, now’s the time. And losing your hair is a lot less dramatic if it’s shorter.
One day not long after my diagnosis, Mum and I spent the afternoon sussing out some wig shops. My hair was still firmly plugged in, but for my own peace of mind I needed to know there was a wig out there that didn’t make me look like I was 6 months late for the Halloween party.
Holy Moly - I cannot begin to tell you how much better I felt after leaving the first wig shop. I hate to admit it, but I probably looked better in some of those wigs than after I dropped $250 at a hair salon. We are lucky to live in a time where wigs are so good that no one would know if you were wearing one. It was such a relief that I could go under the radar – especially at work – and not stand out like the bald cancer girl.
Be warned though, wigs will be anywhere from $300-600. And if you’re looking for real hair, it can easily be in the thousands. Thankfully many hospitals have wig libraries and you can borrow them for free!
The wig shop with my friends and my Mum.
WHEN IT DROPS
It’s horrible. There’s no point lying and trying to sugar coat it, and sadly there’s no way around it.
During my first ride on the C-train my hair thinned super gradually. I would wake up and there would be about 20 or so strands on the pillow each day. After a while I had enough of watching it fall and how super thin it was getting. But even when I shaved it, there was still a little bit of coverage around the edges.
The second time was textbook. Straight after my second dose of chemo, it started to fall. But this time – fast. I remember sitting on my bed in tears after I’d just attempted to brush my newly washed hair and was startled to see an abnormal amount of hair in my brush. It looked like half my hair was in the brush. I spent a week denying it and left a follicle trail everywhere I went before I had to shave it. This time round my head was so shiny bald you could probably see its reflection from Mars.
FUCK IT, HAVE A PARTY
Both times I did the big shave, I was surrounded by friends. I refused to make it a depressing and sad event. Of course there were tears, but there was also a lot of laughter, a bit of bubbly, music and some ridiculous hair styles in between reaching the #1 clippers. I’ve proudly sported the mullet, mohawk and an old-man-friar-do. So rally your friends and make this a big moment shared with the people you love.
The undercut was sported during shave #1.
Celebrations after the big shave #2.
After all the angst and terror, it’s a strangely good feeling once it’s done. I used a lot of energy constantly stressing about how much hair is falling and what I would look like once it was gone. I was worried about looking sick and the reactions of everyone around me.
As soon as the clippers had done their job, it was ok. I was still the same person – I just had a punk hair-do from the 80’s. And once I had a cry and a laugh, I could transfer my energy into figuring out how to make this shiny new style work for me - and getting better.
PUT IT ON FACEBOOK
You’ll either love or hate this idea. Post your new look on Facebook for everyone to see. Now before you stop reading completely, hear me out. There was nothing worse than running into friends I hadn’t seen for a while and watching their faces turn to pure shock when they first put two and two together about my lack of hair. However with the power of Facebook and a few posts doing the shave, the word seemed to get around which meant I didn’t have to start from scratch when filling people in on my current cancer situation.
If you’re a visual person like me, great pictures can help you get inspired. So whatever your jam is – hats, scarves, short hair cuts or wigs - make a mood board. It will help you get loads of ideas of what’s out there and what other people are doing.
HAVE SOME FUN
Wear a big turban. Or a pink wig. Or if you have the lady balls, free your head and own it. This is not going to apply every day because cancer is by no means fun every day. But there will be some days that you feel like being your sassy self and so go big!
There will be days when you get pity stares, looks of confusions and tiny kids pointing their finger and loudly questioning your hair situation in the middle of a crowded Coles on a Sunday afternoon. It can be hard. But remember you are a bloody badass cancer warrior. Hold your head up high my girl, you’re doing great.
But let’s not leave it on a sad note. Here are the pros to this shitty situation.
No bad hair days. Ever.
Sleep in longer as you don’t have to wash your hair.
Feel the wind on your head. It’s quite a nice feeling and you never would have had the experience otherwise.
Save money on Shampoo, conditions, hair products and hair dressers.
You don’t have to clean the hair out of the drain. Not your problem anymore. That hair is clearly the responsibility of someone else.
You be badass. Hold your head high – you are now just as cool and beautiful as Sinead O’Connor, Natalie Portman, Megan Fox and Charlize Theron.
Whether you have cancer or not, I hope this helped make the cancer chat a bit less awkward. Please share with your friends and let me know if I missed anything in the comments below.
And if you want to help end cancer, check out my scarves. They are for people who hate cancer – whether you have it or not. And 10% goes to finding a cure.
Lots of love,