There is a strong cultural significance attached to a woman’s hair. Throughout history, hair has been an element of displaying a woman’s social position, her religion, as well as her personal expression. The style, the length and the color all can play an important role in how a woman both sees herself and how she presents herself to the world. This is why one of the core concerns for women undergoing cancer treatment, specifically chemotherapy, is hair loss. As this post goes up, I am beginning to lose mine (slowly), and I wanted to talk about a few thoughts I have about hair and how I’m dealing with the imminent loss of it.
I have always enjoyed my hair. I understand many women out there struggle with theirs, and I feel for them. I have certainly had my, “Ugh, I can’t do a thing with it,” days, but by and large it has been one of the easier elements of my self-image to maintain. After having very short hair for most of my childhood, I was committed to having a longer style once I was old enough to make my own decisions about it. It has always been thick and rather heavy, and other than being a bit stubborn about curling, has accepted most of my forays into the styling experiments we have all subjected ourselves to. It was only about five or six years ago that a sudden urge came over me to simplify my routine, and I began to return to a shorter style. And ironically, I had been in the process of growing my hair back out when I received my diagnosis.
I chose to see the positive side of the situation; not only was I accustomed to not having a full head of hair, but those around me we used to seeing me with short hair as well. No one was going to have to deal with the shock of me going from luxurious long locks to nearly no hair at all. And when you’re already feeling like you’re about as ill as you’ve ever been, who wants to contend with a head full of hair? Yes, I love my hair, but it is not central to my identity. The loss of it isn’t changing how I feel about myself. I’m still a woman, and I can still express my personal style and maintain my self-image without any hair at all.
So how am I dealing with it? I’ve had lots of discussions with friends, family and medical professionals about various options. And as much as I enjoy having hair, deep down I don’t feel like a wig is really a viable option for me. I may change my mind down the road of course, but for now I’m leaning more toward the idea of headscarves and wraps. I feel like not only will they be handy for covering up what could be a bit unsettling for some to witness, but because of the variety available, I will still be able to maintain some sense of personal style. I was surprised by the selection I found on headcovers.com, a site I stumbled onto and have enjoyed ordering from already. If you are in a similar situation, I would highly recommend checking them out. They have a great stock of products like hats, headscarves, wraps and wigs for anyone dealing with significant hair loss. The items I received from them so far are great quality, affordable and they arrived in a very reasonable amount of time.
There are also options for patients who haven’t yet lost their hair; Polar Cold Caps are literally a cap designed to help prevent hair loss from chemotherapy drugs. The patient wears them just before, during and for a few hours after receiving treatment. According to the website, the cold from the hat constricts the blood vessels going to the hair follicles, which prevents the drugs from accessing the hair. This could be a great option for patients who have much stronger feelings about losing their hair.
I don’t want anyone to think that I am attempting to downplay the seriousness of this situation. I understand that every woman has a particular relationship with her hair, and it represents something different to all of us. In my case, receiving treatment and getting well are much more important to me than the temporary loss of my hair. If you or anyone you know is currently dealing with hair loss, and have tips or suggestions for dealing with it, please leave a comment below. Have a great week!