Hair After Chemo
Hair, hair, hair. It is always important in a woman's life and becomes even more so after cancer. Think of all the time we have spent through the years washing, conditioning, producting, coloring, cutting, bemoaning, brushing, loving, hating our hair. The intensity of the obsession after chemo is not even matched by our teenage years when hair was surely a very major interest.
There are some chemotherapies that do not cause hair loss. Unfortunately, the standard adjuvant treatments for breast cancer all do. In 1993, when I first had chemo, the standard care was CMF. Those drugs result in baldness 1/3 of the time, thinning 1/3 of the time, and little change 1/3 of the time. Now that was really nerve wracking as I didn't know what to expect. I ended up in the almost bald from thinning group. The "little change" group was regularly those women who received all three drugs IV whereas I, and most people, took Cytoxan as pills and the other two IV. One of my strong memories is hiking in Maine and hitting a strong wind on top of a mountain. Trying to sustain some kind of humor while hair flew all around me, I changed the lyrics of a classic song and began to sing: "I left my hair on Cadillac Mountain..."
The second time I had chemo, in 2005, the standard care had changed to CA. We all know what that means: BALD, bald, bald. In my case, shiny head bald. The kind of bald that is startling and frightening when glimpsed in a mirror. The next shock for me, and for many women, was what grew back. When I looked at myself with very curly short hair, I felt that I was in the witness protection program. Who was that? Now, seven(!) years later, it is longer, but still pretty curly -- which was never the case before.
Your Hair After Chemo
By Heather Millar
I need to get a new head shot. The picture that you see to the right of this blog post is about three years old. I've used that picture on my personal blog, my Gmail account, and my Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, and Pinterest accounts. My Internet persona is always wearing a black blazer and cocking her head just a bit to the side.
This may seem to show a lack of imagination, or some sort of digital laziness. How hard is it to take a picture and upload it these days? But the fact is: I hate having my picture taken. My standard joke is that I'm paying for a photogenic childhood with an adulthood in which I always seem to have my eyes closed or mouth open or head angled to make it look like I have double chins when the shutter clicks.
But, now, I think I really have to get serious about a new picture. Why? Because post chemo, my hair seems to be growing back wavy. This stuns me. I have always had hair that is so straight that it doesn't even hold a perm. At first, I just thought that my hairdresser had cut the layers strangely, and that's why the strands had begun to flip and twist. But, no, I finally realized: The hair, not the haircut, has changed.
What gives? I searched scholarly journals and magazine databases. I talked to several dermatologists.
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