Dealing with Cancer and Hair Loss, Part 3

Cancer and Hair Loss

Cancer and Hair Loss are traumatic experiences that combined makes a tough battle. This is the third part in a series of three where Anne Sarte tells about her journey.

Dealing with Cancer and Hair Loss Part 3

The barber who had shaved the last vestiges of my pre-cancer hair had already left for the evening and I was trying to get accustomed to walking around the house bald. So this is how it feels, I thought. I wish I could say I felt all my hair standing on end, but I had no hair! The sensation came from the pores on my scalp that became ultra-sensitive to the air around me.

When I lay on my pillow that night, the top of my head felt really cold. I used to always have the airconditioner on every time I went to sleep, but that night, I could feel the cold seep through my scalp. I thought I had a fever so I got a beanie and put it over my head the rest of the night. Sleep was elusive that first night because the beanie kept slipping off my head as I turned on my pillow.

Everything, including the scarves I used to cover my head during the daytime, had a hard time staying on. My scalp seemed to take on a slippery feel much like a crystal ball. During the one time that I wore a wig when I went out, I felt my scalp was on fire because the wig was so hot! That was the last time I wore that nasty headpiece and finally decided to go au naturel.

I really cannot understand how Dwayne Johnson, Andre Agassi, or Michael Jordan – who are on the list of the hottest bald men of all time – can go around in public without any problem, while people who go bald because of cancer cause others to feel so uncomfortable. And for most people with this disease, cancer and hair loss go together, so there is not much to do about it.

This double standard had to stop and I thought of doing something about it. I got my smartphone and took a couple of selfies when no one was looking and surprised everyone on Facebook the next day with my clean-shaven pate. Before that time, only my family and a couple of friends knew that I was diagnosed with cancer so when the rest of the world got in on my secret, I received a mixture of reactions from everyone on my list.

To this day, I remain extremely grateful to family and friends who, despite their initial surprise, poured out their love, support and prayers. They sent me messages on my Facebook wall and in my inbox. Some sent me books to read and lots of food to eat. While many were generous in their encouragement and support, some became stoic and did not know what to say. It seemed as if my coming out bald in a public space was an affront to them and someone even told me to take my photo down.

Cancer and Hair Loss
Some cancer patients wear wigs or scarves, while some feel more comfortable going natural.

It is true that challenges bring out the best or worst in people, and life events show you who your real family and friends are. That period was the moment of truth – when I started to see the true colors of the people around me and it was both enlightening and liberating at the same time. Before my illness – and before you could see it on me – I was slim and fit, on top of my game, and was doing the rounds of international real estate and financial services.

When I fell ill and was undergoing chemo sessions, I became weak and very sickly because my immune system had buckled down. I had lost a breast and all my hair, yes, but I was, and still am, the same person inside.

I don’t think anyone’s self-worth should be defined by how one looks, or may appear to look like, at a particular time. After all, beauty, like time, is fleeting but the true essence of a person is found deep within.

In my battle against cancer, I learned seven important lessons that I always go back to until this day:

  1. The greatest investment you can make in your life is the time you spend with your loved ones, for you do not have forever to be with them.
  1. The second great investment that we always neglect is our health – we work so hard for money and comforts when we are young, but we spend so much to get our health back when we grow old.
  1. The people who stick by you in good times and in bad are the only people you really need in your life – the rest are just like driftwood, waiting to be washed over again to another shore.
  1. We learn to value people or things only when we lose them. I appreciated my body more when I lost my health. I learned the value of my hair when I felt cold and bare. I realized that every function of my body that I took for granted before was important to my well-being. I became aware of the full worth of every single day that I was alive, and was thankful for each moment with my loved ones.
  1. Do not give anyone permission to pull you down. Each one of us leads unique lives, and no one should ever be allowed to mess with yours.
  1. My hair mirrored my life. Setbacks were temporary. I learned that even as it went through the entire catagen phase of slowing down and breaking at the roots, it had to go through the telogen process of being wiped out much like a purging of the bad things in my life. It was an inconvenient necessity but it made me look forward to experiencing a rebirth and moving on to its anagen stage when everything starts anew.

For my physical body to heal, I also had to heal myself emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I had to forgive myself and others for past mistakes, let go of the negativities in life, and surrender myself to the one true God who created me.


Text by Anne Sarte

This was the last part in a series of three.

Photo credits: cea + via Flickr

liz west via Flickr

 

Dealing with Cancer and Hair Loss, Part 2

Cancer and hair loss

For many people with cancer, hair loss is a necessary evil. In the previous text, Anne Sarte shared her story of how she was fighting hair loss during her cancer treatment. Here is the continuation of her series of articles on cancer and hair loss.

Cancer and Hair Loss Part 2

During that late afternoon when my dad invited a barber over so I could have a haircut in the privacy of my own home, I felt that the gathering dusk heightened the pensive mood that everyone in the room seemed to have. My entire family was there to provide support. It was like an event that one had to witness and I tried my best to embrace the moment as positively as I could.

Most cancer patients experience hair loss as a result of chemotherapy. While people who do not have cancer may have varying stages of alopecia at some point in their life, those undergoing treatment are most vulnerable to hair loss because the chemicals used to target cancer cells also destroys hair cells.

The cocktail, that combination of burning chemicals that was injected into my body, was like an M240 machine gun shooting both good and bad cells at the rate of 950 rounds per minute. My hair follicles, which were in charge of producing my hair by dividing every 23 to 72 hours, were no match for the assault weapon and were clearly collateral damage.

It was then that I realized that it was only a matter of time before it would attack not only the hair on my scalp but also my eyebrows, lashes, the hair on my arms, legs, armpits, and even those in the nether regions. Well, at least there is no need to be terrified of the infamous Brazilian wax!

Cancer and hair loss
Hair loss due to chemotherapy not only affects the hair on your head, but also lashes, eyebrows and all the hair on your body.

Someone once asked, “How can I control my life when I cannot control my hair?” It is a perfect metaphor for people who need some organization in their lives, but what happens if one does not have hair, or has lost it in the battlefield of chemotherapy? Does that mean that one has lost control over one’s life? For most patients, cancer and hair loss go hand in hand. It seemed very much so as I clutched clumps of falling hair in the shower during those days. There were days when my health, like my hair, was slipping through my fingers and waxing philosophical just became a hobby.

The barber took out his trusty electric razor and started parting what was left of my hair in sections. I heard the whirring of the razor before it landed on my head, much like a lawn mower does on a grassy lawn. My lawn was now in patches and desperately needed some serious makeover.

I tried to peep at my family through wisps of hair hanging on my forehead. My son, who was 12 at that time, was a mix of awe and good humor at seeing his mom turning into a skinhead. My dad, though, looked serious, and my mom had that look in her eyes that I knew was borne out of sadness and pity. It was then that I took in a deep breath and knew these were the people I wanted to have beside me at a time like that. As the remaining patches of hair fell gently on the floor, I could not help but shed a tear.

I had lost all my hair, but in the process of fighting against cancer and hair loss, I found myself and a lot of other little lessons along the way.


Text by Anne Sarte

This was the second part in a series of three. Part three will be published in two days.

Photo credits: Jose Martinez via Flickr

arianne leishman via Flickr

Dealing with Cancer and Hair Loss, Part 1

Cancer and hair loss

Cancer and Hair Loss Part 1

Several years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. One of my elder sisters had died of it at the age of 39. Although the rest of us females in the family did not go through testing to see if we were genetically predisposed to it, it clearly made the case when I found out I had it – decades after she passed away. For most people, Cancer and Hair Loss will come together. This is the story of my journey.

Genetics, stress, diet, lack of exercise and pollution are all contributors to disease and we just have to deal with the bodies we are given. Since I have a small frame, the external effects of mastectomy did not sink in as much. I was not giving Kim Kardashian a run for her money by a mile before the surgery, so looking like Kate Moss afterwards was not such a bad prospect after all. It was useless taking before and after pictures because one would not notice the difference if someone was flat as a board from the start.

Then it dawned on me – it is easy to have an appendage such as a breast taken out because no one would notice it as much anyway unless you had triple D implants done before. What was difficult to accept, and adjust to, was the imminent hair fall as a result of chemotherapy. Hair, or the lack of it, is something that is more difficult to cover. And in most cases, cancer and hair loss are linked together. I have had all sorts of hairstyles in the past – from pixie to shaggy, from Goldie Hawn curls to Mulan straights – but I have never, ever been bald before. Not until my chemo.

Two weeks after my first treatment, my hair was still hanging onto my scalp for dear life. I was about to give myself a pat on the back for growing such strong hair but that moment did not last long. I was sitting in front of my work desk one morning and I noticed a few strands falling. It looked as if chemo, cancer and hair loss do coincide, even for people with a lot of hair. As I sat down to work each day, the strands seem to fall faster – first, they fell on my shoulders and I would grab a handful and put them in the nearby trash bin. Then they fell on my lap, and soon gathered in a pile on the floor beside me.

Cancer and hair loss
Cancer and hair loss are oftentimes coincidental and can be a traumatic experience.

I realized that I could just sit there and my hair would literally shed, just like leaves falling off a tree in autumn. The difference was that autumn leaves are always beautiful but my hair fall was not a pretty sight. Soon, I had filled up the trash bin and I had to empty it so I could repeat the same process. It was getting obvious that my hair was thinning out faster in some areas. When my scalp started to look like a map of islands, that was the time I decided to shave my head.

A lot of decisions during a cancer journey are made because one has to, not because one wants to. It feels better when one has a choice to make, or several choices to choose from, but disease has a way of pushing you against the wall, staring you in the eye, and sticking a gun against your chest.

You decide either to live or to die slowly. To resist or give in. To breathe or suffocate. To fight back or crumple on the ground.

When my doctor told me I had cancer, I knew I had to undergo surgery – as soon as possible. There was no other choice for me since I did not want to die just yet. In my mind, dying before one reaches 50 is not an option for someone who still has family to take care of, and a promising future ahead of her.

After surgery, I made the decision to go through chemotherapy. As much as I wanted to try alternative methods, I did not think time and genetics were on my side.

A month or so after my first chemo, when I was having seriously bad hair days on top of a compromised immune system, I had no other choice but to shave my head and go bald. I will never forget that day because that seemingly trivial event of having a haircut completely changed the way I viewed life.


Text by Anne Sarte

This is the first part in a series of three. Part two will be published in two days.

Photo credits: michellehurwitz via Flickr

Beth Punches via Flickr

How to Prevent Dry Scalp and Hair Loss

Dry Scalp and Hair Loss

A lot of how we look depends on the health and condition of our hair. A healthy scalp provides nourishment for your hair and its roots. It also keeps our hair looking healthy, where an unhealthy one can cause dry scalp and hair loss. But when problems with our scalp arise, so do problems with our hair. They are both linked. You cannot have healthy hair without a healthy scalp.

One of the biggest factors that surround dry scalp and thinning hair is the weather. You will notice that your scalp feels drier in winter, and your hair is more brittle. A dry scalp will decrease the health of your hair, and you will see more breakage during the winter.
While a dry scalp may not necessarily directly cause hair loss, the problems that accompany a dry scalp may contribute to the thinning of hair, as well as hair loss.

Dry scalps are itchy, and what do we do when we are itching? We scratch. When you scratch your scalp, you dislodge the dead skin cells which are produced during the normal hair growth cycle.
An itchy scalp also causes dandruff due to dryness. Dandruff is a problem that plagues many people, but this could also be a sign that your scalp is not healthy. If left untreated, a dry scalp could cause long lasting damage to your hair, so don’t wait too long before you take action.

Causes of Dry Scalp and Hair Loss

There are many reasons why your scalp gets dry and itchy, one of them being stress. Many people do report dry skin and scalp issues after a period of tremendous stress, so make sure to evaluate your life when you start losing hair and your scalp starts to itch.
Another big factor that causes dry scalp is the hair products you use. Some of them contain chemicals and ingredients that could be harsh for your hair and scalp. If you are sensitive to perfumes in hair products or to certain chemicals, your scalp could react to them, causing dry scalp.
Skin conditions like atopic dermatitis and Psoriasis could also cause hair problems, but this can be treated; consult a dermatologist.

Unhealthy lifestyles can cause hair loss as well. If you eat poorly, never sleep, or never take care of medical conditions, your hair may start to fall out, or your scalp may begin to dry.

Dry Scalp and Hair Loss
Make sure to invest in a good hair oil – the perfect cure to prevent a dry scalp.

How to Avoid Hair Loss Due to Dry Scalp

Our hair plays a huge role in our self-esteem. So factors like our diet and hair care play a vital role in preventing a dry scalp from forming. Moisturize your scalp by using certain oils, and condition the skin in your scalp. Avoid overuse of electrical hair appliances that dry out your hair and skin cells.

Eat a well-balanced diet so that your body receives enough nutrients to moisturize the scalp and maintain a healthy oil level. If you are uncertain if you are getting all the vitamins you need through your diet, taking a supplement that supports healthy hair growth can be a good way of making sure. Last but not least, avoid scratching your scalp. The rubbing causes friction, which dislodges the hair and can cause hair loss.
Often, your hair loss can be easily rectified by simply working to moisturize and hydrate your scalp. Don’t ignore dandruff – or you could start losing your hair!

5 Steps to Creating a Healthy Hair Regimen

Healthy Hair

As you may know, healthy hair does not just grow overnight, no matter how much we wish it would. Of great importance for healthy hair growth is a regimen and a commitment to the process. When you get used to your new healthy hair routine and see improvements, you’ll want to continue for maximum benefits. But how do you get started? Creating a healthy hair growth regimen may seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Follow these five simple steps, and you can start noticing the change in your hair with time and consistency.

1. Change your styling routine

Before you start anything too dramatic, start by evaluating how you manage your hair on a daily basis. Do you scrub it with extra sudsy shampoo, yank a brush through it, blow dry it, curl it, or use tons of products? Do you tug it back to style it, or play with it all day long? Three words: cut it out! This tends to be harder for women than for men, but it’s important to sometimes let your hair be. Stop shampooing it every day, use gentle products, and don’t yank or style it to death. Every time you interact with your hair, think, “Be gentle.”

2. Spoil your hair weekly

It’s probably hard to find time in your busy schedule to make time for just your hair, but if you want healthy hair, this can be especially helpful. Use an oil treatment once a week in your hair, and let it soak in for a few hours before you rinse it out. Try not to shampoo it until the next morning to let the oils really soak in. There are tons of ideas and recipes out there for creating a great hair mask or rinse – you can use these once a week as well.

3. Eat fats and proteins

If you are a notorious dieter, make sure you do not cut out the fats and proteins. You need lean protein and Omega 3 fatty acids to help promote healthier hair growth. Introduce nuts, veggies, fish (like halibut and salmon) into your diet, and cut out junk like caffeine, processed foods, and carbs. Your hair (and body) will thank you!

Healthy Hair
To protect your hair from damage, tuck it in when it is windy and don’t let it tangle too much.

4. Prevent damage. 

You have already changed your hygiene and beauty routines, but you also need to think about other factors that result in damage. Did you know the sun can actually damage your hair as much as your skin? It dries it, leaving it broken and unhealthy. Cover your hair when you’re in the sun for a long time, and avoid frequent contact with chlorine from pools or salt from oceans. Tuck your hair in when it is windy, and do not let it get tangled while you sleep. Protect your hair just like you do your skin, and you will see how healthy it grows in no time.

5. Create balance 

Anyone who has experienced hair loss or thinning knows that their hair is closely connected to their overall health and mentality. If you find yourself wanting to rip your hair out at work – that’s a sign! If you are unhealthy and have not been to a doctor to see what to do about it, your hair will often show it. Your hair can help indicate whether or not everything behind the scenes is properly balanced. Pay attention to it. Reduce stress, eat better, take better care of yourself, and you might find yourself amazed at your healthier hair.

Healthy Hair Through Supplements

If you are already taking steps to create a healthy hair regimen and want an extra boost, or maybe your problems are due to other things such as vitamin deficiencies, there are plenty of hair supplements with natural ingredients that could be an option for you.

The Role of Selenium For Hair Growth

sulfate free shampoo

Selenium is a mineral and trace element that is a major nutrient and helps the body fight diseases such as cancer. It has tons of benefits, since it is also an antioxidant and plays its role in keeping the metabolic functions of the body. Additionally, it helps support healthy function of several organs. Selenium is also needed for healthy hair growth and the healing of wounds, burns and other injuries of the skin. Below, we’ll look closer at how selenium really works in regards to hair growth.

How Does It Work? Using Selenium For Hair Growth

No worries, we’ll explain. Enzymes are molecules, used for different chemical reactions of the body. Many enzymes use selenium to do their work for them, which makes them more reactive. Some enzymes help the body clean itself from free radicals. These guys are very harmful to the healthy growth of hair and skin cells of the body since they play a major factor in premature aging and weaker hair follicles. Selenium works for healthy hair growth and helps by killing free radicals.

Selenium is more concentrated in the thyroid than in our other organs and is important for the proper functioning of our thyroid hormone. This hormone in turn plays a huge role in regulating hair loss in patients suffering from the type of hair loss that occurs in patches.

Selenium also activates an enzyme important for the regeneration of important antioxidants in the body, such as vitamin C. These further promote hair growth and hair regrowth by killing harmful free radicals. The enzyme also regulates cells growth and health, something that has made researchers interested in whether it could be used to treat immune system diseases or be used in cancer treatment.

In addition to all these benefits, selenium sulfide is used topically to treat dandruff, which is why it’s often an ingredient in anti-dandruff shampoos. It can also work with protein-rich foods to help healthier hair growth. Below we will list foods you can stock up on to get enough selenium for hair loss prevention.

What Selenium Rich Food You Can Eat, And How Much

Getting enough selenium is important to maintain and improve healthier hair and prevent hair loss. So to be sure of that, there are some foods you can incorporate into your diet to help. Foods rich in selenium include Brazil nuts, whole grains, nuts, garlic, beef, liver, tuna, egg, beans, oatmeal and spinach.

According to the Huntington College of Health Sciences the recommended daily requirement of selenium is 50 mcg for adults and 70 mcg for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Since ingesting selenium to help reduce hair loss is a thing, it is a common ingredient in hair growth supplements.

Tip: Stimulate Hair Growth With Our Guide

If you take supplements, be careful to not overdose as it can lead to selenium toxicity.

Lastly, if you want to make sure you get all the important nutrients to help keep your hair growing strong and long, there are many natural hair health supplements that contain a mix of necessary vitamins – just make sure to keep the balance right.

Female Hair Loss and How to Prevent it

Female hair Loss

Female hair loss may be less observed than men’s, but nearly 40 percent of all women experience visible hair loss or thinning hair by the age of 40. Hair loss can be devastating – it can make you feel depressed or fill you with anxiety in social situations. What if there was a way to help slow down the process or to take preventative measures before its onset?

Top 4 Causes For Female Hair Loss

Hormonal Changes: Menopause, new medications, birth control, pregnancy, thyroid conditions, stress, genetics, and surgery.

Hair Products: Overuse of flatirons, curling irons, blow dryers, hair products, relaxers, and chemical coloring products.

Poor Nutrition: Iron deficiency, crash dieting, fatty foods, and too much sugar intake can all cause hair loss in women.

Traction Alopecia: This is a hair condition caused by wearing your hair in very tight ponytails or applying daily force on it – topknots or tight headgear are common causes.

What Can I Do About it?

Female pattern baldness affects millions of American women. The Savin Scale is a common measurement that can define the density of the hair as a whole. It can determine what range your head of hair falls into and ranges from normal to bald. Which range you fall into can determine what your next steps can be to help prevent the situation from worsening.

Caring For Your Hair and Scalp

If you are suffering from significant female hair loss, just starting to lose your hair, or have thinning hair, don’t give up! You can help prevent or even reverse hair loss by making a few changes.

Consider eating better. Stock up on foods containing healthy nutrients like Omega-3 fatty acids, iron, protein, and foods rich in vitamin B. Be sure to eat nutrient-rich foods like eggs, fat fish like salmon, mussels, fruits, vegetables like carrots and spinach, beans, and lean meats.

Take care of your scalp, and massage it. This helps with blood circulation and keeps the scalp moisturized. Use your favorite oil if you like and move in gentle circular motions, massaging for five to ten minutes per day. Use this same technique when shampooing.

Female hair Loss
Blow drying your hair or using other heated styling tools can cause your hair to break.

Be kind to your hair, and avoid heated hair tools and too many styling products. Air-dry hair when you can. This helps prevent the hair shafts from breaking off and can make your hair look fuller.

Switch your hair part. Just changing the direction of your hair can make it look like it has way more volume and help mask a bit of the thinning.

Change your brush. Using brushes with boar bristles or flexible nylon are better for your hair than metal ones, which can overheat when used in conjunction with blow dryers, or cause breakage with their hard bristles.

Don’t Give Up

There are many ways to help prevent female hair loss. Times have changed and hair health remedies are becoming plentiful. Choose what works best for you – you’re in control! Many modern hair supplements contain only natural ingredients that help provide nutrition from the inside out. Healthy hair growth is a stepping-stone to helping you feel better about yourself, boost your self-esteem and confidence.