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!
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