Brazilian Blowout: What You Need to Know

Nutrafol for healthy hair

If you are someone who keeps up with the newest in hair care, chances are you have heard about the Brazilian Blowout. A Brazilian Blowout treatment is a hair protectant that gives your hair a glossy, frizz-free, hydrated shine for up to three months. The ingredients used when doing a Brazilian Blowout are the Brazilian camu camu, annatto seed, and acai berries, which sound harmless enough. But studies show Brazilian Blowouts can actually pose a real health risk.

What is a Brazilian Blowout?

Just what is a Brazilian Blowout hair treatment? The treatment is generally recommended for people with damaged, frizzy, or very processed hair. A Brazilian Blowout treatment is meant to make your hair straighter, shinier and frizz-free, which can tempt many of us to try it. But then there’s the question of how long does a Brazilian Blowout last, and it turns out the results only last for about 10-12 weeks. And that is if you maintain it the way the stylists tell you to, which we all know is hard to keep up with.

When you go for your Brazilian Blowout treatment, the stylist will assess your hair and answer any questions you have, from what is a Brazilian Blowout to how to care for your hair following a Brazilian Blowout treatment. The first step of a Brazilian Blowout is to wash the hair and then towel dry it. Next, the smoothing product is applied in sections. After that, the stylist will blow dry your hair while making it as smooth as possible using a brush. After a round of flat ironing, the stylist will rinse the hair out using only water, and then apply a specific bonding spray that will seal the cuticles of the hair. After that, it is time for a smoothing serum before the final blow dry and styling.

Why is a Brazilian Blowout Dangerous?

If you’ve read many Brazilian Blowout reviews, you know a lot of customers are satisfied with the results the smoothing treatment has on their hair. What those Brazilian Blowout reviews usually don’t mention is that Brazilian Blowouts can be dangerous to your health — not because of the process itself, but rather because of some of the chemicals involved in it. While many people want to know “How long does a Brazilian Blowout last,” a better question might be “How long can the potentially harmful effects of a Brazilian Blowout last?”

Did Somebody Say Free From Formaldehyde?

Nutrafol for hair growth
Sulfates are ingredients well-known as a skin, eye, mouth, and even lung irritant

What is in a Brazilian Blowout hair treatment that could be considered harmful? Although the products used in the Brazilian Blowout, and the similar Keratin treatment, are reported as free from the carcinogenic chemical formaldehyde, the air in salons offering these treatments tested positive for formaldehyde. How is this possible?

Some manufacturers list “synonyms” for formaldehyde on their labels. This is because sometimes the formaldehyde has been dissolved in water or another substance, which changes its chemical composition slightly, giving it a new name. The problem is that all these substances can release formaldehyde when subjected to certain conditions, such as the heat involved in a hair smoothing treatment, or even when using heating tools later at home.

For this reason, The American Cancer Society wrote the following about keratin smoothing treatments: “Professional keratin hair-smoothing treatments can contain formaldehyde or formaldehyde-releasing chemicals. Using these can raise indoor air concentrations of formaldehyde to levels that could be a potential hazard.”

All of the chemicals listed below are names for formaldehyde under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s formaldehyde standard:

Methylene glycol
Formalin
Methylene oxide
Paraform
Formic aldehyde
Methanal
Oxomethane
Oxymethylene
Timonacic acid
Thiazolidinecarboxylic acid

Is Getting a Brazilian Blowout Worth the Risk?

Formaldehyde is known to cause cancer and tends to be the worst when it is in the gaseous heated stage. It is a “sensitizer,” which means that it can cause allergic reactions of the skin, eyes, and lungs such as asthma-like breathing, skin rashes, and itching. It can also be a health hazard, whether in a product or in the air.

Studies conducted by The American Cancer Society have shown that formaldehyde can increase the probability of nasopharynx cancer and leukemia. One study found that workers exposed to formaldehyde had higher than normal levels of chromosome changes in early white blood cells in their bone marrow. This finding supports the possible link between formaldehyde exposure and leukemia.

Other Everyday Chemicals You Should Get Rid Of

Considering this, maybe it is not worth risking your and your stylist’s health for the sake of beauty. There are other, safer methods of achieving great hair without turning to Brazilian Blowouts. Have you, for example, considered natural solutions and skipping the chemicals for a while? We are not only talking about choosing a supplement made from plants to increase your hair health, we are talking about changing your routines, even when it comes to how you wash your hair. Did you know sulfates, which can be found in many shampoos, are well-known irritants of the skin, eyes, mouth and even lungs? Maybe it is time to take a closer look at the ingredients of that bottle you use every other day.

The study “Exposure to Chemicals in Cosmetics” conducted by the Breast Cancer Foundation shed some new light on another shampoo ingredient — parabens — and what effect it has on the body. The study discovered that parabens can penetrate the skin and act as a very weak form of estrogen in the body potentially making hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer develop and grow.

So how about getting rid of shampoos containing sulfates and parabens and switching to a sulfate-free shampoo? Sulfate-free shampoos preserve your hair’s natural oils and are also color-safe, which is good if you dye your hair a lot. Instead of buying hair masks, which also have chemicals in them, you can make your own. A hair mask made from avocado, for example, contains vitamin E and is easy to make. Vitamin E is good for hair growth because it is a great moisturizer and also boosts the immune system.

Hair Loss and Cancer – Chemotherapy Does Not Need to Lead to Hair Loss Anymore

Hair Loss and cancer – as if the dreaded disease isn’t bad enough it usually comes with the added burden of hair loss. So when the news hit the world of a new device that helps cancer patients keep their hair during chemotherapy, cancer patients everywhere felt there might be a small amount of relief to everything they already have to deal with.

DigniCap is the name of the device that is supposed to revolutionize hair loss during chemotherapy. It is a scalp cooling system that offers patients the possibility of keeping all or most of their hair during chemotherapy. According to DigniCap, the cooling system was approved by the FDA for use in the U.S. in December 2015.

Modern medicine has come a long way when it comes to handling the side effects of chemotherapy, making many aspects of the treatment manageable for the patients. But hair loss has been one of the side effects that for a long time was unavoidable. Many patients going through chemotherapy has said that they do not like the fact that hair loss makes it so obvious to others that they are are sick.

Dr. Saranya Chumsri, an oncologist specializing in breast cancer at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, a clinic that now offers their patients DigniCap, said in an interview for the local paper that many patients do not want to be reminded they have cancer.

“Even though they, most of the time, feel really well, the fact that they don’t have hair reminds them every single day that they have cancer and are on chemotherapy. With the DigniCap system, just the fact they can keep their hair makes a whole world of difference,” said Dr Chumsri.

 

How Dignicap Works When Dealing with Cancer and Hair Loss

The DigniCap scalp cooling system is a tight-fitting silicone cooling cap. The cap is placed directly on the head of the person. And an outer cap is placed on the first silicone cap, and insulates and secures it.

The cap is connected to a cooler, where liquid coolant circulates throughout the silicone cap, delivering cooling to all areas of the scalp. Before the patients put on the cap, they wet their hair, and sometimes, when the treatment is done, they can actually find ice crystals in their hair. The temperature of the scalp is lowered and the scalp is kept cold, and because of that, less chemotherapy makes it to the scalp.

These are the factors that reduce the risk of hair loss. What determines how long the patients will be attached to the DigniCap, is the treatment that they are getting. But it usually last from four to seven hours.

Dignicap and hair loss
More and more clinics are integrating Dignicap as part of the post-cancer treatment.

Still Unattainable for Most People

Even though DigniCap is revolutionizing the battle of cancer and hair loss, it is still a tool that is mainly for those who can afford it. Using DigniCap is not cheap. In fact, it costs about $400 for each treatment.

Other problems that have been reported are that some of the patients get a headache from the cap, and that the strap on the cap can give some patients irritations on the chin. Nonetheless, more and more clinics are integrating DigniCap as part of their post-cancer treatment, making it a great development when it comes to cancer and hair loss.

William Cronin, the Chief Executive Officer of Dignitana Inc, the company that produces DigniCap, says in an article that he is honored to make a real difference for cancer patients who fear losing their hair to chemotherapy.

“As more and more centers like the Mayo Clinic integrate new innovations like the DigniCap system into their cancer care regimens, we move closer and closer to the day when that fear is a thing of the past,” he comments.

 

Is Hairspray Harmful for You and Your Hair?

Is hairspray harmful for you and your hair?

It is common knowledge that hairspray is a cosmetic product. It is also common knowledge that hairspray holds our hair in place. And as we also already know, there are many brands to choose from, each one of them containing a different mix of ingredients.

Ingredients in hairspray

Hairspray contains a group of active ingredients – polymers and solvents – in addition to one or more propellants. Hairspray usually comes in a container with a pump or aerosol nozzle.

What role do polymers and solvents play in hairspray?

Polymers are responsible for hairspray’s glue-like effect and solvents dissolve the ingredients into a solution. Common polymers in hairspray include polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP), vegetable gums and gum arabic, while alcohol and hydrocarbons make up the solvent portion.

History of the spray

Before the 1970s, the loveable spray contained the chemical vinyl chloride, which served as a propellant in aerosol cans. According to the National Institutes of Health, vinyl chloride is a known carcinogen linked to angiosarcoma of the liver in humans. The disturbing part of all this is that manufactures knew about the toxic effects of vinyl chloride and it took them almost a decade before removing it from the market. Then the propellant that replaced it – methylene chloride – was later also recalled due to similar carcinogenic effects.

Is hairspray harmful for you and your hair?
Is hairspray harmful for you and your hair?

Health effects

Although hairsprays no longer contain vinyl chloride or methylene chloride, there might be some ingredients that still cause adverse health effects for some individuals. According to the Center for Disease Control, it is not known if propylene glycol, a common hairspray ingredient, has cancer-causing properties. A lot of sprays contain a group of ingredients referred to as fragrance and because of that, it is not possible to accurately assess their safety.

And there is more to add…

While the chronic health impacts of the ingredients used are unclear, it is easier to understand the immediate danger of sprays. They can cause fire and personal injury when exposed to open flame. So make sure you keep them away from heat sources. According to Drug Information Online, inhaling some of the ingredients can lead to acute poisoning. In some cases, irritation of the skin, eyes and lungs may also occur for those who are sensitive.

What are my options?

If you worry about the effects hairspray may be having on your hair, stop using it. If you already feel that your hair is in bad shape, stop using the product and invest in another one. Natural products are a safe bet when you want to nourish healthy hair. Another option is to take a supplement that provides the hair with essential nutrients and targets the potential triggers of damaged hair.

Studies Suggest That Exposure to Hair Dye Could Cause Cancer

A lot of us choose to dye our hair to get a new look or cover grey hairs, but according to the American Cancer Society, some studies suggest that being exposed to hair dye could cause cancer. The problem seems to be more common among hair stylists, who are frequently in touch with the dyes. It is not as common for customers who have their hair done. But it could still be harmful to breath in the fumes from a chemical dye.

Different Hair Dyes

There are a few distinctions to keep in mind. There are three types of hair dyes that are commonly used; temporary dyes, semi-permanent dyes, and permanent ones. The temporary ones are not strong enough to completely penetrate the hair shaft, but the other two are. It is the permanent hair dye that will cause a lasting chemical change in your hair. But they are also the most commonly used, as the color will last until new hair grows out.

These types of hair dyes officially go under the name coal-tar hair dyes. That is hailing back to the days when the ingredients actually came from the coal industry. Today, many hair dyes are mainly made from petroleum, but the name is still used. Hair dyes like these do not need FDA approval to be used, unless it lacks the necessary caution label or it contains an ingredient other than the coal-tar dye that is harmful.

When it comes to cancer, the FDA issued a special warning regarding two ingredients that were found to cause cancer in animals in the 1980’s. Since then, those ingredients are no longer used in hair dyes.

Studies Suggest That Exposure to Hair Dye Could Cause Cancer
Studies suggest that being exposed to hair dye frequently could cause cancer, but more research is needed.

Studies Suggest Link Between Hair Dyes and Cancer

However, some studies do show that hair dyes can cause cancer. These studies are typically conducted in one of two ways. The first is in a lab where animals are exposed to the substance being researched. The second is by looking at cancer rates in different groups of people. Some studies use both ways to be sure of the results.

Most of the studies looking into cancer in humans are focused on certain types of cancer. The most commonly researched cancers are bladder cancer, breast cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or leukemia. It is important to point out that the people who run the highest risk of getting diagnosed are those who regularly dye their hair, or hair stylists who are exposed to these chemicals at work.

There have been mixed results from the studies, but according to the American Cancer Society, these are the main points.

  • Studies focusing on people who get in contact with hair dyes at work show a small, but consistent, increased risk of getting bladder cancer.
  • Some studies focusing on links between people who dye their hair and leukemia or lymphomas show a higher risk. That is especially if the people started using hair dyes before 1980 and/or use darker colors. However, some other studies have not seen an increased risk. That means the risk of getting a blood cancer like the types mentioned is probably low, but in general, older types of hair dye are worse than modern ones.
  • Studies looking into breast cancer have not found any consistent results of an increased risk.
  • For other types of cancer, there are yet too few studies to draw conclusions.

 

Hair Dyes Can Cause Other Irritations

It is important to remember that being exposed to hair dyes can also cause other irritations, like allergic reactions or hair loss. If possible, it is always a better idea to choose a hair dye with as many natural ingredients as possible. Back in the day, many hair dyes used formaldehyde, which has been classified as a carcinogen since 1987. Considering it is the same liquid that is used to embalm animals and turn them into preserved mounts, it is probably good news that it is no longer used.

Hair dyes are not that good for our hair no matter how much you try to have it done in a risk-free way. So make sure to go to a colorist who knows what he or she is doing. This is especially important if you have very dark hair that requires many stages of bleaching and coloring, or if your hair is thin and sensitive.

Text by Emma von Zeipel

DigniCap, the Cooling Cap That Protects Your Hair During Chemotherapy

Nutrafol | DigniCap

For most people, hair loss is  what we expect during chemotherapy. But the new patented product DigniCap changes that. The new method of cooling the scalp during and after chemotherapy has a proven effect on hair growth.

Losing Hair During Chemotherapy

Most people lose some or all of their hair when going through chemotherapy. It can be a traumatizing experience, as much of our identity is in our hair. And about one in eight American women will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women. Researchers estimate that some 252,710 women will diagnosed with this disease in 2017.

“We have this huge growing population of breast cancer survivors, and many of them are very traumatized by their treatment,” said Dr. Hope S. Rugo. Rugo is the director of breast oncology and clinical trials education at University of California, San Francisco. The school is working on developing different ways of tackling this problem, one of them being scalp-cooling.

Nutrafol | DigniCap
DigniCap is currently the only scalp-cooling device that has been cleared by the FDA.

Studies Using the DigniCap

The method of cooling the scalp in order to keep hair growth alive is old. However, with new technique available today it works better and is easier. Swedish company Dignitana produces the device that is called the DigniCap. This device was used in a cold cap study from the University of California, San Francisco.

The study involved 122 women with early stage breast cancer. Among the women who received treatment with the cold cap, 66.3 percent kept 50 percent of their hair. In the control group, that did not wear a cool cap, the number was zero. For the scalp-cooling group, three out of five quality-of-life measures were also “significantly better” a month after ending treatment.

How the Device Works

The DigniCap is the only scalp-cooling device that has currently been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration. “Managing the side effects of chemotherapy is a critical component to overall health and recovery,” said William Maisel from the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. Our hair is a big part of our identity and losing it can cause emotional trauma. The DigniCap is a safe way of preventing or easing hair loss. As it does not involve any medication or surgery, it is safe from side effects.

The Cap

The cap consists of an inner and an outer cap, and works much like a refrigerator, and are filled with a cooling liquid. Temperature sensors built into the cap regulates how often the liquid circulates. When our head gets cooled off, blood vessels in the scalp constrict. When blood flow to the hair follicles slow down, the metabolism of the follicles also slows down.

This is a breakthrough for cancer treatment, as some women will even refuse to undergo chemotherapy treatment in order to save their hair. Dr. Julie Nangia, who is an assistant professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, said that they “are at a higher risk for relapse and if the cancer comes back, we can’t cure it.” Now, with the option of the DigniCap, it could encourage these women to accept a treatment that could save their life.

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