docetaxol take 2, and talking about hair loss

I had my second tax infusion on Tuesday. I am now on day five, the Saturday after chemo on Tuesday, and I’m doing much better than I was last time, which was pretty awful!

It certainly has not been easy this cycle, but it has been easier. Thursday and Friday I was very tired, but I have still been able to get out, run some errands, meet a friend for lunch and even go to my sister-in-law’s for dinner last night. It is nice to not feel tied to my couch! Also, the bone pain is not nearly as bad as it was last cycle, when I ended up needing narcotics to sleep. Cross your fingers for me that I do not get a cold coming off of chemo again, it’s already happened to me twice and I would really like to avoid it this time! I’m supposed to go back to work Monday and am looking forward to it. I’m actually be going back to my permanent position, and although that is definitely bittersweet for me, for the most part it’s a good thing and I’m excited to get back to my regular department!

On another note: I know a lot of people come here to learn more about the cancer experience, and how to support their loved ones going through cancer, so I want to share something:

There is one person in my life who often brings up the fact that I shaved my head, asking me if I have “really” lost my hair yet, and has said that I didn’t really lose my hair because I shaved it. I’m going to share some pictures of what my hair looked like three weeks after chemotherapy, before I shaved it. It was falling out in chunks. Also, when hair falls out from chemotherapy, it physically hurts and the scalp becomes very sensitive, people on cancer bulletin boards compare it to “shards of glass” and this is true. The quicker you shave it, the quicker the pain and sensitivity goes away.

I’m not sure how anyone could look at those pictures, and feel like I did not “really” lose my hair. Imagine for just for a moment what it’s like to look in the mirror and see that that’s happened to your head, and then maybe it’s easier to recognize that taking a razor to it did not make it any less of a real loss.

So here’s a little bit of advice if you have a friend who’s going through cancer and has lost their hair: it does not matter if someone shaved their head or if they waited till every single piece of hair fell out naturally (which barely makes sense, because there is nothing natural about chemotherapy), it is cancer and chemo that took their hair. It wasn’t a choice, it wasn’t fun, and whether they shaved or not it was a significant, painful and “real” loss. Shaving may have made it quicker and less painful, but it didn’t make it less real and implying otherwise is hurtful to somebody that has to live with this.

I did not shave my hair because I thought it would be cool to be bald. I did not shave my head because I wanted attention. I shaved my head because I had cancer, I was in chemotherapy, my hair was falling out in chunks and it was physically and emotionally painful to deal with.

Please show some compassion to those that go through this and remember:

-It may be “just hair”, but hair matters, and losing it is heartbreaking.

-Shaving it off does not make the loss any less real, and implying otherwise is hurtful.

-Yes, it will grow back. But constantly reminding us of that does not make is easier. Think how upset you get after a “bad haircut” or on a “bad hair day”. Now imagine a year (at least) of feeling that way, that your hair is not how you like it and there is NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT…and not even knowing how it will grow back (because it does not always grow back as it was). The fact that it will, in time, grow back does not make the loss easier and saying it just minimizes the loss.

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2 thoughts on “docetaxol take 2, and talking about hair loss

  1. Reading this makes me angry. I’m angry that you had to deal with someone saying this to you and about the ignorance behind the words. I remember thinking losing my hair was the least of my worries when I was diagnosed. It wasn’t really much of a blip on my radar. It didn’t affect me too greatly (I also shaved my head) but every person is different and you honestly don’t know until you experience it yourself. It was definitely harder than I had expected. For me, it’s the looks from people that you have to deal with afterwards. When I wear hats, it’s not as bad, but as soon as I put on a scarf, I get looks and whispers. Once you lose your hair it’s like you have a big “I HAVE CANCER” tattoo on your forehead and that in itself is a hard thing to deal with daily, let alone the pain and grief you go through when it is falling out. It’s a real thing and affects everyone differently and judgement and insensitivity helps no one.

    • Oh don’t be angry. I’m not really. Im sure this person wouldn’t keep saying these things if she realized it hurt me. I’m sharing because I know people often want to know what to say, not say…and this is one that’s really been bothering me so perhaps people should know it’s on the “don’t say” list!

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