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Coping with Hair Loss during Chemotherapy

After being diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, one of the most difficult things after hearing that I had cancer was being told I would lose my hair during treatment. I know it’s vain – hair doesn’t really matter, but looking healthy is something I’d taken for granted.

When the time came, my hair didn’t fall out in clumps like I’d expected. Rather, it just thinned a little more every day until I started to have small patches of missing hair. After a few more days, I couldn’t take the shedding anymore and decided to shave it off.

My family was very supportive and decided they would shave their hair with me. Even my mother! So there we were, the bald family. It really did help with my self-esteem. We all looked the same at that point, and it helped me get used to the idea. By the time their hair starting growing and my head stayed bald, I’d reached acceptance.

I was dead-set against wearing a wig. I thought it seemed like I was pretending to be normal, not to mention I was doing chemo during the summer and temperatures were regularly over 100 degrees, so I was afraid it would be very hot. I decided to buy some scarves and had fun with bright colors and patterns.

I used several types of scarves but my favorite was a large square silk scarf that a mom from my son’s school had given me. It stayed cool and covered my head well. I just folded it diagonally and tied it behind my head. I found more square scarves at thrift stores. It was difficult to find the square ones in retail stores. The scarves I found there were rectangular and needed to be doubled up. They were soft and pretty, but ended up getting hot more quickly than the square silk ones.

Hats were not my thing, but baseball caps and bandanas worked for me. The only drawback was that more of my bald head showed with the baseball cap, and the bandana was smaller and fit close against my head. The silk scarves felt more light and airy.

I went through all six chemotherapy sessions feeling very well. I stayed active and continued most of my regular activities. Being nearly 6 feet tall and wearing a head scarf, I attracted some attention when I was out shopping or taking my son to his summer activities. This was normally uplifting because it was usually a survivor giving me encouragement. A few people were concerned and insisted on carrying my groceries for me or letting me go ahead of them in line. The negative part was when people stopped me and told me about their loved ones dying of cancer. On one occasion I had my 11- year-old son with me, and he was disturbed by the comments. This was the point when I reconsidered getting a wig.

By this time I’d reached the end of my chemotherapy regimen and the end of summer. Another patient/friend had on a great looking wig and pointed me to the local beauty supply store. I remained a little skeptical that a wig would work for me, but to celebrate my last chemo treatment, I visited the store. The sales clerks were so helpful and I tried on many wigs before I found the right one. But when I found it, I knew it was the one!

Getting the wig at the end of my treatment changed my whole outlook. The wig made of real hair and had bangs, which helped to hide the fact that I no longer had any eyebrows or eyelashes. It fit well and wasn’t as uncomfortable as I’d expected. I was delighted to run in and out of the grocery store with little fanfare. The best part was that it felt like I’d flipped a switch from cancer patient to survivor!


This article is intended to convey general educational information and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.

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  1. Retha

    Sandee, thank you for sharing. There’s such a lot that we don’t understand because we don’t know. Thanking for casting light! I just realised now that every situation differs, and one must never think you have the ultimate answer for all times and all people! Thinking of you, Brave Woman!


  2. Jan

    I too had NHL and shaved my head shortly after first chemo.Couldn’t stand all the hair on my pillow every morning. I’ve passed my five years of cancer freeness, but still worry every time something feels wrong in my body. The worst part for me after losing my hair and just wearing a baseball cap was when people I hardly knew would come up to me in a store or public place and put their arm around me and ask what was wrong. I could just barely hold myself together to go out in public, but when this happened I would get totally angry and tears would well up in my eyes and I would just walk away, People – don’t put someone on the spot in front of others. It hurts, and is personal, and I’m not gonna give you the blow by blow of what could be my imminent doom. Good Luck to you Sandee.

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