Date: June 18, 2024

The haircut, the next cut, and off with it all

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Chemotherapy and hair loss unfortunately were part of my journey with breast cancer. Nothing could prepare me, but I now understand what women mean when they share how empowered they feel after shaving their heads.

A woman with shoulder-length dark hair and light complexion smiles at the camera, possibly considering her next haircut. She is wearing a sleeveless beige top and a small necklace with a circular pendant, standing in front of a wooden door.

When I was first diagnosed, my hair was not something that I even thought about. My sister had done cold capping during her chemo and had success so I was planning on doing the same. I can still remember thinking, that is one thing I don't have to worry about.

Well, I was wrong! When I found out that cold capping was not available in our area, I was devasted. I began looking online and found a couple of options I could rent, but they both seemed like a lot of work for whoever was taking me. The additional risk of frostbite to me or my loved one attending chemo with me didn't seem worth the risk.

In true, Tara fashion, I decided I needed to try something, so I found an ice cap on Amazon. I knew the odds of it working were slim to none, but after reading reviews it seemed like there might be a chance. When I found ICEKap, I decided to treat it like my sister's cold cap. I purchased enough extra ice packs to rotate them starting 30 minutes. before my chemo began and then lasting one and a half hours after my chemo ended.

One other thing I wanted to do was cut my hair before starting chemo. With the holidays I was a little nervous about whether I could get in, but my stylist is an amazing person she made it work. We took around an inch and a half off and I was happy with my new longer bob.

After my first chemo, I did not notice much hair loss. I know they tell you it takes a couple of weeks to notice hair loss, but in all reality, you don't know. I thought maybe having less hair and then using the ice kap I bought online maybe I would be ok. I was not unrealistic, I hoped that I could keep maybe 30-40% of my hair. Not that I knew what it would look like to lose that much, but it was a goal!

I went home a couple of weeks after my first round and noticed a slight pulling sensation on my scalp. I slept in satin-lined caps so it wasn't as bad a night, but during the day it was annoying and an indescribable sensation. My best friend and I went to lunch and I was telling her about my scalp, I loved that she replied with, let's cut your hair. She is a hairstylist so I felt bad asking her to work on her vacation, but she said she didn't mind and I knew she meant it, so I took her up on her offer.

When we got to her salon, she washed my hair, it felt so good. I didn't know that washing my hair was something I was going to miss as much as I had. After she was done washing my hair, I asked her if much fell out. She said no, I asked her to show me and I will tell you that I was not prepared to see how much was in her hand. However, I quickly reminded myself, it is what it is, so we began the cut.

Losing your hair during chemotherapy is tough. The first time I lost a bunch of hair I was shocked, little did I know that the clumps of hair to come would be much more shocking!

She cut off another couple of inches and brought me to a bob length, I can not even begin to tell you how much better my scalp felt. Literally, a weight was lifted off and my follicles could relax. Then, I ran my fingers through my hair and it happened. My first clump came out in my hand. Looking back, compared to what would come out in the coming weeks and months, this clump was nothing, but like most things, the first time is the most shocking.

After my second treatment, as predicted, more hair started to shed. It was tough, but thankfully, I was blessed with a lot of hair so it took a while for anyone else to notice. After my third round, I went for a scalp massage and that is when and where things took a turn. The scalp massage matted and knotted up my hair terribly, and when I sat up I looked like I had seen the hairdresser for the Who's of Whoville. As I went to run my fingers through my hair to try and get it to a point where I could get my hat back on, a massive clump came out into my hands.

It broke my heart to see such a simple thing lead to what it did, I had to keep telling myself that my hair would have fallen out no matter what. This just expedited it, whether that is true or not, it is what I had to tell myself. I gathered up my hair to throw it in the trash, so I could put my hat back on while trying to process what had happened as best I could. Of course, I then called my sister and texted my friend Sarah. They both comforted me, which I appreciated, but I accepted what needed to come next and reached out to my hair stylist here to schedule the appointment.

If you know, then you know what appointment I am referring to. Jan 28th, 2024 is when I shaved my head. I talked to my husband about shaving my head and initially, he was ok with it, but then he worried about knicking me or something and we decided to go the professional route. When I spoke to my stylist, she told me that you don't shave it that close to the scalp, but I didn't want to put that on him, so I kept my appointment.

I know many people decide to shave it sooner, but that wasn't for me. Allowing myself time to see what would happen with my hair and the chemo also gave me time to process. I had already lost so much hair that losing the rest wasn't the most shocking, I was mentally ready for it. Plus, there wasn't much left after the scalp massage.

Seeing myself after my head was shaved was such a relief in so many ways that I can not even describe it.

A person with a freshly done haircut smiles warmly at the camera. They are wearing a light-colored top and a delicate necklace. The background shows part of a wooden door and a light-colored wall.

Brianna was amazing, as I knew she would be. She shaved off the little what little was left and when she turned me around I had what could be one of the best surprises of all of this, I liked how I looked! In fact, I am pretty sure I thought, I can rock this look! I think one of the reasons that women especially worry about losing their hair during chemo, they worry about what they will look like without hair. Brianna, knowing how partial I am to a ponytail and having an easy hairstyle said I might like this look, and while she was 100% right. We both were shocked at the symmetry of my scalp, lol! That being said, I am thankful that my hair has been growing back almost as soon as we shaved it off.

If I decide to rock the shaved head again, I want it to be my choice. Until then, I am just going to keep checking my scalp follicles with my cell phone camera (yes, I have many pics of my scalp) and see what my hair does as it grows back. Right now it is growing back pretty much snow white, with a little pepper sprinkled in, I am also still waiting to see if I get the chemo curls, but for now, I am just excited to see it growing back!

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