I should start a book – as in, a book to record bets – on my hair. One of the most common and well known side effects of chemotherapy is hair loss. I know that it is very, very likely and will probably happen very, very soon.
Hair loss occurs because chemotherapy can sometimes damage healthy cells. It is so common because hair follicle cells multiply very quickly like cancer cells and chemotherapy drugs have difficulty in discerning the difference. Just in case you wondered – because I did!
I know that it usually happens between 1 and 2 weeks after chemo. Today is day 14 and I still have my hair. Some is coming out, but not in any significant amount (yet) but my scalp feels very tender. Naturally, I am wondering if I will be one of the rare folks who do not lose their hair. But of course I’m not satisfied with that either because I am worried that means the chemo is not working.
In a practical sense I am prepared, and have silk scarves and a couple of funky hats at the ready. I know it is a different story emotionally and I am not quite sure how will I handle it. I think that if or when it happens it will be a bit of a watershed. At the moment I can go out and about, and although twang arm and bright scarves draped in a way that hides my weird shape probably make me look a bit strange, I know that having no hair will bring an unmistakeable association with cancer. So I was really thankful for my friend H’s perspective when she told me that a woman without hair made her think of Ani (Buddhist Nuns) and invoked a sense of spirituality, calm and serenity. That is something I will hold on to.
When I had my appointment with the oncologist last week, he also referred to the fact that I should be prepared to lose my hair. Given that this applies to all hair (including eyelashes, eyebrows etc) I joked that it would be good not to have to wax my legs for a while. So I was surprised when he said that I might not lose my leg hair. Come on – this is neither just nor logical! That’s something I don’t want to hold on to!