Hair loss was something I was told I had to face from the moment I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma in November 2018. And as a 22 year old just starting out in life after university, hair played a big role in my confidence and how I looked. In fact, I had spent a year growing it out and a week before my diagnosis I splurged on a trip to a fancy hair salon for a new style, which tried to look on the funny side of things as I do, thought this was a hilarious waste of money.
From the first day of treatment, I was cautious with my hair, scared that washing it or brushing it slightly too rough would make it all come out. It wasn’t until two weeks after my first day of treatment it started coming out, and it was a blur. I was hospitalised with a severe infection, and it was coming out in handfuls every hour. By the third day, I had developed a bald patch at the back of my head.
This whole period made me feel like I had lost control and desperate to regain some, leading to my decision to “brave the shave” once I was discharged. This gave back my power and control over my appearance and made me feel like I was doing something positive. Instead of feeling fear at the prospect of the new, bald me, I replaced it with excitement, leaning into this new adventure, and trying to look on the bright side.
I loved wearing wigs, but sometimes they felt too hot, itchy, or I simply could not be bothered. It took me a while to brave going out with nothing on my head, partly due to confidence and partly because it was freezing! You don’t realise how warm a bit of hair keeps your head ears and neck. My ears especially were feeling it! Soft warm hats were great for me, and I built up quite the collection.
I also grew itchy, patchy “fuzz” in between treatments, which either fell out on its own or I buzzed off. Even though I had no hair, I shampooed with baby shampoo every week or so to keep my head nice and clean - and a wash felt so good! I also got occasional dry patches too so I would use conditioner too, or for the drier patches aqueous cream.
Once treatment stopped, my hair came back surprisingly thick and fast which is great! But it grew back in all directions and had no shape or style so I continued using hats to cover up, or when I got a little more hair an Alice band.
Regular trims on the very edges were helpful at keeping it neat, especially when hair started poking out around the ears! I wanted to be cautious with products too, as my head was still dry and I didn’t want to irritate my scalp. Lush shampoo has been the best for me, and Superdrug’s own Curl Smoothie has kept my chemo curls in control.
There were some things I wish I had advice on before they happened. For example the cold head was horrible, as was the feeling of a lot of textiles on my head - I could only lay on silky or super fluffy pillows on blankets for example.
Overall, my experience with hair loss had its ups and downs, but it taught me to be more confident and comfortable in myself, not hide behind my hair, and to try out new head accessories! If there is one piece of advice I can give, it is to be comfortable! However that is for you, whether it be wigs, scarfs, hats or nothing at all. Be confident and be you!
With thanks to Alice
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