7 Women Who Lost Their Hair to Breast Cancer Treatment and What They Did About It


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Hair loss may announce your illness before you're ready.
(RAINER HOLZ/CORBIS)
Hair loss is one of the more-or-less guaranteed side effects of most types of chemotherapy treatment, and it can be rough. For some women, it's the worst part of the whole breast cancer experience.

"Losing my hair was the lowest point," remembers Hendy Dayton, 48, of San Francisco. Adds Karen Lynch, 40, a writer who blogs about breast cancer (www.pinkribbonreview.com) in Fairfield, Conn., "the uncertainty about losing your hair is a huge thing. I don't know why we're so wrapped up in our hair, but we are."

Other women aren't quite so hard hit. "I was OK with it; I had long hair for a long time and I just figured, let's try something new," reports Sharon O'Donnell, 51, of Hamilton Township, N.J., who cut off her hair and donated it to Locks of Love (www.locksoflove.org) and put a temporary tattoo on her bald head.

Losing your hair means you're sick
It's not just vanity that makes losing your crowning glory so emotional; it's going public, maybe before you're ready to. "It [made me] look sick to have no hair, even when I felt fine and was going through treatment and didn't have a whole lot of side effects," says Jessica, 33, a psychotherapist in St. Paul, Minn., who had cancer twice and lost her hair twice.

"I was more upset that I was going to lose my hair again, and in two spots it's not growing back. That's huge for me because throughout my entire illness I haven't told any of my clients. I just don't want to be known as 'cancer girl.'"

Maybe you needed an excuse for a buzz cut?
As tough as hair loss can be, this may be one of few areas where it's possible to take back a little control—by shaving your head rather than waiting for clumps of hair to show up on your pillow and in the shower.

"I didn't want the trauma of watching my hair fall out," says Pam Tazioli, 54, of Seattle. "Somebody gave me the name of a beauty shop, a higher-end place where they'll set you up in a wig for free. I went in at the end of the day when the wig had arrived, brought in some cousins, we opened a bottle of wine, and they shaved my head."


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Lead writer: Lorie Parch
Last Updated: May 10, 2008

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