Think back to your high school days…remember that one friend who was positively uplifting? A completely infectious ray of sunshine? At my school, that girl was Molly Ross. Always armed with a gorgeous smile and positive attitude, spending time with Molly guaranteed a fantastic mood for all. In what could only be described as absolutely terrifying, Molly was diagnosed with breast cancer at the young age of 31. Could you even imagine hearing those words? I don’t know what I would do.
I’m happy to say that Miss Molly kicked that cancer in the arse, and in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is here to share her best tips and advice in regards to chemotherapy-induced hair loss. As Molly writes, “we live in a society that loves hair.” (Oh, don’t I know it!) These tips are fantastic for anyone going through the process of losing hair, whether it be cancer-related or not.
Molly, thank you so much for taking the time to share your wisdom with us. You are a true warrior, and so many of us are in awe of your inspiring strength and optimistic attitude.
My name is Molly Ross Fritch and I am a breast cancer Survivor/Warrior/Champion. My story goes something like this. Six years ago my life was going great. At 31 years of age I was in my prime. I finished graduate school, got married to an amazing guy, and landed a really great job as a counselor in Edmond, Oklahoma. But on May 19, 2005 my entire world changed forever. The lump that I had found in my breast through a routine self exam was confirmed to be cancer. Stage 2b invasive ductal carcinoma with positive lymph node involvement.
I will NEVER forget the day I was told I had breast cancer. What I was wearing, where I was standing, what the weather was like. And nothing could prepare me for the bomb that my doctor dropped on me this day. After informing me that I had an invasive and aggressive cancer she proceeded to tell me her recommendation was for me to have a complete mastectomy. “What the heck…I am only 31 and pretty much a newlywed!” I said. But then it was what she would tell me next that really upset me most. “And you will be doing six months of aggressive chemotherapy.” “Wait a minute, hold the phone,” I said. “Am I going to lose my hair?” It was like everything was happening in slow motion, like a very bad dream. She said, “We will be putting you on a drug called Adriamycin a.k.a. the Red Devil. You will definitely be losing all of your hair.” I stood speechless and in total shock. And in all honesty, all I could think about was my hair and how much I loved my long strawberry blonde hair and the fact that I was going to have to walk around bald for six months! But looking back on it all now, it wasn’t so bad losing my hair and I saved a ton of time and money on hair products!!! And it only took me 11 minutes to get ready in the morning. ;)
I have learned through my journey that hair loss is difficult for everyone facing cancer treatment, male or female. Let’s face it, we live in a society that loves hair!!! In fact, I recently heard it’s been reported that for cancer patients hair loss is more emotionally traumatic then the surgery experience. But through it all I learned an important lesson about hair. That my hair didn’t define me and that being bald was absolutely beautiful.
Through my cancer journey I picked up some helpful hints and would like to share them with you. You may be going through cancer treatment right now or might know somebody who is. Please feel free to pass along these helpful hints to anyone and everyone. That’s why we’re all down here anyway, to help each other and make the journey a little easier and better for someone else.
Tip #1: Accept it: Although not all chemo drugs cause hair loss, the hard core medicines most likely will. Get past the denial stage and accept the fact that you or a loved one will lose their hair. When starting chemo most hair loss occurs 7-21 days after getting your first treatment. For me my hair started to thin out pretty badly on about day 10. I was still holding out hope mind you that all of my hair wasn’t going to fall out, so I didn’t cut or shave it until late in the game, which leads me into tip #2.
Tip #2: Be proactive. BEFORE hair loss even begins cut or shave your hair. A short haircut minimizes the appearance of thinning and makes complete hair loss less alarming. Take it from me, it’s no fun to be in the shower pulling out long strands of hair and then look in the mirror to see patchy spots everywhere. Plus your drain will get clogged and then you will have one more problem on your hands and have to call a plumber!
Tip #3: Have Fun with wigs! Select a wig prior to losing all of your hair. Wear the new wig occasionally before you have major hair loss to help in the adjustment. I actually had a lot of fun with this! I bought a really cool red wig and wore it out on my girl’s night. We even named the wig Big Red! Also wigs are tax deductible since they are considered a medical expense.
Tip #4: Turbans are cool: You might want to wear a turban at home at night that will help control the loose hairs as they fall out. This way you won’t have a huge mess on your hand when you wake up. Hat’s, turbans and scarves are good when wigs become too hot. Especially when you live in Oklahoma and have to do chemo when it’s 110 degrees out! Plus I think turbans and hats are sassy and cool!
Tip #5: Purchase a satin pillowcase to reduce hair tangling when sleeping. Satin feels really nice on an itchy, painful scalp.
Tip #6: Apply Vitamin E Oil to your Scalp. Nature is a funny thing and the scalp tries to hold onto the hair for dear life which lends to some discomfort, pain and itching. Vitamin E oil is really helpful for minimizing pain and itching. Just rub the oil on your scalp as often as you like.
Tip #7: Visit your local cosmetologist/makeup artist. You will most likely lose all the hair on your body. So if we want to look at this in a positive light, think about how much you will save on waxing and dying! But then again it feels kind of funny not to have eyebrows. I suggest you go visit your local cosmetologist and have her teach you how to draw some on. Also, the American Cancer Society offers a really great class called Look Good, Feel Better. This class teaches beauty techniques to cancer patients, and you even get free makeup!
Tip #8: Talk about it! Talk about your feelings regarding hair loss. Remind yourself that the hair loss is visible proof that chemotherapy is killing the cancer cells! Also for me it was helpful to talk with other women who suffered hair loss due to treatment and now have their hair back. Talking with other survivors left me feeling inspired and hopeful.
Tip #9: Remain positive, your hair will grow back! So when does hair grow back? Hair re-growth starts during or shortly after treatments are completed. Mine actually started to grow back while I was still getting chemo. It was very exciting to see those little baby hairs come in! Sometimes when hair grows back it has a different texture of color. Often the hair has a wavy pattern or grows back curly. In the oncology world, we call this chemo curls. Most women like the texture and manageability of their new hair.
Tip #10: Use Nioxin hair products- The minute my hair started growing back I started using Nioxin shampoo and conditioner. I feel it really helped in making my hair grow back thicker and quicker!
Tip #11: Count your new hair as a blessing~ The blessing of cancer is that when your hair does grow back you will be so happy to have hair that even bad hair days are good days!