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Managing Hair Loss

Posted 6/20/2016

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  This is an introduction to a very sweet essay from the Boston Globe. Written by a woman who lost her hair due to breast cancer chemotherapy, it is a lovely tribute to the hairdresser who helped her prepare by shaving her head. I have heard countless stories through the years about similar experiences, and fully appreciate what a difference kindness can make.

  Many hairdressers offer to come to a client's home or meet them before or after hours in the salon and/or to find a totally private space for the appointment. Almost always they don't charge for the job, but I did hear an upsetting story a few weeks ago. That woman told me that her longtime hair dresser agreed to meet her to shave her head and did so with gentle solicitude. She then had to leave quickly, and the now bald woman was left to exit by herself. When she stopped, wearing her wig, at the cashier, she was charged for a "cut and blow dry". Clearly THAT had not happened, but the hairdresser had departed, and the woman was too upset to protest. I suggested that she call her hairdresser and tell her what had happened, hope that she did so.

  There are generally three ways to handle hair loss. For some kinds of chemo, the amount of hair loss is unpredictable, and the "thinning" may be minimal or almost complete. In that case, it usually pays to wait a bit and see what happens. For the drugs that guarantee baldness, the timing is also predictable: usually 17-21 days after the first infusion. In this situation, a woman can schedule or plan a time to have her head shaved before the hair loss happens, thereby taking control of what is really so out of control. Alternately, you can wait until it starts to come out and then have the shave. Or you can try to hold on to every strand as long as possible. If this is the choice, don't wash it and touch it as little as possible.

  And now for the essay. Here is the start and a link to read more:

How I faced breast cancer hair loss
The pro who helped me clear the first hurdle on the road to recovery wasn’t a doctor or nurse.
By Susan Sloane

Let us now praise the unsung heroine of the breast cancer world: the wig specialist.
No, strike that. “Heroine” isn’t quite the right word. My wig specialist was more of
a one-person support group, combining her styling skills with the background of a
therapist, the intimacy of a close friend, and the understanding of a sister.
Hand-cut paper letters on her wide mirror spelled out her name: “Princess Rae,”
a.k.a. Rachel. She had graduated from Somerville High School, where she studied
cosmetology. Unlike her friends, Rachel had no interest in a marquee salon on
Newbury Street. The idea of this oh-so-different type of work appealed to her
because she saw cancer’s punishments firsthand when her Aunt Franny was
diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. She started this job right out of high school.
Twenty-four years later, she is a seasoned hairstylist and the guru of hair loss.
Though wigs are her specialty, she tells me that she also styles clients whose hair is
slowly returning (they are too embarrassed to be seen in a regular salon).

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