Coping With Hair Loss: A Cancer Patient’s Perspective

I was on my second-line treatment when I noticed my hair was thinning down the middle of my head. I was horrified! The nurse had said to me one of the good things about bowel cancer is that you won’t lose your hair! I was pleased; I will take that, I thought.

However, this second-line chemotherapy did have a small sentence in the side effects section of the leaflet I was given, which stated my hair could go thin.

It did more than that, and I eventually wore a baseball cap to hide the baldness.

We were in the middle of lockdown, and every morning, I would wake up to a pillow full of hair, and when I brushed it, what looked like a wig full of hair was entwined on the bristles. My partner suggested I shave off the remaining hair. I wouldn’t be going out to see anyone, and no amount of styling would hide the baldness on my head.

So reluctantly, I agreed and sat on a stool in the bathroom while my partner shaved off the remaining strands. I flipped between laughing and crying, and my daughters watched through the doorway – the youngest crying as the hair hit the floor.

Although emotional, I felt strangely liberated by doing this. My hair had been with me in the hospital and had grown through the treatment and was probably full of chemotherapy. By getting rid of my hair, I got rid of everything negative that had gone before—a fresh start for myself and my hair.

People would say to me, “Oh, it will be lovely when it grows back”, and I used to think, “I probably won’t live long enough for my hair to grow back.” which at that point looked likely.

Over the next few months, I realised how much I had used my hair to make myself feel better. When I was having a bad day, I would wash and style my hair to look my best, which meant everything was somehow better. Although now I needed this ritual, it had been taken away.

As the months passed, my hair grew, and I got to see how it looked at different lengths, and it was ok, not as bad as I thought.

Ironically, my eldest daughter was training to be a hairdresser, and so, as part of her training, I went to the salon and had my hair styled by her, which was lovely. She looked after the styling while it grew out, and it was a great way for her to feel she was looking after me.

My hair is now the same length as before cancer treatment, but I don’t regret shaving my head. It was liberating, overall and something I would never have experienced if cancer wasn’t in my life.


Blog post written by:

Victoria Walsh

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Victoria Walsh

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Despite having the support of family, friends, and medical professionals, it’s normal to feel isolated and alone. 

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