All Posts, Mind, Body & Soul

I never thought I’d be telling a forced haircut story on the blog, much less a headshave story, but I’ve chosen to be really open about this whole process so here we go. 🙂

Being faced with shaving your head as a woman, when you definitely don’t want to, brings up all kinds of crazy emotions. Shaving my head is not something I ever thought I’d have to do, nor was it ever on my bucket list of hairstyles to try.

As if being diagnosed with breast cancer wasn’t challenging enough, losing all of your hair brings up a whole lot of other challenges you never expected to deal with. Here’s my crazy chemo forced haircut story and how the process led me to unexpected growth as a person.

RIP to my beautiful hair
RIP to my beautiful hair

Chemo vs Alternative Therapies

When I first learned that I needed chemotherapy as part of my treatment plan for breast cancer, I tried everything humanly possible to get out of it.

I sought out and had a consult with 4 different naturopathic oncologists to see what my alternative options were. We were hoping for an alternative treatment that would fight Triple-Negative Breast Cancer. Unfortunately, TNBC is more difficult to treat than the more common hormonal breast cancers.

To my dismay, every single one of the naturopathic oncologists I spoke to gave me the same answer. Each one explained that I could definitely partake in additional therapies, but that it would absolutely NOT replace chemotherapy.

Just to put things into perspective, these types of centers charge around $50,000+ for alternative therapies, and they don’t offer chemotherapy as a treatment. So for them to say that I still had to do it, made me realize that I really had no other choice.

But what if I…???

I wasn’t ready to give up so quickly, so I even tried to negotiate with my traditional oncologist, asking her if I could choose a double mastectomy and then skip the chemo altogether. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way either.

Since TNBC is not hormonal, we are actually more concerned with it coming back later outside of the breast area. I also tested negative for both BRCA genes, so a mastectomy isn’t really necessary or even any more beneficial to my survival rate. However, chemotherapy is, and I’ve learned that it’s basically the only thing that is known to work when treating TNBC. It seems I needed chemo and lots of it.

Let’s Kill it All, the Good & the Bad

Using chemotherapy as a systemic full body treatment should kill any little microscopic cell in my body that may have even thought about spreading cancer. It’s the ones that we can’t currently see on scans that need to be stopped in their tracks.

This way it’s less likely that it will metastasize (spread) to other places like the brain, liver, and lungs. Stage 4 cancer is not something that I want to mess around with whatsoever.

From all that I’ve learned so far, if I had made the choice to refuse chemotherapy, then I was basically playing with my life. The tumor was grade 3 and spreading rapidly. Time was of the essence.

The horrible thing about chemotherapy is that it targets and kills all of the fastest-growing cells in the body, and it doesn’t know how to differentiate the good cells from the bad cells. This means that it would also kill my fast-growing hair cells while killing the bad cancer cells. Great.

Would You Rather?

It was like a horrible game of “Would You Rather?”

Would you rather infuse toxic poison throughout your body plus lose all of your beautiful hair? Or would you rather try to cure cancer naturally and hope you don’t die in the process like Steve Jobs?

It’s not often that we are truly faced with a real choice between life and death. I just wanted my life back and I was ready to do whatever it took to get there.

#HairGoals at the Four Seasons Nevis
#HairGoals at the Four Seasons Nevis

When to shave your head

Of course, I chose to go ahead with the chemotherapy, and my body wasn’t too happy about it at all. I’ve been really healthy all of my life and hardly ever take any medicine. I think my body went into complete rejection mode.

I ended up in the emergency room and was hospitalized overnight after the first round with severe nausea and vomiting. My hair hung on though, as expected, for another 2 weeks.

I decided to embrace what I knew was to come. I dyed my hair pink and tried out a bunch of other bucket list hairstyles in the last week before we said goodbye.

Pink Hair Dont Care
Pink Hair Dont Care
Me sharing my Bucket List Hair on Instagram stories.
Me sharing my Bucket List Hair on Instagram stories.

After getting my second round of chemotherapy (Adriamycin & Cytoxan), my hair started to shed. I had planned for losing my hair and prepared myself for it in every way possible.

I’m so glad I went wig shopping beforehand because I was able to match my own hair color to my new wig perfectly. I also made sure that I got my eyebrows microbladed while there was still a true shape to go by.

My eyelashes were going to fall out too, so I found fake lashes that looked exactly like my extensions and became a ninja at applying them. Using this glue as an eyeliner worked wonders!

My favorite Lashes that look just like extensions!
My favorite Lashes that look just like extensions!

No matter how prepared I was, it was still really hard to watch clumps of my hair fall out everywhere. It was all over my pillow when I woke up. My clothes were covered in shedding hair and so was my house.

I was already so nauseated from the side effects of chemo and this only made things worse. One night when I was sick and vomiting I pulled my hair back out of the way and a huge chunk of it came right out into my hand. Seeing this happen gagged me even more, and the cycle continued.

That’s when I knew it was definitely time for a headshave.

Pink Hair Don’t Care
Pink Hair Don’t Care

#HairGoals

In the beginning, when I was first diagnosed, losing my hair was literally the worst thing that I could possibly think of.

I was actually more concerned about losing my hair than I was about beating breast cancer. Probably because I already knew in my heart that I would beat this and then I’d move on with my beautiful life. I also wanted to somehow keep my beautiful hair while doing so. Who wouldn’t?

I’ve always had great hair and never really worried too much about it because it was always so easy to style. It was long and thick with mermaid style waves and it didn’t need much styling to look nice.

I’d never gotten extensions since I always had more than enough hair to go around, and was often referred to as #HairGoals on Instagram because of it. I even did several major campaigns with Herbal Essences shampoo.

In Malta right before I started chemo. My hair was down to my waist.
In Malta right before I started chemo. My hair was down to my waist.

Going Bald vs Cold Capping

Knowing I’d lose my hair felt like I was being punished somehow, even though I didn’t do anything wrong. The alternative to going bald from the chemo was to try a system of cold capping. I was interested to learn more of course and started doing my research.

Cold capping works by using an ice-cold cap to freeze your scalp and hair follicles. It’s worn for a period of hours before, during, and after each chemotherapy treatment.

It’s believed that the cold temperature constricts the blood vessels leading to the hair follicles, reducing the amount of chemo drug that reaches the follicles during the period that the caps are worn.

Cold capping can be used through 2 systems; one is a machine that you switch on and one is manual. The manual one is quite the project. If my facility would’ve had the machine, I maybe would’ve tried it out.

Since they didn’t have the machine though, I would’ve had to completely switch oncologists and treatment centers just to try it out. I didn’t feel comfortable choosing that option. Plus it’s not even guaranteed to work.

Cold capping, at least for me, felt like I’d be taking on another project to manage. Having cancer is enough of a project to take on by itself.

There seemed to be so many “cons” to it and the only “pro” was that I’d hopefully keep some of my hair. Some women were still losing up to 80% using both systems and the results weren’t even guaranteed.

I was faced with another bad game of “Would You Rather?”.

Again, I hated both options.

After researching it thoroughly, I eventually decided against cold capping for several reasons:

  1. It was really expensive. My treatment would’ve been over $3000 or more. It’s not covered by insurance, and the last thing I need right now is the stress of another bill.
  2. It was tedious. Someone would have to change the cap out every 20 minutes for about 6-8 hours making sure that it stayed cold enough, or the whole treatment would be ineffective.
  3. We would also have to order $80 worth of dry ice every time, another expense. Plus we’d have to drag all of this equipment around into the infusion center on our own for 16 rounds of chemo.
  4. It was painful. Having your head frozen while enduring chemo sounds like a nightmare to me. You’re already feeling awful and this just felt like adding insult to injury. Now that I know how badly I’ve reacted to the chemo it may have not even worked for me anyway. There’s no way I could’ve dealt with that during the severe nausea and vomiting that I endured.
  5. There was also a chance that the chemo wouldn’t get all of the microscopic cancer cells that we were worried about in the first place if I used the cap. What?!? No thank you!

If you’re reducing the amount of chemo drug that will reach the follicle, are you really getting a full systemic treatment to every cell in your body?

If I was gonna go through 16 rounds of chemotherapy, I damn well wanted it to work in its full entirety. I NEVER want to do this again. Ever.

Bald it is!

Shaving my head with the help of my friend Sarah.
Shaving my head with the help of my friend Sarah.

Self Love, Detachment & Radical Acceptance

Even though I made my choice, I still wasn’t happy about it. It was a choice I wasn’t ready to make either way, but it’s during this process that I discovered my truth.

I asked myself, WHY?

Why was I so afraid of losing my hair and being bald?

Would it really change anything about my life?

Everyone already knows that I have cancer and they’ll probably expect me to be bald anyway, right?

I’d still be the same person with the same great qualities. I would still be lovable, and I’d still be ME. I’d just be bald.

It was an overnight lesson in:

  • Self Love
  • Detachment
  • Radical Acceptance

I can still love myself just as I am, and right now it’s actually more important than ever that I do!

That’s when I realized I’d been coming from a place of Fear, not from a place of Love.

Taking back my power
Taking back my power

Choosing Love over Fear

There is only fear and love, and love cannot exist in the presence of fear.

I’m continually being tested over and over these days. With each obstacle, I’m faced with a choice on how I’ll react to the situation.

Fear doesn’t bring us up. It tears us down and has us scrambling around to fight against the natural flow of life.

Love is the opposite. It accepts what is, says everything will be ok, then wraps you in a hug.

What would you choose?

I literally went from #HairGoals to being completely bald overnight.

And guess what?

I’m still ME and I choose LOVE.

My shaved head before and after.
My shaved head before and after.

My Shaved Head Before and After

Though I’m happy with my decision, I still find it hard to be completely bald in public because of how other people react.

I also still feel kind of naked when I walk out of the house, just as if I had forgotten my pants. It’s a new feeling that I’ve never experienced, but I’m slowly getting used to it.

Sometimes when people realize you’re bald, it can stir up different emotions in them because they can usually guess why. I’m not a fan of being a victim and I really don’t like all of the extra attention that it can bring.

For now, it’s just easier for me to wear a wig or my favorite beanie to protect my delicate scalp, and so that I can go out and enjoy my day just like I normally would without any extra explaining which can actually be exhausting.

Wearing my hair as I normally would also makes me feel more like myself. It’s no different than how wearing your favorite lipstick and earrings make you feel great. 🙂

There are some amazing wigs out there and I’ll definitely be sharing some of my favorites in a future post. I’ve been having fun with new colors and making the best of this crazy time in my life.

What would you do?

How would you feel if you were faced with the challenge of shaving your own head?

Would you embrace it? What emotions would come up for you? How would you choose to react to the situation?

We all have different challenges in life. That will never change.

Just remember to look at every challenge as an opportunity for growth.

Challenge Accepted & Conquered.

Time to unlock the next level. 🙂

BLOG CATEGORIES

  • All Posts
  • Beauty Tips
  • Featured
  • Mind, Body & Soul
  • Travel Tips