But It’s MY Hair!

A person might not think about how important their hair is to them until they face losing it. This is a real side effect for those who have been diagnosed with cancer and are on chemo. For some, hair loss is a distressing side effect and is a daily reminder of their illness.

My whole world crashed on April 13, 2018 when I was told those 3 devastating words, “you have cancer.” My life became a whirlwind of doctor appointments, surgery, radiation – both external beam and internal, and chemo. My initial treatment of chemo did not cause hair loss, but after a scan that showed the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes I started on a different round of chemo that causes hair loss. Not only did I have to face and deal with a re-occurrence, I had to deal with losing my hair. For me, the thought of losing my hair was devastating. I had several thoughts; ” I’ve always had hair, people know me by my blonde hair, and I like my hair…Why do I have to lose my hair?”

After finding out that I had a re-occurrence, people would ask how I was doing. My main answer was, I’m doing okay but I don’t want to lose my hair. After hearing some of their responses, I really didn’t feel like anyone was listening to me, listening to what my fear was.

-“Oh, it’s just hair.” Yes, it’s just hair but it’s MY hair and I don’t want to lose it.
-“At least you’re still alive.” True, I am very thankful to be alive, but I don’t want to lose my hair.
-“It will grow back.” Yes, it will grow back, but it’s MY hair and I don’t want to lose it.
-“It’s only temporary.” Yes, it’s only temporary, but I don’t want to lose my hair for any amount of time.
-“They have some nice wigs and scarves.” Yes, they do have very nice wigs and scarves, but I still don’t want to lose my hair.
-“Get a nice wig and no one will know that you are bald.” I will know that I have lost my hair.
-“It won’t take long to get ready in the mornings.” True, but I like to shampoo my hair and I don’t want to lose it.
-“Just think of all the money you will save not having to buy shampoo or get haircuts.” True, but I would rather spend the money for haircuts, I enjoy having my hair done.

I would hear so many different things, when all I wanted to hear was, “I know you don’t want to lose your hair and I’m sorry that you have to.” I wanted to just tell them yes, it’s just hair but it’s my hair and if it is no big deal you shave your head when I lose mine and keep it shaved until mine grows back, then tell me “it’s just hair. Funny no one took me up on that offer.

So, chemo day #1 came and went and about 2 weeks later, I started losing my hair and I was a mess – a hot mess to be exact. The first handful of hair that fell out was devastating and all I could do was cry, then the next handful and the next handful. Lose a handful of hair and cry was my routine for the following 3 days. On the 4th day I decided that I was tired of letting the “cancer” be in control and I chose to be in control – I don’t want to lose my hair, BUT I am losing it. That was the day I took control of when I was going to lose the rest of my hair and shaved my head.

Fast forward 2 weeks, my hair is gone and I have found some really nice head covers. I am slowly getting used to being ‘hair free” and I am sure that in time I will be rocking my hair free head without a scarf or beanie. What I have learned from this experience is that most people don’t think before they speak and often times they don’t know what to say. It’s not easy to see and understand that when you are facing something that is devastating and all you want is to feel supported and understood.

To all my teal sisters who have to deal with hair loss, I understand how you feel and I’m sorry that you have to go through all of this. Be strong and take control, don’t let the “cancer” have the control. For those who don’t have to deal with hair loss, just be supportive and understanding.
I guess there is a positive to losing my hair – at least I don’t have to shave my legs.

Angie McKibben is almost a 1 year cervical cancer survivor. She was diagnosed with stage 4a cervical cancer in April 2018. She is an RN case manager and animal lover. She lives in Zaleski, Ohio with her grandson, a crested gecko, a bearded dragon named Jasmine, and Mini – a daschund who believes she is Angie’s owner. She would like to see more cervical cancer awareness in her community and plans to be an advocate for prevention and early detection.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: Cancer & Self Image

I have learned so much from cancer. They say, “Through darkness comes light.” I really believe that’s true.

In remission for the third time, having to lose my hair due to chemotherapy was hard on me as a woman. I know most will say, “It’s just hair.” Even I say it too, just to convince myself to stay strong. But, in fact, it sucks. It truly opened my eyes to everything I once wasn’t happy with.

Having cervical cancer reminded me of how I was so hard on myself and picked myself apart. I know I’m not the only woman who’s ever felt that way. I look back and think, “Wow Jill, you were so beautiful. Why didn’t you see it? Why did you pick yourself apart and not embrace your hips that measured 44 inches, or embrace your Roman nose?” After all, it’s my personal features that give me my character. Don’t get me wrong, I had confidence, but I still found things that I thought weren’t “perfect.” Nothing is perfect!

Every now and then I like to look back on pictures of myself before cancer. Why did I complain? I was fine the way I was. Now I’m fighting something more meaningful. I’m fighting for my life. I’ve learned to embrace life’s changes, how my body has changed and how I’m Mrs. T (bald) once again. Or how going #2 is completely different from before. Because I have a colostomy bag, this is now totally different.

So my advice to other women, especially women with cancer is to love WHO YOU ARE. Be happy with how you were created; focus on what you HAVE and NOT what you DON’T. Believe me, there’s something greater out there for you, if you believe. I’m a people watcher, sounds creepy I know. I often wonder to myself whether or not the person I’m admiring knows how eccentric he or she is. Being in the city regularly due to my medical appointments, I get to see all colors of the rainbow. The culture differences, the true beauty behind just how different we may look. But internally we’re all the same.

No matter what type of cancer you have ladies, just remember, you’re beautiful inside and out. Your inner beauty will always be there. We might need time adjusting to our shiny new heads or new gadgets attached to our bodies. But, with all the hardships that come along with our new appearances and emotions due to cancer, just remember how bad ass we truly are.

I hope to inspire other women dealing with Cervical Cancer to share their stories and true emotions without fear. Tell it how it Is; don’t hold back. Our cancer is tough, but somehow being painted as “easy.” If I can reach you with my story, just imagine who you’ll inspire by sharing yours. Let’s come together, share our stories, and help one another through our battles. We can help prevent future cases of Cervical Cancer, the one cancer that can often be prevented with a vaccine.

From now on, I’m going to love every inch of me because I’m beautiful inside and out. I will also remind my friend’s how beautiful they are as well. You have one life. Live it, love it, embrace the changes, take care of yourself, and be kind to yourself and others.

Now that I’ve gained my confidence back, I’m going to rock my bald head, wear my wigs and not care who’s looking. Because they could really be thinking, “Wow, she’s so fierce.” Those stares may not have anything to do with my cancer.

So gentlemen, don’t be afraid of our appearances, we’re strong women who know how valuable life is, how anything can change but we still ride the waves. How special love truly is. If you see a friend or a loved one going through the changes of cancer, please remind them how beautiful they are.

Jillian Scalfani is a young 34-year-old mother with an incurable form of cervical cancer. She and her children have a great support system when it comes to her friend’s and family. Read more about Jillian here.