Women's Health

Breast Cancer and Hair Loss: Inspirational Messages from Other Women

Breast Cancer and Hair Loss: Inspirational Messages from Other Women

Hair. The bane of every teenage girl’s existence, the thing that keeps parents who get their girls ready for school up at night, and for many, it is something that is still difficult to master. When it comes to cutting it, braiding it, coloring it, tying it, or pinning it, sometimes, the hair just wins.

For women who are coping with hair loss due to breast cancer treatment, they have a different kind of hair battle to face.

Hair loss can be a traumatic process, and everyone who is battling cancer has a different way of coping with it. Whether you chose to shave your head early or let your hair fall out on its own, choose to get a wig or wear a scarf, is entirely up to you. You are not alone. Many women have had to find ways to manage and cope with their hair loss, and as a result of this, there are many different options out there.

Hair loss from cancer treatment does not have to be all trauma. While our hair is a part of our identity and often a symbol of our feminine side, embracing the change that comes with unexpected hair loss can be empowering in a new way. Recently, Vogue published an article highlighting 9 women who took charge of and embraced their hair loss in unique ways. The courage that these bold and strong fighters have is something to be celebrated and can be an inspiration to other women who are going through a similar situation. Additionally, they present a variety of options for women who do not want to sport a bald head. Having these options can bring some control and choice back into the lives of women coping with hair loss.

Embracing the change

Carly Severn started losing her hair at aged 18 to alopecia. Ten years later she has embraced it and celebrates it alongside her 10-year wedding anniversary. For her, hats did the trick. Something she had never thought about before ended up being her signature style. Hats are versatile and there are an infinite amount of styles. They can also be a relatively inexpensive option to try out if you are trying to figure out how to handle your hair loss.

Maggie Kudirka is a ballerina who used her cancer diagnosis as motivation to dance better than she ever has. Never knowing if it would be her final dance, the ballerina gave it her all. For her, hair loss was a challenge. She tried wigs, scarves, hats, and just felt like nothing fit. When you are going from a lifetime of being accustomed to having hair, finding a substitute that is totally different from what you are used to can be quite difficult. Now, in the Vogue piece, she sports a blonde wig that she claims is new for her, but that she loves. What works for one person may not work for another. If you don’t find a style that works for you on day one, don’t give up. Not only can it take a while to adjust to losing your hair in the first place, but there are so many options available. It may take some time to find the one that works for you.

Not all women who lose their hair lose it because of cancer treatment. For Rachel Fleit, alopecia was the culprit. She reports that she spent most of the early years of her life trying to hide her condition. After many years of wearing wigs, she has now put them aside. In the Vogue article she gracefully models a head scarf. For many women, scarves can be a fun and unique way to keep their head covered. It can also help you stay warm!

Some people grow up with their hair being one of the focuses of their life and self-identity. For Broadway actress and singer Valisia LeKae this was certainly the case. Coming from a family of hairdressers, she spent most of her younger years in a salon. Her hair was a huge symbol of her pride. When she began to lose it as a result of her cancer treatment in 2013, she decided to embrace the change and not try to hide it all. Her goal was to inspire girls who were afraid to be themselves. She hoped that by fearlessly walking the red carpet with her bald head, she would empower other women. As strange and upsetting as hair loss can be, it doesn’t mean that you have to hide it from the world. If you want to, show off your lack of hair and allow it to be a part of you.

Embracing your fun side

Elly May, a plus-sized model and ovarian cancer survivor, let her wild side loose. She didn’t just dye her hair teal and then shave it off once she started losing it; she also changed up her whole wardrobe and style. While it may not be the ideal way to do so, facing hair loss can motivate you to change up other aspects of your life that maybe you wouldn’t dare to do before. It can in a way build a platform that enables you to fully create your image.

One teenager highlighted in the Vogue article went from wanting to fit in, to wanting to stand out. Mia Sidaros had a rare form of bone cancer which ultimately ended up being terminal. Prior to this though, her hair styles varied from short crops to a mohawk. The nice thing about hair is that it can usually grow back, so why not be daring and experiment with it? This can also be a great way to transition into losing your hair. Start slow and cut it short, or try a look that is outrageously out of character for you!

Celebrating your other features

Losing your hair can also be a way to celebrate some other features you have and make those the center of your style. Playing with makeup or trying various hats that bring out your different features can be both empowering and fun. This is what Kate Ambrosi did when she started losing her hair during her breast cancer battle.

Suleika Jaouad, the Emmy award writer, empowers other women battling cancer by telling them that while losing their hair may not be a choice, they do have the power to choose their style. She has gone from having waist length hair to wearing short wigs and getting hair tattoos. While hair tattoos are certainly more permanent, they are also unique and can customized to each individual.

We change our wardrobes constantly, buying bags, sunglasses, shoes, and clothing to highlight who we are and how we feel. For Phoebe De Croisset, hair is no different. She has coped with her hair loss by treating it like an accessory. It became a fun challenge to see what she could do with it. For her, this was an empowering process where she learned that being feminine was not defined by how she looked.  

Final thoughts

These women and the way in which they have embraced their hair loss show that there are not only numerous styles that you can play with when it comes to your hair, but also that it is perfectly okay to leave it at is. It is all about what makes you feel good and comfortable. If the answer to that is a wig that looks similar to how your hair used to be, that’s great! If the answer is a green mohawk one week and hair tattoos the next, that is also great. It is your life and you deserve to be happy, comfortable, and feel beautiful.