“Chemotherapy hair loss can be emotionally devastating to women.”
“It’s just your hair”…”it will grow back”…you look great bald”…”it’s just temporary” - sound all too familiar? Popular phrases meant to provide women emotional support when their hair starts falling out in handfuls as a result of chemotherapy. Guess what? Well-meaning they can be, but these phrases often hurt more than they help. Once you dismiss or invalidate a woman’s feelings, you go onto the growing list of people she knows she can’t discuss her hair loss emotions with. That list tends to grow fast. Dismissing her feelings of grief and sadness over losing her hair leaves a woman feeling confused, guilty and alone. Some women will wonder why no one understands them. Others will instead judge themselves as vain or just wrong for caring about their hair. Blaming herself for her feelings is the LAST thing a woman needs when facing cancer or hair loss by any other means.
I often wonder why our friends and loved ones serve up these worn-out and meaningless cliches in the name of supporting us. A woman battling breast cancer can rationalize the loss of her breast- (the breast is cancerous and either has to go or be the target of treatment). In contrast, our hair is an innocent bystander and the loss is hard to accept. Once a woman loses her hair, mirrors become an enemy and unwanted stares become the norm. There is no “getting used to it.” If you are fortunate enough to achieve some level of acceptance that enables you to forget you’ve lost your hair, there is inevitably that reminder - an inquiring question, an assumption - a lack of understanding.
If you know someone that is going through chemo and has lost their hair - try to understand how important hair can be to a woman. Try to imagine being bald and wanting to feel normal and pretty despite being the constant object of stares. Try to image yourself with a “cancer image”. Instead of attempting to fix a woman’s feelings by telling her it’s not such a big deal, try empathizing with a simple “losing your hair must really suck!” Offer to go wig shopping or scarf shopping with her. Surprise her with a pretty scarf. These simple acts of understanding speak louder than words.
I promise you, it’s not just hair - it’s a very big deal.
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