As an Alopecian, the hardest part of hair loss for me is that I am assumed to be sick, or more specifically, to have cancer. Not only don’t I have cancer, but beyond my immune system’s assault on my hair follicles, I am absolutely healthy. Bummer? Yes, but life goes on and I choose to move on with it.
A couple of years ago, I conducted a two-part survey exploring the emotional impacts of hair loss. In addition to an Alopecia Survey, I conducted a separate Cancer Hair Loss Survey. A whopping 461 women have taken the survey and there is much to be learned from them. I learned that while the cause of our hair loss is different, we largely agree on the most difficult aspect of hair loss - the public perception that we are sick. Yes, a cancer patient is fighting a disease, but it’s a disease that is otherwise invisible to anyone not peering at us with the aide of an MRI or CT scan. Cancer patients desperately want to carry on with life as normal. Hair loss strips women who are undergoing chemotherapy of their anonymity. It’s like carrying a neon sign that flashes “I have cancer.”
When I look in the mirror, I am reminded that I have alopecia areata, a disease that causes me to lose my hair but does not threaten my life. When a woman with chemo hair loss looks in the mirror, she’s reminded that she’s fighting for her life! When others look at her with fear, pity, questions or comments regarding her status as a cancer patient, she’s reminded that she’s fighting for her life! She doesn’t want reminders. She wants to stop cancer from defining her, her life, and her family’s life. Hair loss can get in the way of that, but it doesn’t have to.
Just because we are bald, we don’t have to look sick. The trick is to redirect the eyes and attention from what we’re lacking to all that we have!!! Colors, patterns, texture, eye-catching earrings, facial definition with make-up, fun fashion, a fit body, or a vibrant smile all show that we are and always will be more than our hair, more than a disease.
What strategies have you developed for redirecting their eyes from what you’re missing to what you’ve added?
Susan Beausang, 4women.com