Cancer, Chemo and Hair Loss: One Naturalista’s Journey
Latest posts by Dianne Austin (see all)
When I started Natural Haircare News with my sister Pamela, our central goal was to share news on natural hair with a focus on the social, cultural and political impact of choosing to go natural in a society that celebrates Eurocentric beauty. Yes, we do share general information on how to care for natural hair, but we always felt that there are so many Naturalistas with great information on natural haircare that we chose not to focus so much on our own personal experiences in terms of how we maintain our own natural hair.
And then I found out this past Spring that I had breast cancer.
It was a diagnosis completely out of the blue. I’m doing well as the tumor was removed. (Thank you for asking)! 😉
I did learn that I will need chemotherapy as a precaution; and I will absolutely be losing the natural hair that took me three plus years to grow after deciding to transition from relaxers. The very idea of going bald, even temporarily, is still an idea that I’m working on getting used to.
Those who know me well understand that I am by nature a private person so many will be surprised that I’m even sharing this journey with the natural hair community. I won’t be blasting the Internet with tons of videos of my bald head mind you – I’m old school. But if what I do chose to share resonates with one woman of color who is going through a similar experience, then peeling back the veil and putting my “personal business” out there will be worth it.
You see, I’m already finding that my experience through the lens of a women of color has presented some unique challenges.
Challenge #1: I will be losing my hair within two weeks after my first treatment which starts in August so I am in the market for afro kinky wigs. I was given a list of resources for wig shops that cater to cancer patients. I found that only one of these specialty shops has afro kinky/curly wigs! I’m not interested in straight or wavy hair selections since I want something that is as close to my current hair texture as possible. How can this be in 2015? You might be thinking, why not go to a beauty supply store, salon, or online to find afro kinky wigs…
Challenge #2: Although there are plenty of stores both online and offline that feature kinky textured wigs, they don’t cater to cancer patients. Trust me when I tell you that catering to cancer patients does not take a lot of extra work. Basically, patients who are about to lose their hair due to chemotherapy can get a wig prescription from their physician. That’s right a prescription for a wig; otherwise known as a “cranial prosthesis”. Who knew… Although it certainly is not required, having your wig fitted is important because as you can guess, wigs will fit differently on women without hair than women with hair; even if the hair is pulled back or braided under the wig. There are also issues of skin color changes. You want to make sure that the wig color compliments your skin by purchasing a wig that is lighter than black. Chemo drugs can temporarily make you skin look sallow. Lastly, if you are lucky enough to have a great health insurance plan, you’ll need to work with a wig salon or store that meets the requirements that your insurance plan has for reimbursement so that you can actually have all or part of your wig purchase covered by insurance.
I found some great stores online with kinky curly wigs. Can I tell you that the three stores that I reached out to by email were very responsive to my general questions, but when I asked the basic question “Do you work with cancer patients”, I never got a response. Not one. I should out these stores, (but I won’t). There clearly is a discomfort with traditional stores in terms of working with cancer patients.
Challenge #3: Cancer patients who have lost their hair will want privacy. We don’t want to try on wigs on the store floor! Stores that cater to cancer patients make private appointments. What is a Naturalista to do if she can’t find kinky curly wigs at cancer shops that cater to cancer patients? Our only choice is to buy a wig at a traditional wig store so that we can try it on, or buy it online and hope that it fits. This is yet another challenge for many women who are self conscious about being bald during what is already a difficult time. My guess is that I will feel the same way when my time comes.
So that is a snippet of my journey to date. My next big hurdle will definitely be coming to terms with losing my hair! I’m not sure if I will share any photos or videos of myself bald, (unless I feel like I’m really rocking that bald look, lol)! Stay tuned.
In the meantime, I’m interested in hearing from other women of color who have gone through this experience or who know other women who have lost their hair. Please take my survey, if you or someone that you know has experienced loss of hair due to chemotherapy treatments.
|“Changing attitudes about natural hair” is what we do at Natural Haircare News. Through informative articles, podcasts and videos, we go beyond just sharing the latest advice and tips on kinky, curly, wavy haircare – We shake things up and focus on the realities of wearing our hair natural.|
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