Tag Archive | hair loss

First Herceptin-only treatment

I may be done with chemo, but I’m not done going to the RCC on a regular basis. Friday was my first Herceptin-only treatment. I was a little annoyed that I had to go out on Black Friday (we usually just stay home and hibernate), but at least my appointment wasn’t scheduled until late in the afternoon. I even managed to run a few errands on the way, since I was going to be out anyways. I should have stayed away from the mall, though. The parking lot was still crazy.

Getting my Herceptin infusion.

Getting my Herceptin infusion. You can see where they’ve accessed my port.

Herceptin treatments will last for a year, but they’re only a half an hour in the chair – so much easier than chemo. As another added bonus, I don’t feel any side effects from the Herceptin, and I don’t need any pre-treatment drugs. So, I’m in and out of the RCC in less than an hour, and I don’t notice any side effects when I get home. I didn’t even take anyone with me for this treatment, since it was quick and easy. I brought a book to read and was happy for the quiet.

Since chemo is over, I’m also on hair watch. It’s starting to get a little more obvious, but still just fuzz on my head.

Some hair growing in.

Some hair growing in.

It’s not really much longer, but now you can start to see a hair-line of scalp versus face. I’m curious how long it will take to grow back, and what it will look like when it does grow in. My neck still gets cold, so I’ve resorted to wearing a scarf to keep it warmer. My eyebrows are still teeny-tiny hairs as well. I’m not ready to give up my hats anytime soon!

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Odd side effects

So, now that I’m not feeling any of the side effects of chemo, I consider myself officially done! There is much rejoicing!! I thought I’d do one last post on chemo, specifically on the unexpected and odd side effects I experienced with chemo. Everyone knows about the hair loss, nausea and vomiting, and impacts on the blood cells, but there’s more to it than those symptoms.

For example, I never lost all of my hair. Most of my head hair fell out, and I haven’t had to shave since I started chemo (a small benefit), but I never lost any of my arm hair or my eyelashes. Eyebrows did end up going. At least my hats have a low brim, and you couldn’t see the lack of eyebrows too obviously. The one place I really missed hair (besides my cold back of the neck) was in my nose. Not having nose hair caused a surprising amount of annoyance, mainly associated with the dripping of snot. There just wasn’t any hair to slow down the trip of that snot out of my nose.

Notice the stripes on my nails

Notice the stripes on my nails

One odd side effect was the impact of chemo on my fingernails. If you look closely in the photo, you might be able to see the stripes on my nails. All of my fingernails have four white, horizontal stripes on them, corresponding to a cycle of chemo. I’m fairly certain that there will be six stripes by the time the nails grow out. At least I never lost the nail. I’ve heard from some other friends who went through chemo that they lost fingernails or toenails.

Finally, and this one might be TMI but it’s for posterity and so others know what to expect, I stopped menstruating. It was most surprising because I specifically asked at our chemotherapy orientation meeting if that would happen and the nurse said no. It may or may not be permanent. I’m not really worried about it, since I’m done having kids and it’s one less hassle to deal with while undergoing chemo, but it was unexpected.

And those were some of the odd things chemo did to me. Hopefully, no long-term impacts (beyond eliminating the cancer).

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

I must say, with the change in weather, I’ve noticed the cold a lot more than I used to. The back of my neck, particularly, feels the cold air. It’s really not used to being exposed this time of year. The only time I used to have my neck bare was in the summer when it was really hot and sweaty. My hats keep the top of my head nice and warm, but my neck feels left out. The one advantage of the cold weather is it’s easy to cool off when I get a hot flash – just pull the hat off for a couple of minutes and I cool right down.

Amazingly, my hair is already starting to grow back on my head. It never really all fell out, but it’s definitely thicker now than it was a month ago.

Fuzzy head

Fuzzy head

The sad part is you can’t really see it yet. It’s nice and fuzzy, and there are some longer bits of where it wasn’t shaved too tight to my head, but it’s still baby fine. Miss Curiosity asked me today when I would stop wearing my hats, and my answer is when I can not see scalp on my head. As you can see in the picture below, the scalp is pretty evident. I wish it would regrow the way StatsGuy’s hair does – nice and dark.

Fuzzy head and eyebrows

Fuzzy head and eyebrows

The other advantage of the hats is they hide my lack of eyebrows. All but a few eyebrow hairs managed to fall out, but there’s a sprinkling of regrowth (you can kind of see it in the picture above). I’m half tempted to just pull the long hairs out so everything is even as it regrows. At least I’m done with chemo and everything can start to regrow together. I haven’t minded the lack of body hair, but I would like the facial hair to come back quickly. We’ll see if the eyelashes fall out – I’ve heard from several friends who went through chemo that they lost their eyelashes weeks after chemo ended.

The hair loss continues, slowly

Subtitled: But I still have hair!

I am two-thirds of the way through chemo (Can I hear a big “Yeah!” for that!), and I am still surprised that I have hair. Now, the amount varies depending on the body part, but I haven’t lost all the hair anywhere but my nose. Losing your nose hair is actually quite annoying. Turns out, nose hair catches those little drips of snot. Now that I don’t have nose hair, I have very little time between the feeling of “I should wipe my nose” and “Eww, it dripped into my mouth.” Needless to say, I am never without a hankie – just in case.

If I’ve lost all my nose hair, I haven’t lost any of my arm hair, which is much more noticeable and therefore more important, visually. As for the most important hair, that on my head, I’ve still got some but not much. It’s still a little and feels really weird if the wind blows on my bare head because it moves all the little hairs. I don’t think what’s left is growing at all (and that’s true everywhere on my body). I also lose a bit more hair after every chemo cycle, but I’m not completely bald. The biggest difference I’ve noticed with having no hair is the back of my neck gets cold when the wind blows. There’s been several times when I’ve walked the dog that I’ve put on a winter hat just to keep the back of my neck warm.

My eyebrows are much thinner, but still in existence. Good thing because even though my mother-in-law was kind enough to buy me an eyebrow pencil, I don’t think I have the patience to actually use it. My eyelashes look pretty much the same. So, as long as I’m wearing a hat, you can’t tell just by looking at me that I’m undergoing chemo. The exception is if you know someone who went through chemo, you’ll recognize the subtle signs. That’s OK – I just don’t want to have cancer conversations with random people I run into doing errands.

Ongoing hair loss

One of the side effects of chemo everyone knows about is hair loss, but it doesn’t happen the way you think it does. I was very concerned about when the hair loss would start. Turns out, it really depends on the type of chemo drugs you’re getting. The nurse who did my first round of chemo told me most people start losing their hair twelve days after the first round of chemo. That’s why I got my hair cut before going to Montreal.

Once I got it cut, I’d check my hair at odd times – give it a little yank and see if it was still firmly attached. It stayed attached quite nicely the whole time I was in Montreal, at least the hair on my head. This led to

Realization #1: Hair on different parts of your body falls off at different times.

It was not the hair on my head that started falling off first; it was hair in a more, shall we say, private location. It took another week (17 days after chemo) before the hair started falling off on my head. This led to

Realization #2: The hair does not all fall out at once.

It did not come out in clumps, like I thought. I did not wake up with a pile of hair on my pillow, like I thought. Instead, what happened was every time I ran my fingers through my hair, a few hairs would come out. It was kind of like when you brush your hair, but much more constant. My scalp was also very tender. This lasted for a few days before I started to notice bare patches on the sides. I had to wear a hat all the time just to keep my hands out of my hair, since I didn’t want all that hair on the floor.

My new look

My new look – I think my hats look stylish, but anyone who knows someone who’s gone through chemo recognizes me as a chemo patient.

The hair kept thinning gradually until the day after the second round of chemo. At that point, the hair was falling out in massive quantities and it looked atrocious – lots of bare patches, especially on the sides, so I looked sick. I couldn’t stand it any longer and made StatsGuy shave off what was left to 1/4″. At least at that length, the hair wouldn’t create quite as much mess as it was coming out. It continues to fall out, although much slower now. It’s not falling out as fast because there’s not as much of it left. Check out what’s under the hat:

I still have a faint corona of hair.

I still have a faint corona of hair. I think the lack of hair makes my face look much thinner.

There’s still some hair there, but it’s not something I even walk around the house showing much. This has led to:

Realization #3: The hair loss takes a long time.

I could just shave it down to nothing, but I kind of want to keep the stubble as long as possible. My eyebrows are a little thinner, but still there. My leg hair has just started to fall out (that one I’m not sad about – I’m hoping I’ve shaved for the last time for a couple of months), but my arm hair seems firmly rooted. We’ll see if I get a new wave of falling out next week after this second round of chemo.

The dreaded haircut

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, but I just came back from a week in Montreal. Luckily, all of my side effects pretty much disappeared the day I got to Montreal. It was like someone flipped a switch and I was back to my old self, and just in time to enjoy a vacation.

Before I left for Montreal, I had one more big step to make – getting my hair cut. Now, you have to understand that I have had long hair for a long time. I can remember getting my hair cut exactly once – in middle school, and I got it cut to my shoulder blades. By first grade, it was at my shoulders, and it’s only gotten longer. I’ve been psyching myself up to get it cut since I found out I’d be getting chemo first.

Now, the rule has always been in the house that I get to have the longest hair (StatGuy also has long hair). So, the whole family went to the hairdresser the day before we left for Montreal. The nurse had said it was likely to start thinning 12 days after chemo, which would be while we were in Montreal. I figured, if I was going to have to cut my hair, I at least wanted something good to come of it. Therefore, the plan was to donate my and StatGuys’s hair to Locks of Love. Besides, if I cut it before vacation, I’d at least be distracted from the lack of hair by being in a new city.

Before the family haircut

Before the family haircut

After the family haircut

After the family haircut

Miss Adventure had said all along she wasn’t going to get her hair cut, but she decided to join in the family fun. I got mine cut an inch long, but left it a couple of inches long just on top so it looked like I had a bit of style to it and not like I just got out of jail. StatGuy went with shaved to the scalp, but the kids just got it cut shorter than before. HaircutI was surprised that I kind of liked the haircut. The little flip on of the bangs was my natural curls asserting themselves. Even though I say I like it, though, I won’t go out in public without a hat. I still technically have hair, I just don’t feel comfortable with people seeing it. The other problem is now I have to talk about why I cut my hair to acquaintances who I haven’t told that I have breast cancer. It’s not something I want to talk about with everyone I meet, but losing my hair makes it more likely that it comes up in casual conversation.

16" for donation

16″ for donation

You couldn’t tell in the previous photos, but there was a lot of hair there. I had 16″ of braid to donate. StatGuy managed 14″ when you stretched out his curls. I did appreciate having a week to get used to very little hair before having to transition to no hair, so I’m glad I cut my hair before it started falling out. It wasn’t the original plan, but it worked out better than the original plan.