I'm Still Me, Even if my Hair Looks Dif…


I'm Still Me, Even if my Hair Looks Different

Feb. 28, 2021 | by Patrice Neale

Like many life-changing experiences, cancer can bring complex emotions and perspectives, whether you are ready for them or not. I was first diagnosed with Stage 3 breast and bone cancer during the fall of 2014, and my hair was long and down past my shoulders. At that time, I would routinely get my hair relaxed (chemically straightened) at a salon by a close friend. As with anything appearance related, it was partly an aesthetic choice and partly a form of self-expression and self-care. Although I can confidently say I had a feeling that I already knew I had cancer before I was diagnosed by my oncology team, I still went in the day before my mammogram to get my hair done just like usual. I still wanted to look like me.

Within two weeks of my diagnosis, I was celebrating my birthday and reciving chemotherapy. My care team told me to get prepared for what I was about to see: which was a lot of physical changes, including a loss of hair. It was a whirlwind. Even though I knew what was coming and had somewhat mentally prepared for myself, it was still a lot of change. It was not ‘bad’; it was just ‘different’. An adjustment period is always expected, even for cancer. And that goes for you and your loved ones.

One day, as my close friend and stylist was washing my hair at the salon, it finally started falling out in clumps. The moment she was never expecting to come had reared its head, and there was no way to ignore it: I was losing my hair. She quickly rushed me to the back, and it was right then and there that we decided to shave my head.

Reading this you might think that I was bawling my eyes out. Quite the contrary, my friend was the distraught one. I kept telling her, “oh it doesn’t look too bad cause my head is a nice shape.” All she could say back was, “you’re so strong.”

Around that time, I learned about the Look Good Feel Better workshops from a close friend who had attended and urged me to go. There is something about being in the presence of other women who are in the same boat as you that is so special. It is helpful to not feel alone when you feel as vulnerable as you can during cancer treatment. We must do our best to try and lift our  spirit anyway we can, and that’s where LGFB comes in: helping us to look good and feel better while we go through treatment and the aftermath. That is what I really want to stress—just because you have cancer does not mean you have to look like you do. There are ways to lift your spirits and enhance your appearance.

I now have Stage 4 metastatic cancer and am being treated for liver metastases. While some things have changed, some have stayed the same. My treatment plan looks a lot different, and a global pandemic acts as a backdrop while I work from home. That is certainly a big difference we have all been grappling with. I even decided not to relax my hair ever again after finishing my initial treatment seven years ago. My hair is natural now. One thing that has not changed is that I still use what I learned at the Look Good Feel Better workshop. I can use makeup, wigs, and scarfs to help myself feel better. That is the impact of Look Good Feel Better.