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Information central for parenting with breast cancer.

Getting Through Treatment & Recovery

Losing Your Hair

For many women, hair loss can be the most disturbing side effect of their breast cancer treatment. They might feel embarrassed, exposed, sad, and unattractive. Some children may share these concerns and some may not. Here are a few tips for helping your kids manage your hair loss.

Prepare Yourself

Before you talk to your kids, think about how you would like to handle your hair loss. One of the questions to consider is whether-and how-you might want to cover your head. Some women decide to wear a wig because they want to look as normal as possible. Other women choose to wear a hat or a scarf because it’s more comfortable or because they think it’s more “real.” Some women choose to go bald at home and cover their head when they leave the house. There is no right way to go, and you can change your mind over time.

Another question to consider is whether or not you will cut or shave your hair before it falls out. Some women want to keep their hair as long as possible and wouldn’t dream of cutting it or shaving their head. Other women want to have some sense of control over their hair loss and choose to cut their hair very short or shave their heads completely.

Something else to consider is how your kids will feel about these choices. Some kids are disturbed by gradual hair loss, especially if their mother’s hair is long. Hair falls off in clumps and patches, and the process can be frightening even for adults.

Some mothers with long hair have their ponytails cut off. They get a short cut to minimize the impact of hair loss. Others don’t want to have their kids make two adjustments-one to short hair and then another to no hair. These moms might shave their heads when their hair first starts to fall out.

Prepare Your Kids

Like other aspects of breast cancer, hair loss is less frightening when kids are prepared for it. Tell your children in advance what’s going to happen and when. Here are some things they need to know:Like other aspects of breast cancer, hair loss is less frightening when kids are prepared for it. Tell your children in advance what’s going to happen and when. Here are some things they need to know:

  • You’re going to lose your hair.
  • It’s going to start falling out one to two weeks after your first chemo treatment.
  • The hair loss is temporary. Your hair will grow back after you finish treatment.

Here’s how you might tell your kids about your hair loss:

For younger kids:

“My doctor is going to give me some really strong medicine to get rid of my cancer. It’s so strong that it makes some silly things happen. The silliest thing is that I’m going to lose my hair. It’s going to fall out, and I’m going to be bald for awhile. It won’t be forever, though. It’s going to grow back. What do you think about that?”

For older kids:

Mom: “I want to tell you about some of the side effects of chemotherapy so you know what to expect. Chemo drugs are really strong. They kill off the cancer cells, but they kill off some normal cells, too. My hair cells will die, and that means that my hair is going to fall out. It will be temporary. After I stop chemo, my hair is going to grow back. But I’m going to be bald for several months. What do you think about that?”

Child: “I think that sounds terrible! Are you going to walk around here bald?”

Mom: “I’m not sure. I could get a wig. I could wear hats or scarves. And I can just be bald. What do you think I should do?”

Child: “I don’t know. I just think it’s going to be weird for you to be bald.”

Mom: “I think it’s going to be weird, too. My hair is going to start falling out a week or two after I start treatment. It will grow back when I finish. So we have to remember it’s only temporary, okay?”

Child: “Okay.”

Mom: “I know this is going to be strange, but we’ll be alright. We’ll get through this together.”

Involve Your Kids

By involving your kids, you give them a sense of control over an out-of-control situation. Some children may not want to be involved. Give them the option to help and the opportunity to say, “No thanks!” Here are some ways to involve them:

  • Get their opinions about how to manage your hair loss.
  • If you choose to cut your hair or shave your head, allow them to help or to be present.
  • Allow them to help you pick out a wig.
  • Go shopping for hats and scarves together.
  • Get matching hats to wear together.

Keep a Sense of Humor

In our culture, being a bald woman is somewhat absurd. It helps both you and your children to keep a sense of humor about it. Humor will help your family become more comfortable with hair loss, and it also will help your family keep hair loss in perspective. Here are some ways your kids can lighten things up:

  • Decorate hats.
  • Make funny scarves.
  • Color your head with magic markers.
  • Paint your head.
  • Buy crazy wigs at a costume store.
  • Make clay or play-dough casts of your head.
  • Trace outlines of your head and then color them in with funny faces.

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