As my hair has been growing back, I’ve left the sides shaved short. I got my first trim off the top at the one year mark. Growing back my hair after chemo is a combination of physical and emotional stress. It’s hard to see myself in the mirror because I have a hard time relating to the person I see. It took me almost a decade to learn to love myself prior to cancer and now I feel like I’m starting all over learning to love something new. But if I had to pick something positive out of this experience, it would have to be the fact that I get a chance to start over.
How I handled the awkward phase: During the grow-out process, I tried my hardest to embrace the short hair without becoming frustrated. There were days when I would throw on a hat to hide my hair and face. Once I started to have a bit more hair, I’d try to accessorize with a headband. I felt kind of silly, to be honest, but I tried.
Favorite hair milestone: I didn’t intentionally set any milestones, but I do remember the first time was able to grab enough hair to make a tiny braid. I did a happy dance! I felt like I was getting somewhere.
Pet peeve: When someone would compliment my hair, I’d find myself explaining myself instead of just saying thank you. I felt like I was explaining myself in order to try to avoid a trigger. Or perhaps it was just my anxiety flaring up when someone mentioned the one thing I was trying to avoid. Part of me would feel relieved because they knew that I had a reason for being bald or having little to no hair. Other parts of me felt like I needed to learn to just accept a compliment.
How I practice self-care: [At the beginning of treatment,] I started to take a picture every day to document my hair journey. I stopped early on because I found it to be triggering to my mental health — it was sort of like picking a wound.
Biggest lesson: I’ve learned how to be in the moment. You can’t rush your hair growing back. The more you dwell on or over-anticipate it, the more of your day you are wasting. Try your best to be in the moment and find peace and joy with what you have.
Advice for other women growing back their hair post-treatment: If you have coarse hair or compact curls [like mine], please try to be as patient as possible. It takes a long time to see the length in your hair with compact curls. And when you’re growing back your hair after chemo, be kind to yourself. Remember that you are trying to reach a new normal.
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