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CancerCare is the leading national organization providing free, professional support services and information to help people manage the emotional, practical and financial challenges of cancer. Our comprehensive services include counseling and support groups, educational workshops and publications.
My Cancer Circle™ is a free, private support community for caregivers of people facing cancer. Its features include Message Board, a Photo Gallery, a Vital Information section for storing information and a Well Wishes wall for posting thoughts to the family.
Our hair is one of the first things people see when they meet us, so our hairstyles, cuts, colors and ‘dos feel key to our image, our personalities, and our identities. Hair can signify who we are in the world – that’s why losing it during cancer treatments can be one of the hardest parts of living with the disease.
Cancer treatment-related hair loss has been shown to have a serious impact on a cancer patient’s body image and increased feelings of depression.1 That’s why so much research, outreach, and improvements in treatment are targeted at minimizing the impact of this common cancer treatment side effect.
Here’s what to expect and what you can do to minimize hair loss and maximize your sense of style, no matter what’s happening atop your head.
Why it happens: Healthy hair follicles are fast-working hair factories, experiencing cell division that creates new hair every 23 to 72 hours. Unfortunately, many chemotherapy drugs target quickly-growing cancer cells and other rapidly dividing cells in the body, like those hair follicle cells, which are destroyed in the process.2 Different drugs and doses impact hair in different ways—sometimes causing thinning, other times causing complete hair loss—and it’s difficult to tell how an individual patient’s hair follicles will respond before treatment begins.
Tips to minimize hair loss: A treatment called scalp cooling uses computer-regulated cooling caps (several caps have been FDA approved) or manual cooling caps that are placed in the freezer before use and changed every 30 minutes. These caps are used during and after chemotherapy infusions. This treatment has been found to be helpful for some cancer patients, including people undergoing chemotherapy breast cancer treatments, because it constricts blood flow to the scalp and reduces the amount of chemotherapy drug that reaches the hair follicles.3
When it happens: Hair loss will typically start within two weeks of starting chemotherapy or radiation, and can progress over the next few months. Some drugs impact only the hair on the head, but others can cause the loss of eyelashes, brows, and other body hair.4
How to get through it: Whether you use scarves, wraps, hats, wigs, go bald and beautiful, or try out all of the above, there are tons of options to help you or your loved one take control of the hair on your head (or lack thereof) during cancer treatments. Can’t find a look that feels sufficiently “you”? Ask your hair stylist to help you cut a wig to match your style—or pick a few wigs and try on new styles, colors, and personalities to lift your spirits. Some insurance policies will help cover the costs of wigs—the American Cancer Society shares 3 things to know when asking your insurer about wig coverage.
Remember that it grows back: The good news is that hair loss from chemotherapy isn’t typically permanent, and most people will begin growing their hair back within a few weeks after the end of treatment. New hair may be brittle and prone to breakage—so keeping it short might be more comfortable than letting it grow long. It might look different than it did before treatment (curlier, darker, lighter, or even a different color) but over the next few months you can expect to see your lovely locks return.5
1 National Institutes of Health A Clinical and Biological Guide for Understanding Chemotherapy-Induced Alopecia and Its Prevention. January 23, 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28951499.
2 Breastcancer.org, Why and How Hair Loss Happens. Last revised: May 10, 2016. http://www.breastcancer.org/tips/hair_skin_nails/hair_loss.
3 American Cancer Society, Cooling Caps (Scalp Hypothermia) to Reduce Hair Loss. Last revised: April 19, 2017 https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/hair-loss/cold-caps.html.
4 American Cancer Society, Hair Loss. Last revised: May 12, 2017. https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/hair-loss.html.
5 Breastcancer.org, When Will Your Hair Grow Back? Last revised: February 17, 2017. http://www.breastcancer.org/tips/hair_skin_nails/regrowth.
Your grandson’s birthday party, a favorite family holiday, your college roommate’s wedding—these joyful occasions give meaning to our lives and connect us to our communities. But big special occasions can also feel daunting when you’re living with cancer. These joyful days can take on a whole different meaning when you’re battling fatigue or worried about your future.
At Aflac, we put you first. Our benefits let you focus on what’s important to you—whatever life throws your way. That’s why we spoke to the experts at CancerCare, to find out how patients and their loved ones celebrate these special occasions while they’re living with cancer.
“So many of our cancer patients come to me to share that their holidays were great, maybe even the best ever, because the time they spend with their families becomes so precious,” said Kathy Nugent, the director of Regional Programs at CancerCare. “They cherish those moments.”
Here are 9 ways to cherish your next birthday, holiday, wedding or anniversary—even while you’re coping with cancer.
CancerCare is the leading national organization providing free professional support services and information to help people manage the emotional, practical and financial challenges of cancer. Kathy Nugent has been with CancerCare for more than 35 years. “How we talk about cancer has really changed in that time,” she notes. “More people are living with cancer, not dying of it and so we’re more open about talking about it. I see a lot of changes today and certainly a lot of hope.” To learn more about CancerCare, visit www.cancercare.org or call 800-813-4673.
Aflac Cancer Protection Assurance responds to new advances in science and treatment and with caring benefits that help provide for the whole person. We know that it takes a village to get through cancer—that’s why we’ve partnered with CancerCare to support every single one of our customers and their loved ones whose lives are touched by the disease.
Aflac Cancer Protection Assurance, B70000 policy series, is not currently available in all states. In Oklahoma, policies B70100OK; B70200OK; B70300OK; B7010EPOK; B7020EPOK. For additional information regarding availability, or for other details, please contact your local Aflac agent. Coverage is underwritten by American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus.
“Shock is another country. Things happen differently there,” so writes Sarah Gabriel in her 2013 memoir, Eating Pomegranates: A Memoir of Mothers, Daughters, and the BRCA Gene. If you or someone you love is living with a cancer diagnosis, books can be a balm — and reading a writer who’s really been there can help you move through your emotions.
These five fantastic memoirs of cancer, recovery and mortality deliver unfiltered compassion, wisdom, honesty and humor. So get beyond the scary stats and mystifying medical terminology with writers who share a personal, whole‐life look at cancer. Grab a cup of tea, curl up on the couch and read on—your book therapy starts now!
The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying ‐ Nina Riggs, 2017
The Story: An instant bestseller, poet and author Nina Riggs’ humorous and poignant stories are free of both terror and rose‐colored glasses, instead relating the experience of living and dying of metastatic breast cancer through humor, literature (including the writings of her great‐great‐great‐grandfather, Ralph Waldo Emerson), and lots of love.
Moment of Truth: “Living with a terminal disease is like walking on a tightrope over an insanely scary abyss. But living without disease is also like walking on a tightrope over an insanely scary abyss, only with some fog or cloud cover obscuring the depths a bit more.”
When Breath Becomes Air ‐ Paul Kalanithi, 2016
The Story: This perpetual best‐seller captures the courage and meditations of a Stanford neurosurgical resident as he explores his diagnosis with stage 4 lung cancer at age 36 and uses the remaining 22 months of his life to find meaning in everyday relationships, father a daughter, reflect on his career and turn to philosophy to grapple with his own mortality.
Moment of Truth: “Before my cancer was diagnosed, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when. After the diagnosis, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when. But now I knew it acutely. The problem wasn’t really a scientific one. The fact of death is unsettling. Yet there is no other way to live.”
Breast Cancer at 35: A Memoir ‐ Amy Burns, 2015
The Story: This memoir conveyed through a collection of 26 poems traces the experience of a young mother, wife and high school English teacher through the moment of sharing her diagnosis with her husband, through lumpectomy and radiation, to remission. Humorous, intimate and honest, this one is perfect for poetry lovers.
Moment of Truth: "I mouth it to you – the hard C of it choking my confidence and catching on my tonsils. After the news, I see your eyelids like wet newsprint."
Before I Say Goodbye: Recollections and Observations from One Woman's Final Year ‐ Ruth Picardie, 2000
The Story: A collection of English journalist Ruth Picardie’s memories, columns and correspondence during the vibrant year she spent living with toddler twins, penning lots of personal letters and writing biting magazine columns about living with breast cancer. After her death at the age of 33, the book was compiled by her husband Matt Seaton and sister, Justine Picardie, and this life‐affirming collection of writings and musings is a gorgeous tribute to a brave and beautiful life.
Moment of Truth: "Having a terminal illness is supposed to make you extremely wise and evolved … Unfortunately, I just can't get my head around Zen meditation, and seem to be stuck in, 'Why did I eat the fish fingers that Lola spat out when I can't fit into my jeans anymore?’"
Eating Pomegranates: A Memoir of Mothers, Daughters and the BRCA Gene ‐ Sarah Gabriel, 2013
The Story: A journalist’s exploration of genetics, her family’s past, her children’s future and the history of breast cancer. It details the grief of losing her mother to cancer as a teenager, her own breast cancer diagnosis at 44 due to a mutation of the BRCA1 gene, and her intimate accounts of treatment, fear and courage.
Moment of Truth: “Shock is another country. Things happen differently there …. Chronology falls through a lift shaft without pulleys. You can’t remember your children’s names. House keys play gleeful games of peekaboo, hiding for hours or days at a stretch before they turn up by the bread bin, on top of the loo, in the front door itself.”