To Wig Or Not To Wig – a cancer question – Guest Post

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Another new breast cancer blog, this one from Sonia Convery who is now cancer-free two years afetr diagnosis.  She writes at courage grace and humor | surviving and thriving after cancer

WIG OR NO WIG –THAT WAS THE QUESTION (subtitle: Wiggin’ out over losing my hair)

At my first chemo in June 2011, my chemo nurse, Cathy, told me I should expect to start losing my hair approximately 14-17 days after that first treatment. Sure enough, around that time, I started noticing bunches of my hair coming out when I showered. I had already made the decision that, when the time came, I would shave my head. Now, 2 weeks after my first course of Taxotere, Carboplatin, and Herceptin, that time had come. My Oncologist had given me the name of a beauty store that sold wigs and would shave my head at no charge. Other patients told me that I should visit the beauty store before I lost my hair and pick out a wig that would match my current hair color. So, before the big day, I went to the store with my partner and my Mom and my youngest daughter (she was about 2 ½ years old at the time and totally oblivious to what was really going on). The ladies there were very sweet and they helped me pick out a wig that looked flattering and gave me support and encouragement. At this point, everything was still pretty surreal to me and I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be without my long, wavy hair that I had had for so long. I had to tell my oldest daughter, Jada, that I would be shaving my head to prepare her for the drastic change in my appearance that was coming. She had a hard time with it and I had to tell her that, in order for me to get better and the medicine to work, this is what I had to do. I assured her that it would grow back and told her she and I could have fun picking out different scarves and hats for me to wear. I asked her if she wanted to be there with me when I shaved my head and she answered with an honest “no.” I was more worried about how she was going to take it when I was bald than how I would deal with it.
The morning before I shaved my head, I took pictures with the girls. I told Jada that today was the day and she gave me a big hug. Kayla, of course, had no clue what was going on, thank goodness.
Zetti and I went back to the beauty store and off came my hair. It didn’t take very long and Zetti took a few pictures during the process. At one point, the hairdresser had shaved the sides of my head and left me with an awesome mohawk. It was funny yet sad at the same time. I still couldn’t believe I had cancer, let alone that I would now be bald for who knew how long.
As I was leaving, the ladies at the shop wished me good luck and told me to be sure to wear a nightcap, because my head would get very cold at night. I put on a hat that I had brought with me and left with the wig I had purchased, along with a cute new nightcap, in a bag. I felt, well, I wasn’t quite sure what I felt. Zetti suggested we go get some lunch and we drove to Wilton Manors to find a place to eat. I still hadn’t put on the wig. We parked and she took a picture of me with my shades on and my sparkling new bald head. I had to admit, when I saw it, I looked pretty good. Demi Moore in G.I. Jane popped into my head. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all. We got out of the car and I put the wig on. It felt weird. Zetti took a couple of pictures and I looked ok. It was a hot day, so I decided not wear the wig and just wear my hat to the restaurant. We sat outside at Rosie’s Bar & Grill and ordered lunch. After a while, it was just too hot outside and I made the bold move of taking off my hat. I thought everyone would be staring at me and felt very self-conscious at first. Zetti told me I looked really good and took another picture of me – I did look good. We had a really nice lunch and went home.
When Jada came home from school that day, I had my hat on. I asked her if she was ready to see my new look and she asked me to wait a minute. When she was ready, I took off my hat. She started to cry. I hugged her and told her that I was fine and that everything was going to be alright. My supervisor, Pamela, dropped by at that moment and immediately started taking pictures of my bald head on her i-phone. It helped having her there to distract Jada and make the moment a little less serious.
I eventually became really comfortable being bald. It was liberating – not having to worry about having a bad hair day or spending all that time in the morning getting ready. I found I was more comfortable wearing hats and actually never wore the wig I bought. I donated it to my Oncologist’s office for them to pass on to someone else who needed it.
My hair is growing back now and, believe it or not, there are days I miss being bald. I learned not to be so self-conscious about how I look and not care so much about how others perceive me. It was a really great learning experience. Bald really is beautiful, and so are all of my sisters that I have the honor of sharing this difficult journey with – wig or no wig.

~from: courage grace and humor | surviving and thriving after cancer

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About Dennis Pyritz

Dennis W. Pyritz, RN, BA, BSN, has been a cancer nurse since 1987 and a cancer and bone marrow transplant survivor since 2004. In December 2001 he was diagnosed with t-cell prolymphocytic leukemia (T-PLL), a rare aggressive form of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Dennis was treated with the then new monoclonal antibody, alemtuzumab (Campath) as this disease has a median survival of 7.5 months. He achieved a 26 month remission but relapsed in February 2004. He was retreated with Campath and went into a second remission. In August 2004 he underwent an allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell transplant with his brother, Mark, as donor. Dennis has remained in remission since - a near miracle. Throughout his career as cancer nurse and patient, Dennis has had the opportunity to speal to both lay and professional groups. Dennis has spoken on cancer topics and survival issues across the country as well as in the United Kingdom, Norway, Austria, Portugal, Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Trinidad, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Cyrpus, Israel, and India.

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