With the head of hair I had, I never thought I’d need a wig, but at 34 years old I did.
Right on schedule, my hair started falling out exactly two weeks after my first chemo infusion. I had my husband shave my head that day so I wasn’t picking up hair for weeks, being reminded again and again that I was changing. I ripped off the Band-Aid! But I also realized that I wanted to look like me still, so I started looking into hair solutions.
I researched things like Cold Cap Therapy, which can save most of your hair from falling out, but with my treatment regimen and the drugs I was on the odds weren’t in my favor. So, I passed.
I then started looking in to wigs, thinking this would be a simple solution. Originally I figured a natural hair wig would be best – but I was wrong! I learned that synthetic was the way to go.
Natural hair wigs are harvested from real human hair. And I don’t know about you, but my hair requires a lot of upkeep (washing, drying, styling).
Synthetic hair wigs are made of man-made fibers that are much more durable than human hair. The biggest benefit to synthetic wigs is that they come already styled, and can hold a certain style no matter the conditions. So even if it's humid out, it won't go flat or frizzy. And – you don’t have to wash it as often (yes! You have to wash wigs which I’ll get to).
I went to wigs.com and honestly – they were the best of all the sites I looked at. They have images and videos of all the wigs so you can see what they look like “in action.” I was pleasantly surprised at how they looked and moved like real hair. They also have a much better return policy than some other, smaller sites. I bought a few styles: one that looked just like my current natural hair, and another where I could do up-dos and ponytails to mix things up. (Pro tip: have your hair stylist trim your wig to suit your face and style if you can’t find one that’s just right.)
Once they arrived I threw one on and went about my day. It helped me feel “normal looking” but man – wigs are fickle! They have netting that I didn’t love the feel of and the longer the hair, the more tangled it becomes throughout your day. It definitely took some time to get used to.
As time went on, I lost my eyelashes and eyebrows, which honestly bugged me more than losing the hair on my head! I felt two-dimensional and realized how efficient our eyelashes are in keeping things out of our eyes as I constantly had things irritating and landing in my eyes.
I continued to wear my wigs, but as time went on I opted to throw on a baseball hat. Even a great wig can get itchy and hot – and in the midst of some really hard cancer treatment, I just wanted to be comfortable. My vanity was in the rearview mirror.
I’m still glad I invested in the wigs and happily wore them when I wanted to look like myself in the community and for special events. A bald head just screams “something is wrong!” or “I have cancer!” but when I was in the throes of treatment, I wasn’t really going anywhere (not to mention – COVID!).
Towards the end of my treatment, the hair on my head started growing back. First like fuzzy baby chick hair (as my five year old called it), then stubble like a buzz cut. Next came my lashes and eyebrows. I used a little organic castor oil to help them along.
Much to my surprise I loved the short hair phase. I called it my “edgy mom” cut. You couldn’t put your finger on if I was recovering from cancer or if I was just an alternative indie woman. Plus, it took zero effort. As someone who had long, labor intensive hair their whole life I truly enjoyed that.
The next phase of hair regrowth was a bit tough – in between a pixie cut and a bob. After around 6 months of just letting it grow in, it started taking shape.
Some people experience major changes when their hair returns. Mine came in almost the same: wavy, thick, a little darker than before. It’s not uncommon for hair to go gray, curly, or coarse as it grows back in after chemotherapy.
Now, 3.5 years later I have a full head of hair, eyelashes and eyebrows. I am grateful for every strand. It may seem like a blow to your identity, a scary thought to have no hair as a woman, but it will pass. A cancer diagnosis quickly hones your priorities, and trust - my hair is not one of them. Plus, it comes back! And there are lots of options to help you in the meantime.