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THE BIG BUZZ

March 18, 2023, started out like a typical Saturday. The family was home, the girls were playing, and I was tackling my weekend chores. It had been 18 days since my first day of chemotherapy, and I had just completed my second round of AC on March 15. The day before, my hair started coming out in significant amounts, so I felt this would be a weekend to shave my head. Choosing to shave your head versus cold capping is a personal decision.

 

For me, I decided not to cold cap for the following reasons:

1.     I didn’t wish to spend additional time in the chemo chair (it can take several hours of extra time on the front and back end of infusion to cool the cap down).

2.     I knew I would have Taxol and didn’t want to have a frozen head, hands, and feet. That sounded very unpleasant to me during something that was already going to be uncomfortable. I didn’t want to add to my own discomfort.

3.     After researching and discovering how strong AC was, it didn’t seem like I would have much of a chance to save much of my hair, even with cold capping. I might be able to keep some of it, but I didn’t feel I could save enough to feel like the extra time, discomfort, and commitment were worth it. Ultimately, I didn’t want to go through this to still have to wear a wig due to overall hair loss.

4.     Cold capping is expensive and out of pocket for my insurance. They view this as an elective procedure. If there was a possibility that I would also need a wig, I decided to funnel some of those funds into purchasing a high-end wig to wear until my hair grew back.

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As the day went on, my hair continued falling everywhere I walked. It just solidified my decision that I would shave my head. I am lucky enough to have my family nearby, and my parents had planned on coming over for the afternoon anyway. I let them know that today would be the day to set up the buzzer!

To prepare, my mom suggested taking a shower and washing my hair one last time. I was concerned that a ton of it would fall out, and I was right, but ultimately it was a nice thing to do before the big moment. I was able to wash my hair and rinse it out gently. I spent a few minutes in gratitude and grief. I shed some tears and had a broad spectrum of emotions, but looking back, it was an essential part of the process.

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After I showered, my mom came upstairs and brushed my hair. I knew that a lot would come out, and I was not in an emotional place to brush my hair alone. So, I laid on the bed with a clean towel underneath my head, and my mom gently brushed my hair. I was very grateful that she was there and could offer me compassionate care. When she was finished, I’d say, somewhere between a quarter to a third of my hair had been brushed out. It was most noticeable in the front of my head, where there were massive bald spots by my hairline. Throughout this brushing experience, we both laughed and cracked some jokes. It was helpful to lighten the moment. After that, I worked on preparing my wig, curling it for the first time.

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Then it was time for the big shave. I made a makeshift barber’s chair and used a drop cloth for my cape. I put on a mix of empowering songs on Spotify (I’ll share the playlist!) and blasted them loudly. Although I was somewhat ready mentally, I found my body was not. My heart was racing and my hands were shaking. We sectioned my hair off into three smaller ponytails and used scissors to cut them off. We struggled a little bit to cut through the hair, even though it wasn’t super thick. If I were to do it again, and I hope I never have to, I would create smaller ponytails so we didn’t have to yank so hard while cutting. We kept one of the ponytails, and I wrote a little note to myself. We didn’t rush the process but start to finish, it took about half an hour.

I was the first one to start shaving my head. We started at level six and did a once-over. My mom and my husband, Bill, took turns shaving my head. There were many tears, and at one point, Bill leaned down and kissed my head. I felt so seen and loved in one of the hardest moments of my life. I’ll never forget that.

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We went in once more with a level three because I didn’t want it to be too short. I could have gone down slightly shorter, but I didn’t want to irritate my scalp too much. After we were finished, I felt a sense of relief and pride. My little head didn’t look too bad, either! Maybe I could rock a buzz cut after all.

My hair continued to come out in the days and weeks that followed, but it was much less traumatic with those shorter hairs. I’m glad I buzzed my hair, and that I got to choose the day and time that worked for me and my family. Doing it on the weekend was nice since I had time to adjust before starting my work week. I also got to use the weekend to get used to my new wig.

 

Losing my hair affected every single family member, and they all processed it differently.

I look forward to sharing more about that soon in some upcoming blog posts.

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