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Hair Loss During Chemotherapy—My Journey With FEC-T

My hair, prior to chemo
My hair, prior to chemo | Source

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow?

Hmm... my hair? Let's see. I've never really been a great fan of my hair.

It's always been too thick, too coarse, and pretty unruly. I have this weird little cowlick that actually grows onto my forehead and curls under one side and over the other, which makes bobs impossible without meticulous styling. After having my children, I just let it grow and grow, and so it was soon pretty long. I would just always twist it up in a ponytail and get on with my day. When my brother got married, I had it all curled by my friend (also hairdresser), and it actually looked amazing with a bit of attention. I was secretly proud of its length, I guess, as a great many people paid a fortune to obtain hair extensions for the same effect.

My hair, prior to chemotherapy
My hair, prior to chemotherapy | Source

But Then...

I was unfortunate enough to be diagnosed with breast cancer—but fortunate enough for it not to have spread. I knew I would face the ultimate triumvirate of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone therapy and although it would not be easy, I was quite happy to endure this for the sake of extra longevity.

My cousin told me, "It's funny, the most distressing part of the whole cancer ordeal, is the hair-loss side of things". At the time, I dismissed her comments as just one of the things that people say to make you feel better, but now, I do really, truly think she is right.

I am having an EXTREMELY hard time with regards to my hair during this chemotherapy. I am practically obsessed with my hair. From someone who was not a typical girly-girl and did not do the whole constantly styling, hairdressing or colouring her hair thing, I have become pretty preoccupied with it!

I was told that I am lucky enough to be attending a hospital that has cold cap facilities, and if I should wish, I could make full use of this - so I did. Whether this is wise or not, remains to be seen, but it is mostly responsible for my obsession. If I was told hair loss was inevitable, perhaps I could get over this endless questioning that I am currently going through. I was told the chemotherapy regime that I would be having was notorious for hair loss, Fluorouracil/5FU, Epirubicin, Cyclophosphamide and Taxotere/Docetaxel (FEC-T) so I would be extremely fortunate should I not lose my hair. The odds were a third kept their hair, another third experience thinning and the remainder lose their hair. It also helped to have your hair cut short, my oncologist told me, so yet again, my helpful friend gave me a haircut prior to the chemo.

"But it does come back," I am constantly told. I can get a wig, or wear attractive hats or scarves. "It's not the end of the world!"

But it has become a major issue for me, and I never thought it would!

After Chemo Number One

I wore the cold cap, but was very distressed as I did not believe it had worked. The cold cap is rather like a cycle helmet - it actually reminded me of a horse jockey's hat - that is freezing cold. By wearing this during the chemotherapy transfusion, the hair follicles on the head are frozen and constrict and the idea is that the hair cells do not take on the full force of the chemo drugs, resulting in less hair loss. The day previous to my chemo, I went in to try one on for size - they have small, medium and large - and the nurse in charge simply did not believe that I could need a large size.

"I do have a rather large head" I told her. I knew this, because once, drunk and carefree, a group of friends and my brother all measured the circumference of our heads to see whose was the largest. My brother came first, followed by myself and then everyone else after us. We took it from that point on that it was simply a family trait!

The consequence of her disbelief meant that only a small and medium cap had been put "on ice" for me and I spent the whole time ramming the cap down onto my head as I was convinced it was not touching the crown of my head as it did not feel that cold. The Paxman machine for the cold caps need to be switched on a good many hours before they can be used, so a top tip to check they have been indeed switched on, is to call the Day Unit in the morning to check this has been done. They do have others in the freezer but these are manual ones and I have been told not as effective.

I came home with a crazy head full of iced up hair conditioner which they put on to conduct the cold better. I rinsed this off very gently in the sink and then proceeded to avoid touching my hair at all costs.

This soon changed about a week in though. I was constantly tugging at my hair and seeing whether anything had come out. At this stage, not a lot was. I have always had an awful habit when bored of running my fingers through my hair and collecting the loose, stray hairs. This was now in overdrive.

"Look!" I would exclaim to whoever was nearby. "Look at how much hair is coming out!".

"Stop pulling it then!" would be the standard response but I really could not. I had a weird, morbid obsession with just gathering those loose, stray hairs. I would gather them into a little pile and just look at them. Poor little hairs...

Chemo Number 2 (Day 21)

I have now had the second session of chemotherapy, and I still have my hair (I am writing this on Day 30). It has started to fall out however, and I am unsure how much longer I will be able to keep it! I believe that I have done really well having it this long as most accounts state that it usually has gone about 2-3 weeks into the process. It seems that everyone's experience is different - some people's hair falls out in clumps within this period - it also seems the majority of people choose to shave it off around now to avoid the distress of watching it come out in the shower.

Limited Washing Seems to Help

I have been trying to only wash it once a week as it seems to me that washing it makes the fall out happen quicker. Perhaps the hairs are sealed in the follicles with dirt? I do not know for sure. I brush it once a day with a wide toothed comb and collect the hairs that come out and put them in a little bag (sad I know, but perhaps I can stuff a pillow with it one day?) I have bought some "dry hair shampoo" in the hope that perhaps I can use this instead of actual washing.

I am noticing more and more hairs on the floor of the kitchen and bathroom but I have not woken up to a pillow of hair yet...I am still hoping that the cold cap is working.

My partner still thinks he cannot tell the difference yet - but then he has always said that I am too hairy! The hairs under my armpits, legs and pubic region have thinned considerably - my bikini line has never looked so good! It seems to me like the hairs are not securely in the follicle anymore...if they are left, they just sit there, but when touched or tugged, they come out without any resistance. I keep thinking if I do not touch them, or wash them, perhaps I can keep them hanging in there until the chemo has finished...I am not yet halfway though so not sure if this is likely...or if I am fooling myself.

Silly to Feel Ashamed, But I Did!

I do not think anyone can really understand what it is like to lose your hair unless it happens to you. At first I felt really ashamed, like I did not want anyone to know, but as time passed, I grew used to the idea. I first wanted to buy a wig so that I could put it on and no one would know, but sitting in the chemotherapy waiting room last time, I observed the different approaches people were taking. There was one lady with a blonde wig on, and it seemed so obviously a wig. She had no eyebrows and looked frightful. Another lady walked in; she had a black headscarf, big chunky earrings and a full face of make up and she looked beautiful! Another lady had a wig on that I really thought was her natural hair. I also found an inspirational lady on YouTube who has alopecia and she was showing how to draw on eyebrows and she was amazingly beautiful, so it got me thinking perhaps I should just embrace it rather than try to hide away in a hot wig?

I did try some wigs on prior to the chemotherapy so I had some idea of what I was dealing with. But to me, I looked silly and could tell it was a wig. I think I would feel too self conscious wearing one, but they were more realistic looking than what I had imagined.

Here are three hairs protruding from the one follicle.
Here are three hairs protruding from the one follicle. | Source
Here you can see normal hair colour, then the part where chemo has affected the hair.
Here you can see normal hair colour, then the part where chemo has affected the hair. | Source

Following 2nd Chemo Session

I feel I have taken a "scientific approach" in my obsession of late. I am due to have my third chemotherapy session tomorrow, and as is my nature, to understand exactly what is happening, helps me cope with things. I have taken to examining the hairs that have already fallen from my head with great scrunity. It helps to look at the against a white surface. I have discovered that there seem to be three types of hair. One is held together at the root with another, or sometimes two other hairs. It is like I have more than one hair extruding from each follicle - perhaps this is why my hair is so thick?. It is like the hair follicle has just given up and dropped them all out. The second type of hair simply has a very small black part at the end. The third - and perhaps the most interesting type of hair of them all - has normal hair all the way along the shaft - then it appears to become transulcent and thinner - and then resumes back to normal hair again. I presume this to be where the chemotherapy has been in my system affecting my hair - and yet has managed to stay in and then resume growing again normally.

This might sound like an obvious thing, but to me, it has given me hope. It seems clear that my hair is still attached to my head - which is opposed to my previous theory of it just sitting in the follicle - but that is it is thinner and frailer than usual. However, if I can be gentle enough to my hair, then it is possible for it to "hang in there" literally, and then resume growing again in its usual strength. It seems to be a race against the chemo...if I can leave my hair alone and stop pulling on it, then perhaps there is a slim chance I can remain looking slightly "normal" while undergoing the chemotherapy which would help me cope with this whole process a great deal.

Still hanging in there... but for how long?
Still hanging in there... but for how long? | Source

Chemo Number 3 (Day 48)

My third chemotherapy session was postponed due to my neutrophils being too low (they were 0.8 last week and have remained at this level a week later). My hair, despite appearing to be constantly falling out, is still at a reasonable level.

If you have ever had your hair in a too tight ponytail for too long, then you know the feeling you get when you finally release it. It is an odd sensation, and makes you want to scratch your head to rid yourself of it. I keep having this sporadically, although I have not tied my hair back in months! I am making a conscious effort to ignore it, but at times it is too hard to resist. I keep scouring the internet for tales of other people's hair loss and whether I am completely naïve to believe that I can keep my hair through this...some people lose their hair all in one go, either in the shower, or by brushing it out. Other people's hair falls out in clumps and they choose to shave it off. I am still hoping I will be luckier than most, but only time will tell. Perhaps another dose of the chemo will finish it off. I did notice a week after the second treatment, the hair loss rate was quite intense, but then it slowed down. I am still trying to not to wash my hair too often - I went almost two weeks last time, and you may think this is gross, but to me, I would rather have greasy, smelly hair than no hair at all!

I have also noticed that I do have quite a bit of dandruff building up along my parting too...and again, you may think gross, but I would rather have this than no hair. My scalp feels a bit tender in places but I am trying to ignore it...

I whole heartedly agree with my cousin now...the hair loss is more distressing to me than the loss of a breast...how messed up is that? I think that it is due to the fact that you can conceal from others this loss, but hair is such an obvious and visible part of us all. I will never hate my hair again, or have a bad hair day that is for sure - from this I will always appreciate it!

Approaching Chemo 4...

The number of days that have now elapsed eludes me, but I am due to have Chemo Number Four tomorrow. My hair is still there...I am losing hair daily that is true, but it is still there, and if you did not know me and just saw me in the street, you would not know there was anything wrong with me. I am feeling somewhat nervous though, as I have heard that the T part of the regime is more toxic. I have read on the internet that people's whose eyelashes and eyebrows remained, gave up and all fell out with this drug, so there is part of me that is getting mentally geared up for this. If it does all goes with the Docetaxel, then it goes...at least I have had it until now throughout the FEC. The summer is approaching, and I can just treat myself to a big summer hat if that is case! Photo to follow...

The itching and tight feeling of my hair has all but disappeared, I am suffering from a little dandruff but perhaps this is due to me not washing my hair as much as I normally did. As I am unable to use a hairdryer or straightners, my hair does look a little unkempt, but hey, it's there, and that is main thing!

Chemo Number 4

I was really quite scared about doing Chemo Number Four as this was the new drug - the Docetaxel, or "T" part of the regime. I had been explicitly warned this was harder to handle, but tried to ignore this and just get on with it.

My hair until this point was still there...looking rather messy, but a full covering nonetheless. I was sure my luck would run out with this drug - but the nurse on the ward who I voiced my fears to seemed to think that if I had success until now, then there was no need to worry. Yet again, I used the cold cap, and kept it on for an hour and half after the infusion and went home, thinking what will be will be.

As the chemotherapy cycles go on, I have noticed a slight pattern with regard to my hair. I have the chemo and wear the cold cap, then do not touch my hair for 24 hours after. This does sometimes mean that I have to pop out wearing a hat to cover my crazy hair, but so be it! After a good 24 hours have past, I then wash my hair by lying down in the bath, very quickly, with a mild baby shampoo (no conditioner), then gasp in horror at the sheer amount of hair accumulating in my hands. I then brush it very gently with a wide tooth comb, and then leave it. The next day again, just brush it very gently, and then leave it. No styling, no ponytails, no hairclips. I have started to notice that where my parting lies, my scalp is starting to show more and more, and I put this down where I brush my hair that way, the pulling motion of making a parting is taking its toll, so I try to move the parting a little, or even not have one.

A week after having the chemo, then comes the shedding. Whenever I look in the mirror at my back, I can see quite a lot of hair clinging in the hood of my top, or the back of my cardigan and every time I think I have had it, my hair is just going to go. This continues for a few days, but I just ignore it, and then it calms down again and I only really lose hair when I brush or tug at it. I try to only wash it in water once a week as I feel washing really contributes to the hair loss and if my hair gets really greasy in the meantime then I use a dry shampoo, such as Batiste (costs around £3.99) just to give it a little boost. I have not had a occurrence of the intense itching I felt, or of that too tight feeling again. I sometimes get a little shivery feeling, a little "rush" over my scalp, and I fear it is all going to drop out, but it does not.

Just before Round 5 of chemo
Just before Round 5 of chemo | Source

Chemo Number 5

I have just had Chemo Number Five and I can honestly say I still have a full head of hair. I took a photo of it just before I was due to go into the Day Room for treatment. It is very thin; it is pretty messy; but it is still there! You would just think I was a harassed Mother of two children under 5 without a moment to herself - which I am - without time to spend on grooming. It is only now, at this point, that I am letting myself believe that it IS possible that I may not lose my hair and I am finally feeling the relief!

I think it would probably look better if I had a little trim up from my friend, but truth be told, I am scared to let anyone touch it. Hairdressers like to brush the hair out before they trim it, and it would be horrific to see it all falling out for the sake of a trim. So I chose to leave it looking ragged. But it is STILL THERE which is all I am concerned about! Compared to my previous hair, it looks atrocious but I really do not mind. My eyelashes have thinned too but are still there to beef up with mascara and my eyebrows are fine.

With regards to "other" hair - I can state that my underarm hair had all but vanished, my leg hair stopped growing as did my pubic hair (which was great!) - a gentle tug and it was gone! However, on dose 5, these are all starting to grow again and I am becoming somewhat stubbly!

Two weeks after my last chemo session
Two weeks after my last chemo session | Source

Chemo 6: The Final One!

I still have my hair! I am writing this two weeks after having had Chemo Number 6 and it is terribly thin and ratty at the bottom but I still have a full head of hair! I simply cannot wait until next week when I am going to get it cut in a nice short style. I want to wait until next week until all of the shedding has stopped. I think for the most part it has, and indeed, I am actually feeling confident enough to twist my strands around and clip it up at the back and I look almost normal! My eyebrows have thinned as have my eyelashes, but they are still there to work some magic with make-up.

I think if I had had my hair cut to begin with in a very short boyish style, I might have even fared even better with the cold cap, but because it was cut just above the shoulder, the hair loss noticed more. But there were no bald spots, so my experience of using the cold cap really worked!

Very, very pleased!

POSTSCRIPT

I would just like to add that I am lucky enough for my breast cancer to have been caught early - and despite it being a high grade cancer, I was fortunate enough to find it in time before it had spread. I am sure that if I had more of battle of my hands then I would not be so preoccupied with my hair and I am sure, that in a way, it is more of a distraction for me than the real issue at hand. I would just like to reiterate this in case I am running the risk of appearing fickle with this Hub, but I know that I have spent a great deal of time searching the Internet looking for information on hair loss; when exactly did people's hair fall out; how this actually happened and whether there are any success stories of using the cold cap. I hope that this Hub is informative in this respect and will be of use to others following the same chemotherapy.

© 2012 Earthy Mother





Comments 40 comments

BigSerious profile image

BigSerious 4 years ago from Harrisburg, PA

Great hub! If you're washing your hair so infrequently, and want to avoid a chemical hair wash, I wash my hair with 1tbsp baking soda in a cup of water and a few drops of tea tree oil (to help with dandruff and dry scalp). I then use a tbsp of apple cider vinegar in a cup of water to rinse it - the smell is gone after the hair dries (rinse it out in the shower of course). It detangles and smooths the shafts of the hair (hub coming soon since I have to refill my bottles).

Your hair does still look great, so I have to agree with your partner - but of course you know best. :) My husband claims he can't see the grays on the top of my head, but he also loves me. So who knows! :D

Keep going, you.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

Great hub! I know nothing about the hair issue but I do want to commend you for bringing such a personal and sensitive subject out into the open. By sharing your story hopefully you will help others who are concerned about this.

Wonderful job my friend and best wishes to you in the future.

bill


Earthy Mother profile image

Earthy Mother 4 years ago from South East England Author

BigSerious - thank you so much for reading and your helpful advice - I look forward to reading your Hub on how to make it properly! Thank you again - it is much appreciated!


Earthy Mother profile image

Earthy Mother 4 years ago from South East England Author

Billy, thank you, thank you, thank you! I appreciate your feedback immensely and it means a lot! All the best to you xx


Vanessa121 4 years ago

Hi Earthy Mother.

Like you, i searched the Web to find some info on FEC-T hair loss and was really pleased when i found this hub!

I am having 4 cyles of FEC (my second is on Tues) and a further 4 of Docetaxel after that. So far I have managed to keep my hair but noticed a bit coming out yesterday

:-( I am hoping that lke you, i might get to keep mine for a while longer...

I didn't think your hub was fickle in the slightest. It was informative and made me feel much better in preparing for the road ahead.

How is your treatment going? Did you manage to keep your hair through the Docetaxel?

Hoping everything is going well with you.

Vanessa x


Earthy Mother profile image

Earthy Mother 4 years ago from South East England Author

Hey Vanessa! I am so pleased that this helped you! You've really made my day...I've not got around to updating this properly yet, but just to tell you, I've had 3 FEC's and now 2 T's and I still have my hair! It is definitely thinner and I cannot do anything with it with regards to styling - but I still have a full covering. I was very afraid the Docetaxel would make it fall out, but it's behaving in the same way as it did on the FEC which is a relief. About a week after having the chemo, I notice it sheds quite a bit - you have a fair bit of loose hair on the back of your top, but then it slows down again. I keep washing it to a minimum as well as I feel that lathering it up makes the hair loose in the follicles, so I've been using a dry hair shampoo and a quick minimal brush in the morning is all I do with it! It has made me feel better keeping my hair still...I was really scared to believe it may be possible. Have you been using the cold cap?

I really hope you fare well with your treatments...it's quite a horrible thing to have to endure, but endure it you must and it does go quickly...it'll be over before you know it.

Wishing you all the very best and if there is anything I can do to help, or any questions you have, please feel free to ask me!

Take care

Earthy Mother xx


Vanessa 4 years ago

I have used the cold cap, but like you had my doubts about if it had worked. It was too small and had to keep pushing it down. It seemed REALLY cold at first, then after 10 mins or so, didn't feel cold at all! I didn't get an offering of any sort of conditioner. Is this something you bought yourself? I will persevere with the cold cap, and will give them a call to request a larger one before hand.

Thanks for your response. I have found both your hubs really interesting. Please keep me updated on how you're doing.

All the best.

Vanessa x

I


Earthy Mother profile image

Earthy Mother 4 years ago from South East England Author

Re. the conditioner - it seems to be hit and miss with my Day Unit...the first time I had it, then not the next, they just used a water spray. I don't think it really matters...it's just to wet the hair really. I actually prefer to have just water as the smell of the conditioner turns my stomach now!

My thoughts are with you...wishing you all the best with your treatments! And you too...please let me know how it is going for you! Hang in there honey xx


Mazza2 4 years ago

Hi

Just to say what a great hub. I am about to start FEC-T and you have really touched a nerve and helped answer some questions about to cap or not to cold cap. I wish you a great recovery. x


Earthy Mother profile image

Earthy Mother 4 years ago from South East England Author

Hi Mazza2! Thank you so much for stopping by and making a comment - I am so glad it helped you. It really shouldn't be a big deal, but it is...even now I still have moments of panic and think - is it going to hang on for one more treatment? I wish you all the very best with your FEC-T and if I can do anything to help from my experiences then just ask - I'm really happy to help. All the very best xx


Vanessa 4 years ago

Hi earthy mother.

I am assuming that you have had your chemo 6 now and finished! Relieved I'm sure :-)

Did you manage to keep your hair? I have just had my chemo 3. One more and I'll be halfway through. Yay! I have some thinning but still a covering, thankfully.

I Hope you are well and looking forward to getting on with things.

Vanessa x


Earthy Mother profile image

Earthy Mother 4 years ago from South East England Author

Hello Vanessa...so good to hear from you. So great you are getting through your chemo...the halfway point really is a great milestone and you're nearly there!

I need to update this hub as indeed you are correct in saying I'm done with the chemo! I cannot tell you how happy I was when I finished my last one and...drum roll...I still have my hair!!! It's thin and fluffy looking and desperately needs a cut but it is STILL THERE!!

Wishing your remaining chemotherapy flies by and you're out the other side before you know it.

All my best regards to you

Hugs xx


healthylife2 profile image

healthylife2 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

This was such a useful article for people considering cold caps especially with the addition of great pictures. I went through chemotherapy last Summer and many nurses had never heard of them and the doctor didn't support them because they were new although they had been used in other countries. Just one year later I see pamphlets on cold caps. It's too late to help me but this will be useful for many others.


Earthy Mother profile image

Earthy Mother 4 years ago from South East England Author

Thank you Healthlife2...I know in the grand scheme of things losing your hair or not is not really important - but it did make all the difference to me...it just made me feel not so "ill" throughout. When you look better, you feel better. I'm so glad you got through your treatment nonetheless and if this does help people decide whether to cold cap or not, then it makes me feel better and like my experience has been of use for others! Thanks for reading and commenting...and all the best to you! xx


healthylife2 profile image

healthylife2 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

A agree that in the bigger picture it's not about the hair but it is about looking good when you look in the mirror every day. Often I wore my wig just for me so I would feel better even if I was home alone. Even better to keep your own hair...your experience will help others.


Mesothelioma Help 4 years ago

Great hub!

This is great information for those about to undergo chemotherapy.

Voted up!


Earthy Mother profile image

Earthy Mother 4 years ago from South East England Author

Thanks MH - I appreciate you reading and stopping by. Thanks again!


KathyH profile image

KathyH 4 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

This is amazing! I saw a story about these cold caps and decided to look it up here on HubPages to see if anyone had actually used them. Thanks so much for sharing such helpful information! I don't have cancer and have never had it (looking for a piece of wood to knock on here)... I am so thankful there is a way to keep hair though if it would ever happen. I do know several people who have had the experience of losing their hair from chemo, and it is detrimental to your self esteem. I'll say a prayer that you experience good health from here on out. :)


Earthy Mother profile image

Earthy Mother 4 years ago from South East England Author

Thank you so much Kathy! I appreciate your comments and prayers so much...desperately hoping I never have to go through that all again! Thank you for commenting and taking the time to read this... xx


carolh 4 years ago

Reading you hub gave me the confidence to use the cold cap, I had FEC the cap is not pleasant for first fifteen minutes but I thought it might be worth it if I didn't look quite so obviously on chemo. Hair great at first but read it reaches surface twenty days after chemo this is when you get that ponytail feeling and it has started to shed hopefully I will be able to keep enough to look normal. Other factors are liver function and if this removes toxins quick enough to not affect hair. Thank you


Earthy Mother profile image

Earthy Mother 4 years ago from South East England Author

Dear Carol - I am so pleased to hear that I have had some impact on you...I wish you all the best with your chemo and hope that the time passes quickly...and may you keep as much hair as possible! Bear with the shedding and try not to fear...just don't touch it and it'll hang in there. Thank you for commenting - it makes the world of difference when someone stops and takes the time to make a comment - so thank you again! xx


carolh 4 years ago

just to update, I had my second FEC week of second treatment hair shed loads instead of a Hoover ful of cat hair it was mostly mine, was about to give up but listened to your words yes its not my crowning glory but I have a even covering of fine hair, just washed and noticed slightly more come out when I washed it. Realised I had made right decision when waiting in the clinic behind two very bald ladies I admire their bravery but it still brings the cancer in to focus and makes you look like concentration camp victim. I read a book on a USA broadcaster she didn't have the choice of a cold cap and the shock of her baldness to her small children brought lots of awkward questions and looks of pity when she picked her children up from kindergarten. Thank you again hope your hair is growing well. Carolx


Earthy Mother profile image

Earthy Mother 4 years ago from South East England Author

Dear Carol - it is so lovely to hear from you and keep strong...it'll soon be over...my hair is great now - totally back to normal in thickness. On my last Herceptin session I saw a lady trying the cold cap, but it wasn't done properly (i.e. it was the manual one that they keep in the freezer and it wasn't changed at all throughout her chemo session) so keep it up and it will make all the difference...it does work! I thought even if my hair lasted a little longer than that's better than nothing...you feel slightly more human with some hair! Are you having just the FEC? How many cycles must you have? Thinking of you and keep us posted with how you are doing my lovely! xx


carolh 4 years ago

dear Earthy Mother, yes only FEC I had clear margins none in lympth nodes though two removed. With the puzzling percentages I was recommended chemo as precaution so it took a lot of soul searching proceed with it. My clinic is based south east England and was bought by the 'the walk for life' which next year if my hair is successful I feel I must do to help others, a friend used the fridge helmet without much success the ones that work like a fridge on your head I think are far more successful at keeping the temperature constant. Looking at my chemo treatments I have one in the beginning of December on my birthday, and one on Christmas eve I am hoping the Christmas eve one doesn't happen because it would mess it up for the whole family, unfortunately life is on hold with cancer treatment. Good to hear your hair is back and hopefully you can look forward to a stress free Christmas with you little one(s). Carolx


Earthy Mother profile image

Earthy Mother 4 years ago from South East England Author

Mine too was clear margins, and no lymph involvement and I was also told my chemo was an "insurance policy" and it is very hard to know what is best to do, but if you didn't take the advice and the worst happened, then what would you do? This is going to probably be the worst Christmas you will ever have (mine was the worst one this year getting my diagnosis on December 16th) but at least you are here and aware of the issue...how much worse would it be if you found out too late to do anything? Just hang in there and soon 2012 will be behind us both and hopefully 2013 will be a darnsight brighter! Thinking of you and take care xx


carolh 4 years ago

Earthy mother, due for FEC tomorrow delayed nearly a week, after conquering two cold cap treatments the nurse giving me the line flush told me not in these exact words that I might as well not bother with cold cap as my hair would fall out anyway! I know after first I did have a week where a third of it went but after that I can wear black with no real sights of moulting, I must admit I am beginning to resemble the wizard out of the hobbit trilogies (I have been going grey since I was 17) and lack of dye is making it look thinner but it is even I noticed on one of the breast care chat lines people using disposable surgeons caps which if your hair does get thin protects it from ice burn also the cool cap company recommend this, the nurse just dismissed this saying we have nothing like this available. Unfortunately I think some see their job as working for the greater good to destroy the cancer and you are just acting on vanity, but I want to look normal and when I go back to work in a boys school not to be stared at with a 'chemo cut' or a dodgy wig (I do have one when I put it on my sons words said one thing his face another) well fight on tomorrow! Carol


Earthy Mother profile image

Earthy Mother 4 years ago from South East England Author

She doesn't sound like a very sympathetic nurse! I was always apologising with regard to my cold cap, saying I know it meant more work for them, but they were always very dismissive of my comments saying anything to make the whole process easier for me was their aim. I also saw a really thin hair net type of thing being used on someone with very thin hair so they should have one available. I hope your next session goes well and even if it all does fall out tomorrow, at least you've had your hair for all this extra time, but from my experience, it did hang in there...All the best to you Carol and you are getting there...it'll soon be over! xx


redsetter 3 years ago

I hate to be a "Debbie Downer" but don't get too comfortable thinking your cancer is gone for good......I had lymphoma in "99 that I beat....in "05 I got chronic leukemia......in "10 I got breast cancer which was also caught early......1 year later I was told it had spread to my liver.(tamoxifen didn't work ). So as far as the 5 year mark meaning you are "cancer free"...I don't believe it.


carolh 3 years ago

Death is something I never though about, sometimes I imaged I might keel over in the marigolds at the bottom of the garden at eighty this is probably your ideal. My mum died of breast cancer when I was twenty seven I was gutted she never made it to be a loving gran to my little son, I put the cause down to HRT she was taking if I had spent twenty odd years worrying that the same would happen to me life wouldn't have been worth living so I boxed this though up and just got on with living. Yes it isn't fair I have had cancer and I do see friends who have smoked, drunk, taken drugs who have no more than the occasional dodgy knee, but thinking this way would eat you up. I knew a spritely old lady in her late seventies who still worked in the private school I was at she had breast cancer in her forties but had recovered, unfortunately we cannot look in a crystal ball and see what life has in store for us just enjoy what it is for now and try not to be negative. On that note I have my fourth chemo tomorrow. CarolX


Earthy Mother profile image

Earthy Mother 3 years ago from South East England Author

Dear Redsetter, I am so sorry to hear your story and hope that you are currently feeling well. I did see your comments the other day and they did put me on a downer to be honest...I don't for one second think I'll ever feel comfortable again...I have a slight back ache and instead of thinking, perhaps it's a strained muscle, I keep thinking, perhaps the cancer has come back into my spine...I have a lump on my eyelid and then think - perhaps this is it back again? I think once you've had cancer, you never feel completely comfortable again - you just have periods where you forget. My partner keep saying PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) but it's hard to fight sometimes.

Carol - this is the conclusion I came to...even if the slight back ache I have does turn out to be cancer coming back in spine, I'll just have to deal with it - and might as well enjoy what time we've got left. We all have to die one day in one way or another - my Nan lived until she was 92 and I had always assumed I would too...probably not now - I'll be happy if I get to live to 50 I guess...so sad, but what can you do? We can't run away from ourselves...I just wish I knew what really caused this to happen to me in the first place to prevent it happening again...

Good luck with your fourth chemo Carol - thinking of you and I guess that means you won't have one on Christmas eve now? Hurrah!


carolh 3 years ago

Dear earthy mother, I didn't want you to enter Christmas on a downer, hopefully you will live well past fifty, and have a great Christmas with your husband and little ones, who will have a mum who this year feels fit and well and ready to be woken up at six in the morning with a toy stuck in your face! I am grateful not to have chemo on Christmas eve, and am now looking at whether to stop treatment at four or carry on to six, I want to get my old life back and a decent haircut. Cancer has definiently made me think differently and surprise at the kindness of people I really didn't know well and the disappointment of close old friends who just weren't there for me, perhaps they are fighting their own demons. Carolx


Jo 3 years ago

Thank you SO much for your blog, I am starting Chemo on Friday and opting to use the cold cap. My lovely hair is short now-was my best featutre. I am ultra sensitive about my hair so thanks for your personal journey.


Earthy Mother profile image

Earthy Mother 3 years ago from South East England Author

Good luck Jo! Wishing you all the very best...I hope you have success with the cold cap and that you keep as much hair as you can. I think if I had cut my hair ultra short the cap would've worked even better, so fingers crossed yours hangs in there. Take care xx


carolh 3 years ago

Dear Earthy Mother, I have now decided to stop FEC my hair is still very fragile and seems to have long hair and some woolley shorter stuff I think I might cut it shorter to catch up but what I want to ask is how long did it take for your hair to start to grow through and feel more like your normal hair and have you coloured it?


Earthy Mother profile image

Earthy Mother 3 years ago from South East England Author

Hey Carol - well, it's now January and I would definitely say my hair is back to normal...very thick and I coloured it last month! I think I finished my chemo in September last year, and had it cut in a boy's style hairstyle about October I think. It took me a while to feel comfortable washing it, and once I could do so without it coming away was the time I went to the hairdresser. It is now bob length, and I coloured it a plum colour for Christmas and it looks great! I have to say that I am blow drying it and straightening it and it's all fine...I was a little nervous before colouring it, in case it all broke off (I don't know if you can see on your individual hairs, but I could see graduation marks along the hairs where I had obviously had a chemo session) but it was absolutely fine! It feels so great to be able to wash and dry my hair without worrying about it coming away. I would say that my hair took a couple of weeks to grow through and there was a couple of months where it looked a little "tufty" as the new hairs sprouted upwards... :o) Once you have a little trim at the hairdressers you'll feel a million times better - I know I did! I didn't feel very feminine as I've always had long hair and I felt a little boyish, but I looked like I just had a bad hair cut rather than there being anything wrong with me, which suited me just fine!! Well done for getting through the chemo Carol and wishing you all the best and speedy hair growth! xx


carolh 3 years ago

hi earth mother, thank you for your positive outlook, I know it will eventually grow but I am a bit impatient plus I had a lovely dress Christmas but my hair looked pants! After radiotherapy I have to start taking arimidex unlike tamoxifen which blocks oestrogen it stops the body producing it which can cause male characteristics such as male pattern baldness, could I put up with this? I suppose if its the choice of cancer coming back you have to grit your teeth and bare it, I remember what you said about health professionals yes I had a twenty something cheerfully going through all the side effects this is obviously what you are taught on the one day course on keeping the patient happy! X


carolh 3 years ago

hi earthymother, its weird how you have no body hair for months then overnight it seems to spring up everywhere! Yes you are right it grows back tufty it must be the areas the cold cap misses I have some normal hair and some that resembles boiled wool, but it is so great to be able to man handle your hair without it falling out in chunks, plus the cold weather has been a blessing going out with my Russian hat, so I look like I am making a fashion statement rather than a bad hair day/month. I have nearly finished radiotherapy and should be going back to work then there will be no time to look at my tablet, but it's a weird feeling of being through the wars when my fellow members of staff have been plodding on the same routine. Take care happy hubbing. carolh


Trish 2 years ago

Thanks for all of the insight and personal stories. I am about to start the same treatment - FEC/D plus Herceptin. I am scared to death of what will happen as I go through this ordeal but reading your story helped. I know my side effects could be completely different but I prefer to be informed about what may happen. With regards to the hair loss, I've been told by the nurses and doctors that it is the FEC that causes the loss and not the D. That in fact, once the 3 treatments of the FEC are completed the hair could start to grow back. I've never heard of the cold caps but I am looking into whether they offer them at my clinic. Thanks again for sharing.


Earthy Mother profile image

Earthy Mother 2 years ago from South East England Author

Hello Trish! I am so sorry that I have not been on this site for a while and just saw your post. I expect by now you are well underway with your treatment and really hope that is going well. Fingers crossed you get to keep your hair as it really does make all the difference xx Good luck xx


Suzy 16 months ago

Hi

I just wanted to say what a huge help your blog has been to me. I am having T number five tomorrow out of five FEC-Ts so feel like I am almost there. My hair has behaved the same as yours so far and you have given me hope that it may stay the course. I too was never that bothered about my hair until I thought I might loose it and I have become obsessed! By the way, did you paint your nails black during the T - I've heard it helps stop any nail problems..... Anyway, it would be good to hear how you are doing now, some time on if you still check this? Suzy

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