supporting my curly mom through chemo

My 3a-b mother was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and, while they caught the cancer very early, we've just learned she will have to go through chemo. Her curly dark hair has always been her defining feature and she is completely distraught at the thought of losing it.

I've seen a few cancer survivors and others who have experienced hair loss on the boards. Do any of you have any advice about how I can help her to get through this? Were you able to find a wig that made you feel like yourself? How did you style your hair as it was beginning to fall out? Any advice, tips, personal anecdotes you can offer would be great. Thanks in advance for your help!
waves, loose coils, and cherub curls (=mixed 2s through 3a), very fine texture overall (but with medium and even coarse strands scattered throughout)
I'm so very sorry to hear about your mom. My mom had ovarian cancer and had to go through chemo, too, and her fear of loosing her trademark hair was so devastating for her as it would be to so many of us. The American Cancer Society near you should be able to refer you to a wig store for cancer patients. I found someone near us who customized wigs for her clients out of her home. The best advice she gave me is for the cancer patient to go wig hunting BEFORE hair loss occurs and to go with hair styled to their preference so they can best match it. Finding a wig that's similar to one's natural hair style makes the transition much easier.

Regarding your question on how to style hair as it fell out, my mom first switched to using mousse and volume enhancing products but after two rounds of chemo, her hair was coming out in huge clumps and it was covering all of her clothes. She surprised us all by announcing she didn't want to torment herself with watching it fall out anymore and asked me to shave it off! I am certain she wouldn't have been so confident about that if she didn't have such a fabulous wig waiting for her (it looked so similar to her hair that nobody even knew!)

On another note, I wanted to share a very helpful website for me in case you didn't know about it. It's CancerCare :: Professional Support for People Affected by Cancer and they have a wealth of information and awesome online support groups (24/7) that you have to enroll in. There's one for younger caregivers that I think might be of interest to you. I found it beyond helpful for my personal well being.

I hoped I answered some of your questions. Feel free to email me or write back in this forum anytime!

3a (
with 3b)
Fine texture/
Normal porosity/Medium density
Low Poo
(Aveda's damage remedy); Styling: Aveda's: Color Conserve Daily leave in+ Be Curly Style Prep+ Phomollient (mixed w/ Defining Whip)
Finishing: Aveda's Texturizing Creme or Defining Whip; Eufora Pure Polish Drops
Color
Maintenance:
Aveda's Madder Root condish+Clove condish
Build her up so she knows she's beautiful no matter what her hair looks like. Talk to her to find out what she would like. Does she want to do wigs? Is she more of a scarf person? Stuff like that.

Also, my dad had cancer and went through 2 tough rounds of chemo but never lost his hair other than normal aging loss. So it is possible that she may not. Everyone is different.

T & P's for you and your mom.
Thanks to you both for your support!

@slivola-- My mom is planning to go tomorrow to a wig shop that specializes in working with cancer patients. I think she is planning to get a synthetic one, as she heard they are easier to manage and not as hot during the summer. Do you mind me asking how much your mother paid for hers? My mother was saying that it will be $1000s for a customized one. I think it's worth the money if it makes her feel good, but she's usually the type to shop the clearance racks and it will be hard to convince her to splurge on something like this, or even to accept it as a gift.

And I will definitely check out that website. It sounds like a great resource.

@Kookycurl We've all been trying very hard to build her up--especially my dad. I think it helps a bit, but I think she just needs to see for herself that she can look beautiful with a wig or scarf. We were initially hopeful that her hair wouldn't fall out, but the doctors seem pretty certain that it will with the type of chemo she is having.
waves, loose coils, and cherub curls (=mixed 2s through 3a), very fine texture overall (but with medium and even coarse strands scattered throughout)
When I was younger, my best friend was diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo chemo sessions on and off for the better part of a year, along with radiation. She was devastated when her long hair started falling out. Initially, because her hair was thick, it wasn't very noticeable. When it got to the point that it began to look thin, we chopped it into a chin length bob. The drastic change, and all of the compliments that went along with it, did wonders for her self esteem. It really helped her to realize that her long hair wasn't her defining characteristic and she could be beautiful without it. It also really helped her to talk with other young women who'd lost their hair.

Eventually, we shaved her head because it was more empowering for her to get rid of her hair than for her to go slowly bald. She made the choice, it wasn't a symptom of her treatment or illness, and I think that was very freeing for her, too. She'd picked out a wig before we first cut her hair. It was synthetic and I believe it cost a few hundred dollars. It may have been blended with human or animal hair, but I don't remember for certain. It was a high quality, realistic-looking wig, but it wasn't custom and it wasn't identical to her normal hair color or style. It suited her face and her features, didn't look fake, and that was all that mattered to her.

Everyone is different, but I think choosing to cut her hair and choosing to shave her head, rather than trying to hold on to it but losing it anyway, was the best thing for her self esteem. It was still sad to lose her hair, but it was easier for her to be bald suddenly, rather than watching it come on in ever-growing patches.

One thing she did do that was helpful, but I don't think would benefit everyone, was start planning to have hair again, even before it began to grow back in. She collected a few pictures of hair at different stages that she liked, bought some hair vitamins, high end conditioners, hair accessories, etc. It helped her to remember that she would soon be growing hair again. It probably wouldn't be good for some people (who might do better not to think about their hair), but she felt good knowing that when her hair was an inch long, she could have one of her pictures, or when it was 5 inches long, she could use a pretty hair accessory.

Spending time with others who'd survived or were going through cancer treatments was a very positive experience for my friend. They understood where she was coming from and the fact that she was bald was never a point of interest. They knew what not to say when comforting her. They didn't let her get away with constant negativity or pity parties.

Just a few ideas -- some might be helpful, others probably won't be. I'm sorry your mom's going through this, but it's nice that you and the rest of your family are rallying around her.
Moomoo-- I'm sorry, I lost track of this thread, so I'm just reading your post now. I really appreciate your input.

I think it's good advice for her to shave her head before it falls out-- I think it will help her to feel like she has some control over everything.

I also think it would be great if she had other women to talk to who are going through chemo too. Maybe I'll have her find out if the hospital she's being treated at has a support group.
waves, loose coils, and cherub curls (=mixed 2s through 3a), very fine texture overall (but with medium and even coarse strands scattered throughout)
Hi there, so sorry not to respond to your question about the wig until now. For some reason, I never received emails saying there were any responses to this thread until the very last post you just posted to moomoo! Then I realized I had missed so much!

I'm sure your mom has gotten her wig by now- what did she wind up getting? Is it similar looking to her naturally curly hair? Yes, my mom got a synthetic one. It was very easy to keep it up. She did find it hot in the summertime but she was insistent on wearing it. She bought one of those little wig mannequins to keep it on so the wig always maintained its shape.

My mom's friend went through chemo last year but decided just to get her hair cut shorter and shorter. It never all fell out- got very thin though, so she went from shoulder length to ear length to an adorable pixie (current cut). My mom just decided to shave it all off once it started coming out in clumps. Having it come out in her hands really upset her so she decided to end that process!

Has your mom started chemo yet? About the support groups, I'm sure the hospital can refer you/offers one. A lot of people like them- my mom didn't. Yours won't know unless she tries. My mom always seemed to come home very anxious rather than feeling like she had a support system. But each person is so different. The non profit I was telling you about for caregiver support groups- cancercare.org- also has online support groups for cancer patients. If your mom likes the computer, that might be a good way to feel connected. Even on her worst feeling day when she can't leave the house, she can still connect with her virtual group online. I would think that would be a very comforting feeling.

Feel free to PM me if you have other questions or if I don't respond to this thread in case I don't get notified again.

Hang in there. You're an awesome daughter!

3a (
with 3b)
Fine texture/
Normal porosity/Medium density
Low Poo
(Aveda's damage remedy); Styling: Aveda's: Color Conserve Daily leave in+ Be Curly Style Prep+ Phomollient (mixed w/ Defining Whip)
Finishing: Aveda's Texturizing Creme or Defining Whip; Eufora Pure Polish Drops
Color
Maintenance:
Aveda's Madder Root condish+Clove condish

Last edited by slivola; 03-09-2011 at 10:00 AM. Reason: typos
P.S. I forgot to answer your question about the cost of the wig. It was about five years ago so I can't remember exactly, but I think it was around $300. I think that's about standard for synthetic. There are also foundations that offer small grants for cancer patients to help pay for wigs, transportation, etc. I think that cancercare organization should be able to connect you with resources (they have a toll free # posted on their website) and also the american cancer society has tons of resources, too.

3a (
with 3b)
Fine texture/
Normal porosity/Medium density
Low Poo
(Aveda's damage remedy); Styling: Aveda's: Color Conserve Daily leave in+ Be Curly Style Prep+ Phomollient (mixed w/ Defining Whip)
Finishing: Aveda's Texturizing Creme or Defining Whip; Eufora Pure Polish Drops
Color
Maintenance:
Aveda's Madder Root condish+Clove condish
Slivola, I was whizzing by the forums on my way to the nonhair-related one and happened to see yours. I'm awfully sorry and sending you and your mom every good wish in the world.

I know a few people who had chemo. Some lost their hair - some didn't, but in one case, a straight-haired lady grew curls. She was so pleased which is kind of funny, considering how we are so often annoyed at our curls. I second all the great suggestions. You are going through h&ll yourself - be good and kind to yourself. I admire you for being such a great daughter.
2/c and some 3A. Modified CG.
Protein sensitive
Highly porous. Color over grey.
Best 1st day method: Super Soaker
Conditioners: Curl Junkie Beauticurls Strengthening Conditioner,
Deep condish: Curl Junkie Curl Rehab
Stylers: Mix Curls in a Bottle into everything for shine. Terrible pj
Sometimes try roller sets - classic glamor but I prefer my curls.
Every day is a gift
Slivola-- Really appreciate you taking the time to write such a thoughtful reply.

To answer your questions-- Yes, my mom actually got a wig, and the hair is stick straight! It really upset me at first, but I understand her logic. She said none of the curly wigs looked like real curly hair and she would rather have a totally different look than try unsuccessfully to look like her old self. She ended up paying $800, I think, for real hair that she can style and curl if she wants.

She starts the chemo this week. Once her hair starts to fall out, she's going to cut it very short so it'll be less traumatic. I just really hope her hair comes back after the treatment is over, as her hair had already been thinning in the past few years.

I will definitely tell her about that website, but she's not too internet savvy. I did get her to start meeting with a counselor, though, which has been really helpful to her.

Anyway, I really appreciate everyone's thoughts and support!
waves, loose coils, and cherub curls (=mixed 2s through 3a), very fine texture overall (but with medium and even coarse strands scattered throughout)
Sbudsky, I'm sorry I got your name wrong! Sometimes I'm a little fuzzy - meds.

Anyway, I wish you and your mom all the best. I hope you will update us.
2/c and some 3A. Modified CG.
Protein sensitive
Highly porous. Color over grey.
Best 1st day method: Super Soaker
Conditioners: Curl Junkie Beauticurls Strengthening Conditioner,
Deep condish: Curl Junkie Curl Rehab
Stylers: Mix Curls in a Bottle into everything for shine. Terrible pj
Sometimes try roller sets - classic glamor but I prefer my curls.
Every day is a gift
Thanks curlypearl and no worries!
waves, loose coils, and cherub curls (=mixed 2s through 3a), very fine texture overall (but with medium and even coarse strands scattered throughout)
So glad your mom found a really nice wig. I love her approach of going for a different look than trying unsuccessfully to look the way she used to. I know it's a lot of money, but she will get a lot of use out of it. My mom said the positive side of wearing a wig was how much time it saved her getting ready. She had a really good sense of humor about cancer and chemo, in fact we started joking around about the "cancer perks" (no more bad hair days, best parking spot in town, everyone is really nice to you, etc.) Sometimes humor is the best medicine. Oh, about the parking space- your mom can apply for a handicap tag from DMV to hand on her rearview mirror. She'll qualify since she'll be on chemo. At first my mom didn't want to be treated differently, but then she realized how helpful it would be to be able to park in the handicap spaces and free at parking meters (we live in a city so parking is a big deal.) Took us about 6 months to find out about this "perk" but it was worth it!

I'm glad she liked her support group. I hope you consider joining the cancercare.org group for younger caregivers. It was invaluable for me because we need support, too. Caregiving can take a toll and it's important to be supported by other people who really understand. Besides, we can only take care of others as well as we take care of ourselves, right?

Good luck to your mom and you during the first week of chemo. I'll be thinking of you both.

3a (
with 3b)
Fine texture/
Normal porosity/Medium density
Low Poo
(Aveda's damage remedy); Styling: Aveda's: Color Conserve Daily leave in+ Be Curly Style Prep+ Phomollient (mixed w/ Defining Whip)
Finishing: Aveda's Texturizing Creme or Defining Whip; Eufora Pure Polish Drops
Color
Maintenance:
Aveda's Madder Root condish+Clove condish
So glad you are there to support your mom. I will be starting my chemo next week and decided that as soon as it starts falling out I will get it all taken off. My wig is ready!

Jane
3A hair, fine and thin
Current faves are: Giovanni Direct Leave In, Suave Cocoanut Cond., and the BEST gel ever, IC Gel with Sparkelites.
So glad you are there to support your mom. I will be starting my chemo next week and decided that as soon as it starts falling out I will get it all taken off. My wig is ready!

Jane
Originally Posted by iowagirl
The very, very best of good luck to you Iowagirl (Jane). I hope you'll update. (((Hugs))).
2/c and some 3A. Modified CG.
Protein sensitive
Highly porous. Color over grey.
Best 1st day method: Super Soaker
Conditioners: Curl Junkie Beauticurls Strengthening Conditioner,
Deep condish: Curl Junkie Curl Rehab
Stylers: Mix Curls in a Bottle into everything for shine. Terrible pj
Sometimes try roller sets - classic glamor but I prefer my curls.
Every day is a gift
After two treatments, the hair is feeling thin and lifeless. No body whatsoever. The beginning of the end of my hair?
3A hair, fine and thin
Current faves are: Giovanni Direct Leave In, Suave Cocoanut Cond., and the BEST gel ever, IC Gel with Sparkelites.
iowagirl- My mom said her scalp got really itchy and that's how she knew it was falling out. But when she switched treatments her hair just thinned out so she got it cut in a way that gave her more body and she started using mousse. Thinking of you!!

3a (
with 3b)
Fine texture/
Normal porosity/Medium density
Low Poo
(Aveda's damage remedy); Styling: Aveda's: Color Conserve Daily leave in+ Be Curly Style Prep+ Phomollient (mixed w/ Defining Whip)
Finishing: Aveda's Texturizing Creme or Defining Whip; Eufora Pure Polish Drops
Color
Maintenance:
Aveda's Madder Root condish+Clove condish
Sending (((Hugs))) to everyone. I hope things are going better.
2/c and some 3A. Modified CG.
Protein sensitive
Highly porous. Color over grey.
Best 1st day method: Super Soaker
Conditioners: Curl Junkie Beauticurls Strengthening Conditioner,
Deep condish: Curl Junkie Curl Rehab
Stylers: Mix Curls in a Bottle into everything for shine. Terrible pj
Sometimes try roller sets - classic glamor but I prefer my curls.
Every day is a gift
Thanks for the support! Yes I think I'll get it cut shorter before it falls out. I'll probably get more body that way and the mousse is a good idea. Won't weigh it down.
Jane
3A hair, fine and thin
Current faves are: Giovanni Direct Leave In, Suave Cocoanut Cond., and the BEST gel ever, IC Gel with Sparkelites.
Jane- my mom like the Garnier mousse that was for volume rather than for curl. Thinking of you!

3a (
with 3b)
Fine texture/
Normal porosity/Medium density
Low Poo
(Aveda's damage remedy); Styling: Aveda's: Color Conserve Daily leave in+ Be Curly Style Prep+ Phomollient (mixed w/ Defining Whip)
Finishing: Aveda's Texturizing Creme or Defining Whip; Eufora Pure Polish Drops
Color
Maintenance:
Aveda's Madder Root condish+Clove condish

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