My battle with breast cancer: Coping with hair loss

I was hoping that it would not happen, but one of the chemotherapy drugs I am taking, Cytoxan, comes with a 75 percent chance of hair loss. It can happen anytime 10 days after your first dose. When day 15 passed and I still had hair--I was hopeful that I fell into the 25 percent of women who kept their hair. Day 16 my hair started to fall out. Within two days, half of my hair was gone. Now, I am bald.

Hair loss and emotions

I didn't think I would be too upset about losing my hair--until it started to fall out. My husband came home to find me sitting in the bedroom crying about my hair. It was coming out in chunks and I was unprepared for the feelings I had about it. Cancer is tough. It can kick your butt physically and emotionally. Cancer took my left breast and now chemo is taking my hair. It seems every time I turn around something about this disease challenges my self image. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if I had some idea of what the "new me" will look like. I am in body-image limbo. The old look is gone forever and the new image is still under construction.

I finally shaved my head. My hair was falling out in chunks and it was gross to walk around shedding like a molting yak. After most of my hair had fallen out--I shaved my head.

Being bald

My naked head is going to take some getting used to. I look like a cross between an alien and a Conehead. Not only is bald a very different look from the curly red locks I used to have, but there are many new sensations that I never had before. Touching my bare head feels odd. I'm glad it is not shiny.

My bald head now feels the wind and when the central heating kicks on. Water from the shower feels weird on my head. The cloth head coverings I made fit much looser without my hair. I am still adjusting to this look. Sometimes I think I like it--in a punk rocker or warrior woman way. Other times, I think I look like Humpty-Dumpty.

Being hairless means that I do not have to spend any more money on expensive shampoos like WEN. Actually, shampoo is no-longer in my budget. Another bonus is that I no-longer have gray hair. I can lose the hair coloring expense too.

Wigs

I am not ready to face the world with a bald head so I bought a wig. Insurance paid for part of it. Options are unlimited when deciding on a wig. I chose one that would give me the long, full-bodied hair I could never grown on my own. Wearing a wig with confidence will take time. I am very afraid of it slipping off or shifting. The other day it was extremely windy and I decided not to wear my wig in fear that it would blow off of my head.

If you are thinking about getting a wig, I would recommend going to a salon that specializes in wigs for women with cancer. Use the American Cancer Society website to find a location that offers free or low cost wigs to cancer patients. They will also have a list of local salons that sell wigs at retail pricing. If you can afford it, get a couple of different styles so you can change your hair when you change your mood.

Wraps, hats and scarves

Wigs get hot, especially in the summer. I cannot imagine wearing a wig in 100 degree heat. That leaves me with a choice of going bald, sweating it out with the wig, or doing something else to cover my head. I can't go bald in the summer. I burn easily and my head will fry.

Wraps, hats and scarves work well for the times you don't want to wear a wig. I've always been into hats--especially big, Kentucky Derby style hats. Baseball caps are cute too. I've stitched up a couple of hats to wear using a KWICK Sew pattern. The batik fabric I used looks pretty cool.

Adding scarves and wraps to my wardrobe has helped me deal with my hair loss. I can create so many new looks with just a couple of accessories. Scarves, in particular, are very versatile. They serve two purposes. I use them as headbands and wraps to conceal my hair loss and I wear them around my neck to hide the unevenness my tissue expanders are causing.

I have to take time to figure out what looks good on the "new" me. Hair loss has challenged me to once again rethink my self-image. The body I have lived with for 49 years has changed forever. Sometimes, I feel like a little kid playing dress-up and other times I am a total wreck. I have my last chemo treatment in late May 2012. Hopefully, my hair will grow back shortly after that.

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