When will I be bald?

Hi! I was just diagnosed with ILC. I'm getting a double mastectomy with reconstruction on Feb 2. After that I do chemo (Mar-Jun) and then radiation (Jul-Aug). I'm a knitter and I wanted to knit a couple of hats...but I wasn't sure when I'd be without hair. Is it during chemo? radiation? both? Any tips on which hats work best? Thanks! Trying to stay positive.

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  • I started loosing my hair in large chunks about 2weeks after my first round of chemo. I shaved my head to above the piles of hair everywhere. shaving my head made me feel like i had control over something. I am 6months out of a stem cell transplant, and chemo. My hair is growing like crazy! While i was bald, since it was summer i wore a lot silk bandanas they were super comfortable. Before my hair started to grow long enough to keep my head warm, at the beginning out the winter i wore a lot of fleece hats because they were warm and comfortable on my head.
  • Silk!

    Thanks for the tip about the silk...I think that might be a good option for me in the summer.
  • I've been through 3 chemo regimens, and the hair loss varied a lot for each one. Ask your doctor when he or she typically sees hair loss start for your treatment regimen. Mine were on the money every time, but then they couldn't predict how quickly it would go from there.

    During the hardest regimen (pre- stem cell transplant), my eyebrows literally fell off overnight.

    During the easiest regimen, only about half my hair fell out over the course of the 16 week treatment, and my brows and lashes stuck it out mostly intact. I lasted almost 10 weeks before I moved into a hat full time. Interestingly, it came out in cycles that corresponded with my chemo, and you could actually see when I had each chemo on individual hairs because the thickness changed. It was like tree rings.

    If you don't want to do the big shave right away, there's lots you can do to make your hair last its longest. Get a short bob or pixie cut. Since it's easier to tangle and snag longer hair, I think my short cut prevented the dead but lingering hairs from being pulled out. I also usually wash my hair every other day, but I slowed down to twice a week with dry shampoo in between.

    If you would prefer to just shave it all off, it's a little harder to do than it would seem. With a good electric razor, I had trouble getting certain areas of my head because I just couldn't get the right angle on it. If I had a do-over, I would have probably made an appointment to have a stylist shave it off.

    I agree with bri0318 -- scarves are much more comfortable in the summer. Buy several because on hot days they get pretty sweaty and you'll want to wash them after each wear.

    If your hair is still pretty sparse when fall and winter come around, I'd suggest sewing a fabric liner into your hats. It feels nice on your head, yes, but more importantly, you'll notice that not having hair makes your hats fit much differently. Adding some fabric bulk to the inside imitates the bulk your hair would add and makes the hat fit a little more naturally.
  • It will probably vary depending on what chemo drugs you are on. I did 4 rounds of A/C followed by 4 rounds of Taxotere. My onc said my hair would likely start falling out around 2 weeks after the first A/C and she was exactly right. I had planned on dying my hair some crazy colors before it really started falling out but it came out in bigger clumps than expected so instead I spray dyed it pink my last night out with co-workers and then had a head shaving party with friends where I let them do whatever crazy thing they wanted to my hair (mohawks, shaved my initial in my head, glitter and mousse and more spray dye) before they shaved it completely. It made the whole thing much more fun and like I was in control and I really didn't feel bad about being bald at all - it felt kind of liberating and rebellious.
    I bought a crazy number of hats and scarves and bandanas. I shaved my head last June so it was hot no matter what I wore on my head. I didn't wear any cancer specific head coverings and I think my favorite hat was a straw fedora (they were sold everywhere last summer) because it was light and breathed well. I learned how to tie scarves through Youtube videos. I lost most of my body hair but my eyelashes and eyebrows didn't fall out until I started the Taxotere and they fell out slowly and although I finished in October my lashes are not quite back to normal length and thickness and my brows are still thinner than they were. Oh, and knit hats are great when it is cool (which depending on where you live March and April may still warrant some warmth). I also got cold during my infusions so even when it was sweltering outside I would wear a hat or beanie during treatment. Good luck!

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