Borrowed Wig Back Home

"Underhair" from

It makes me happy to send off my wigs to friends in need, but it makes me happier to get them back — not because I need a cover-up (please, let me never lose my hair again!), just because it means those once lost in cancer crises are all done covering their bald heads. Sporting their new sprouts, they box up the blond locks and return to sender.

Back to my bedroom closet goes this hair — until someone else needs it.

(Thank you, Tina, for your sweet note. I am so thrilled by your progress.)

Back to Bangs

For much of my life, and much to my dismay, I had bangs. I kept them around not because I wanted them, but because I never felt equipped to grow them out — too many funky stages on the path to all-one-length hair, so I resigned myself to the reality that I’d have them f-o-r-e-v-e-r.

Well, reality changed. I got cancer, and I got to lose all my hair. Devastating, it was, maybe even worse than the cancer itself and its treacherous treatments. There was one little silver lining, though — the bangs were gone. And the golden opportunity presented itself: I could grow my hair all over again, and I would not cut bangs — never, ever, again. And for six years, I didn’t. Until today, when I went to my hair stylist and told her, “I want bangs.”

It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was the best one. My bangs are longish, and I’ll sweep them to the side — these are not your traditional straight-across variety. I like how they frame my face, how they add some style, how they look warm and chocolate-y with some new chunky highlights, how they’ll hide the wrinkles that will inevitably appear more visible on my forehead. I like them. I just do. Which is a good thing, because, well, I still don’t think I have it in me to grow them out.

Headwear for Hair Loss: Share Your Thoughts

Bad hair day, 2005
Bad hair day, February 2005

I told you hair loss is a biggie when it comes to cancer and chemo, right?

It’s so big, in fact, that one woman (a student specializing in Apparel Product Development and Merchandising Tecnology at Central Michigan University) is studying the topic, trying to formulate the best designs for headwear in order to improve the quality of life for women whose hair is lost to chemotherapy.

And who can better communicate ideas for great cover-up solutions than women who have lost their locks?

No one.

What follows are instructions on how you can throw in your two cents on the topic of headwear for hair loss. There’s a survey (takes 10 minutes, tops, and is completely anonymous), plus a blog where you can spill the beans about what you think (also anonymous if you wish).

  • Complete an on-line anonymous survey at (This survey is designed for women who have hair loss right now or have had it in the past year.)
  • Visit the blog dedicated to this study and comment (anonymously if preferred) on headwear-related topics. The blog can be reached at women who have ever had chemotherapy-related hair loss are welcome to visit and leave feedback.)

Please participate if you can — you might just make the chemo road easier for those who must travel it after you.

Hats For You

Hats For You offers hats, caps, and scarves for those suffering hair loss due to cancer and chemotherapy, and from the looks of this online store, there are many options, which is a big thing in the chemo game.


Hair loss is a biggie. I mean, a B-I-G-G-I-E, and sometimes even worse than the cancer itself. Just look at what some readers had to say in response to my post, “Hair Loss: How Did You Handle It?”

I did not look at myself in the mirror while I had no hair unless I was wearing a hat and then only rarely. / Caroline

I so want to keep my hair. It took so long to get it where it is, it’s really screwed up to have to start over from zero. / Tracy

This too has been one of the hardest things I’ve endured during this adventure in “cancerland!” / Lisa

I still don’t know how exactly to describe how I felt about my hair loss. I told myself and anyone that asked that losing my hair was the least of my concerns and I really believed that I would be okay with it. I mean it’s just hair, and it does grow back. I had my hair cut short for the first time in my adult life 2 weeks before it was scheduled to dissappear. Someone told me that this might make the transition easier. Many compliments and thank-yous later I found myself in the shower with large clumps of hair in my hands, sobbing uncontrollably. I had a complete meltdown that morning, the first. Privately. And I so shocked myself with my reaction and the ensuing fear that my legs gave out on me in that shower. This made it real. / Liane

Yes, options are good. See what you can find at Hats For You!

Sisterhood of the Traveling Wig

Hip Hat With Hair!

I’m not sure which I like more — the hair or the hat.

But the hair, well, that’s where the story is.

That pretty blond hair is a wig. It’s mine, and because I never did find the courage to rock my bald head during chemo, I wore it every single day for months and months. It was perfect.

Made of human hair, and with a soft cotton top, my underhair was made by Hip Hats With Hair. It’s intended for use with hats, or scarves, or something that covers the top of the head, and there’s nothing itchy or scratchy about it.

That’s why Tina loves it.

I think she’s going to enjoy how easy it is to care for, too. She just needs to wash, condition, brush, comb, curl, spray — anything she’d do to the hair that once sprouted from her head.

Tina — whom I’ve come to know via a common friend — shaved her head just this week because the darn stuff was falling from her head in clumps. The wigs she’d tried were uncomfortable, and so I mailed her mine. She received it today.

Tina’s not the first person who has used this hair, my friend Carmen borrowed it, too — twice. It just sits in a box on the floor of my bedroom closet, and since I plan to never need it again, I am happy to share. Tina’s friend calls it the “Sisterhood of the Traveling Wig,” and that pretty much sums it up. Connected by cancer, we girls must stick together.

And matters of the hair take top priority.

Lisa Wins ‘You Are the Best Medicine’ Book

Lisa is the lucky winner in the “You Are the Best Medicine” book giveaway, and let me tell you — she is quite deserving! Here’s her “C” story:

Lisa and son
Lisa, 41 and fighting!

I turned 41 and knew I needed to set up my mammogram — 40 went by so fast, and I had not done it yet. (I’d had a diagnostic mammogram when I was 35 due to a milk discharge, and everything was OK.) So, I went for my mammogram and got called back in for additional views. I was not scared at all, I knew a lot of times people need extra views. So, I went back in and had those views taken, then an ultrasound, and then a biopsy. The doctor said “usually masses that look like this are not benign.” That’s when I knew I was in trouble.

Five days later, I was told I had breast cancer. Invasive ductal carcinoma, two spots, maybe three. The next day, I went to a surgeon, he told me no chemo and a lumpectomy — that is if my MRI didn’t find something different. Well, the MRI showed a shotgun effect in my left breast. There was cancer “splattered” all around my left medial breast. This means a mastectomy. Fortunately, no lymph node involvement could be seen.

The doctors could never feel the masses in my breast — even when the surgeon held the tissue in his hands, he could not feel a mass.

I had my mastectomy on August 31, 2010, and being the master of this game, my cancer tricks us all again, and there is lymph node involvement, three out of 33 lymph nodes are positive. Great, I just got a free ticket for chemo! I had my bone and CAT scan, and thank goodness, those both are negative.

I get to go in Tuesday for my port surgery. I am so scared about chemo — not the sickness, not the fatigue, but the hair loss, and I feel stupid for admitting that, but it’s what keeps me covered. My hair keeps me warm, it keeps me hidden, and now I am going to be totally open. I am also concerned that my son will have trouble with that. He has never seen me without my hair flowing down my back. But I will make it. I have to. There is no other way, because I will do anything to be able to see him grow and have children. So, chemo will start in a two to four weeks, and I will put on those boxing gloves once again because I will not let “C” win.

And now, here’s where I weigh in with a few thoughts:

First, the hair. I know. I know. I know. It’s almost worse (OK, it is worse) than the disease. Please don’t feel stupid, Lisa, for fearing the bald. We all worry. It’s totally normal, and completely expected!

Second, thank you, Julie Clark, for writing this book, and for making it possible for Lisa to win a copy. I know it will warm her heart and help her son cope.

Third, best wishes to you, Lisa, as you begin this horrible and wonderful journey. You’ll find the wonderful along the way. It just takes time!

‘You Are the Best Medicine’ Book Giveaway


You probably know Julie Aigner Clark best as the mom who launched the wildly-popular Baby Einstein empire. I know her voice was ever-present in my house during those early years with baby Joey. He was not a very happy and content boy, but Baby Mozart and Baby Bach helped infuse our crankiest days with a little joy. We liked Baby Santa’s Music Box, too, and even though Joey is now 9 years old, and his brother is 7, that Christmas DVD is still in our media cabinet. Yea, a good Spring Fall clean is in order.

Julie has accomplished more than just engaging little ones, though. She has partnered with John Walsh, host of “America’s Most Wanted” to create The Safe Side (all about kid safety), and there’s also Memory Lane (for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia). And now, what might be my very favorite is her new book, “You Are the Best Medicine.”

Julie (a two-time breast cancer survivor) wrote the book, Jana Christy illustrated it, and WOW, what a treasure for parents with cancer who want to explain the disease to their young kids in the most delicate and gentle manner.

In her book, Julie draws parallels between navigating cancer and growing up:

For a while I will have to take medicine that makes me feel bad, and this medicine will make all my hair fall out. I will look different. But I will laugh when I remember your own sweet little baby head, how round and bald it was, and how warm it was on my lips when I kissed it every day.

I like Julie’s overall message — that children can help parents feel better, just like mom and dad do for them; that cancer can be a tough; that life can return to normal; that love and kindness really are the best medicine.

I also like that 100% of the proceeds from the sale of her book go to breast cancer research, and oh, best of all, I hope to soon talk with Julie herself. Just as soon as I do, I’ll publish my interview here. If you’ve got a question you’d like me ask her, please leave it in comments!

So, do you think you want to read Julie’s book? Well, then, I recommend you get yourself a copy. But first, throw your name in the hat and try to win one for free. Right here. Right now. All you need to do:

  • Leave a comment and share why you want this book in your hands!
  • Leave your comment no later than 5PM ET on Tuesday, September 14, 2010.
  • You may enter only once.
  • Open to legal residents of the 50 United States, and the District of Columbia, who are 18 and older.
  • One winner will be selected in a random drawing. using
  • One winner will receive one book, valued at $16.99.
  • Winners will be notified by email, so make sure to check next week to find out if you’ve won!

Best wishes!

Hair Loss: How Did You Handle It?

Photo: "passamanerie", Flickr
Photo: "passamanerie", Flickr

It’s got to be one of the hardest things about cancer — hair loss! And I know my friend is hating the idea of being bald, just like most of us do, but still, she is handling it with such grace. Her technique: she cut her very long hair very short in anticipation of the big fallout. I like her approach, which is so totally different than mine.

I kept my very long hair around until the very last moment. I think I wanted so badly to not lose it, that I fought back by making not one single preparation. Silly me. The docs and nurses and every other breast cancer survivor I’d met told me it would happen, plus pretty much exactly when it would happen (about day 11-16 after the first chemo treatment), and still, I crossed my fingers tight and hoped like mad that I’d be the exception. And on the day of my second chemo dose (day 14), I wore a hat on my head to hold each hair in its place — it was starting to fall out in clumps, wash away in the shower, and it was pulling so hard on my head it hurt — when I should have accepted the inevitable and surrendered. I did surrender that night — cut off three ponytails, and handed the clippers to my husband and 4-year-old, who shaved while I cried — but only because I could no longer hold onto the hair I so desperately did not want to lose.

My friend has accepted the inevitable, and I love that about her!

How did you handle your hair loss?

Cancer Survivor Rebecca Needs Your Vote!

Vote right now! And thank you!

My new two-time-cancer-surviving friend Rebecca needs your vote. You see, she is trying to get a charity called Hair 4 You off the ground. It’s a great one, and the goal is that it will provide free wigs for kids and teens with medical hair loss. In order to make it all happen, though, Hair 4 You needs to become an official non-profit 501(3)c, which means Rebecca needs some funds.

No, she doesn’t want your money, just your vote (voting is absolutely free and requires only an email address and password).

So, can you pretty please stop by the Pepsi Refresh Challenge website and cast your vote for this 24-year-old, who would really love to win a $25,000 prize. Imagine what she could do to brighten the worlds of young people who just want to feel normal. And hey, you can vote once every day, so start now, then keep voting through June 30.

Rebecca thanks you.

I do, too.

Also, you should consider becoming a Facebook fan of Hair 4 You. This way, you’ll get updates on how Rebecca’s cause is coming along.

For the Love of Hair

Photo by Joey, 9 years old
I love my hair!

I’ve long had a love affair with hair. My mom suspected it the moment I got my first Barbie doll and started cutting away, and she was convinced by the time I owned a whole score of dolls, all with the same short styles. My intention was always to make Barbie more beautiful and stylish than ever. How she ended up looking more like Ken, I’m not sure.

I got better at my art as time went on. I mean, I knew a good pony-tail when I saw one, and that’s because I rarely saw one on my own head. My mom just never could get the hair smooth enough and perfect enough, and forget about two matching ponies — the part was forever zig-zaggy, and I always felt lop-sided, with more hair on one side than the other. This motivated me to master my craft, and I practiced on any head of hair I could get my hands on — sister, friends, sister’s friends, friends’ kids — and whenever I got to see my grandma, we practiced the French braid. It became my signature thing, and my best friend Kim always had a beautiful braid or two when she ran up and down the basketball court in high school.

When I was old enough, I enrolled in a high school Cosmetology program, and I spent my junior and senior years prepping to pass the Ohio State Board exam. And I did, which means I got my very own license to do hair. I still have it. It’s not valid in the state of Florida, and I never did keep up with continuing education or anything, and I don’t really broadcast that I have it, because I don’t want to do anyone’s hair anymore (well, except for family, and, of course, French braids for little girls). I just keep it in a drawer by my bedside — right next to my one remaining Barbie doll, whose hair I never did cut. It’s long, blond, curly and just as it should be.

My point in telling you this story: I love hair, especially my own. It’s because I spent a fair amount of time without hair that I adore it so. And on days when I sit in hair salons, looking at every strand that pours from my scalp, I realize just how important hair really is. Look at the industry built around it and the time we spend washing, conditioning, curling, straightening and coloring what we’ve got. Consider the moods that are born of bad-hair days, the celebrities whose hair we copy and the styles that will go down in history (’80s hair, the Mullet, the Mohawk my 9-year-old wants so badly).

OK, so hair is not everything, and if I had to go bald for the rest of my life to ensure I’d never, ever get cancer again, I’m pretty sure I’d do it. Still, I think you know what I mean, and that’s why I share with you my hair (above). I just got it cut today, and, well, I love it.

Wishing You Well

SuperFantastic, Flickr
SuperFantastic, Flickr

Sending out some well wishes to a few friends — Carmen, who, on her second run with breast cancer, is recovering from tram flap surgery. And Lynea, she’s navigating the murky waters that come flooding in after a new breast cancer diagnosis. Also, Stacie, sporting a newly-shaved head as she fights her way through the burden of chemotherapy. Genne, too. She is healing from a mastectomy and reconstruction, and the whole ordeal has challenged her to the core.

If you are somewhere along the path of cancer survival and would like a wish sent your way, please leave a comment and tell me what’s going on in your world.

Straight Talk on Chemo Hair

straight hair
Photo courtesy of Jordan Pfaff, almost 5 years old

I’ve never really liked the curly hair I got post-chemo. Now, it’s not as curly as when it first sprouted, but it’s definitely wavy and full, and on a humid Florida day (that would be, like, seven days a week, mostly year-round), it grows really big. Thank goodness for the flat iron, because I use my pretty pink one every. single. day. no. exceptions. (Well, except for that one day I let my locks go natural and Joey greeted me after school with an enthusiastic, “What happened to your hair?”)

OK, so I overuse my flat iron, and the crazy-hot heat is damaging my hair for sure. So realizing my strands really needed a break, I had this hair-straightening procedure done two weeks ago. Here’s how it worked: My hair stylist washed my hair and dried it, rubbed and combed in this solution, dried it again and then flat ironed it all over. For three days — OMG, three days — I could not wash my hair (ewww!), supposedly so the magic could lock itself in and straighten my hair for up to four months. And now that I’ve been washing and conditioning my hair for a bit (with special no-salt products), I’m here to tell you what I think about what cost me $150 (plus tip, plus $30-ish for products).

The Coppola Keratin Complex Smoothing Therapy seems to have some merit. It has not worked miracles, and I still have a sort-of bend in my hair, and it’s not immune to the effects of weather, but my hair is smoother and straighter now than it was pre-expensive treatment. I can blow-dry it and leave it as is, if I’m OK with a tiny bit of fluff, or I can dry it and pass through a couple of times with the flat iron — which is what I’ve been doing. My ideal scenario would have been to pack away the iron entirely, but my hair is just not as poker straight as I’d dreamed it would be, so I use it a little — much less than before, though, so that’s a good thing.

When four months is up, or whenenver the effects wear off, I’m not sure I’ll do this again. Truth be told, the no-shampooing thing was really hard, mostly because I like to exercise and sweat every day (so hair washing really is a daily necessity for me) and also because my hair got heavier and greasier by the day, and that just basically grossed me out. I guess if after three days I was rewarded with perfectly super-straight hair, I’d take the plunge and empty my wallet again, but it’s just not. It’s an improvement. Just not dead-on straight — you know, like the hair I had pre-cancer, the hair I permed non-stop because I was sure I wanted curls forever. Well, I was wrong. I don’t.

It’s a Wrap, For Free

For the most beautiful hair ornaments in the world, France Luxe is the place to shop. Headbands and barrettes are the specialty at Laurie Erickson’s store, but for those without hair, she’s got something pretty amazing, too.

Through her Good Wishes program, Erickson is donating silk headscarves to women and girls losing their locks to illness or treatment. Why? “Our goal is to provide a small bit of comfort and share the power of positive thinking and good wishes with these individuals on their path to healing and recovery,” says the company website.

Yes, you can score a scarf for free (value: $72-$94) if you are dealing with the crappy state of hair loss. Even better, you get to pick your print. Just call this number to request your fancy freebie: 888.884.3653.

Comfort From a Boy

Writer Abigail Thomas offers in her book “Thinking About Memoir” the following writing exercise: Write two pages (one post) in which a child comforts an adult.

That’s easy.

The child was Joey. The adult was me. And it happened in February, 2005, one day after I realized my hair was shedding from my scalp faster than I could say chemotherapy. It had been 13 days since my second treatment with the toxic breast cancer drugs Adriamycin and Cytoxan, and not a rubber band nor a hat could hold my wisps in place. My scalp was sore, each hair still attached to my head hung with a weight that was nearly unbearable, and it had become abundantly clear that the moment had arrived: It was time to shave my head.

“Don’t worry, mom, you’re not going to die,” announced my almost 4-year-old boy, who was taking his turn shaving away the last of my chemo-stricken hair. “It’s only a haircut,” he assured me.

Whether he knew it or not, Joey was absolutely right. It was only a haircut. I didn’t die. And while some of his comments during my years fighting breast cancer weren’t as comforting — “You look like an alien,” he revealed while visiting me in the hospital in March of that same year — this is the one that still brings tears to my eyes, because, well, it was innocent, it was real and most of all, it was damn comforting.


The child, almost 4 years old

The adult, 34 years old

This post can also be found at Braving Boys.

Look Good … Feel Better


The toughest part of my dance with breast cancer was losing my hair. Seems crazy, doesn’t it, that a tumor was living in my body, threatening to take my entire life away, and I was worried about my hair. Yea, crazy. I know that now that I’m alive, probably because the same drugs that left me bald also wiped out a treacherous disease. Still, it’s heartbreaking to lose a headful of hair. Even Farrah Fawcett, who is courageously fighting her own cancer battle, hung onto her famous hair for as long as she could, only succumbing recently to the toxic hair-stealing chemotherapy drugs.

The reality of cancer treatment is that many people will lose their hair. And lots of them, like me, will determine it a tragedy. That’s why the Look Good … Feel Better (LGFB) program exists — to help women face the challenge of a lifetime. LGFB (organized by the American Cancer Society) offers workshops to help cancer survivors feel better. I attended one, and I learned how to draw on eyebrows (yes, chemo takes those too), apply make-up on blotchy skin and cover my head with wigs and scarves. I went home with my very own cosmetic kit, matched to my skin tone, and I met a whole bunch of women walking in shoes that were much like mine. LGFB also offers one-on-one consultations, self-help materials and a 24/7 toll free information and help line — 1-800-395-LOOK.

Take advantage of LGFB if you can. And suggest it to any loved ones who might need it. And do you know of any survivors who deserve to win a trip to NYC (you, maybe)? Check out this contest. LGFB is celebrating its 20th anniversary by searching for five Women of Hope they can pamper with a complimentary make-over and a trip to the annual DreamBall, a black-tie gala and the program’s largest annual fundraiser.

By the way, that’s Nancy up top. She’s a LGFB participant. Doesn’t she look good?



I haven’t been watching much of “Grey’s Anatomy” lately, but I do know that Katerine Hiegl’s character Izzie Stevens has cancer, so when I caught tonight’s episode, I was somewhat prepared for the storyline. What I wasn’t prepared for was my reaction to the end of the show, when Izzie pulls fistfuls of hair from her head.

She cried.

I cried.

I cried big, sobbing tears, because even though I am almost five years removed from that same helpless, hopeless feeling, it was still there, right in the pit of my stomach, waiting to be called up.

My cancer memories are vivid. Every one of them. But nothing is as vivid as the feeling that suffocated me the day my hair started falling out, when it washed from my head in the shower and gathered in the drain, and wound around my brush, and then covered my pillowcase when I woke up the next morning.

“That was the worst,” I told my husband as “Grey’s Anatomy” ended tonight and Izzie sat in a hospital bed with a completely bald head. “You survived it,” John said. Yes, I did. But I’ll never forget it.

Pink for the Sink

41jy4ciww7l_sl500_aa280_Every time I look down into my kitchen sink, I see this breast cancer strainer drain. A mommy friend gave it to me, way back when I was knee deep in chemotherapy, not a hair on my head. This momma was one of many who dropped by meals for me and my boys, and along with the food she delivered on her assigned night, she brought me this.

If you’re looking for a simple, yet meaningful and not-so-expensive gift for someone touched by breast cancer, this just might fit the bill. Click right here to purchase your very own.

Photo by:

What Breast Cancer Looks Like – Kara


The first time they accessed my port for chemo. My chest is pretty flat because they haven’t filled my expanders with saline yet.


My sister cutting my hair. This was soooooo hard. My boys were watching. Very emotional time for me.


The finished shave. It felt really weird.


A big hug from 3 of my boys. They were very supportive, even though it was very traumatic for them, having to watch my head being shaved.


Post chemo. You can see that I’ve lost most of my eyebrows and lashes. My face is a little puffy from the steroids they put me on during chemo. This was a good day – I was waiting at the airport for my son to get off the plane – he was returning after 2 years on an LDS mission in Japan.

Want to show me what you think breast cancer looks like? Please send me a photo that captures the essence of breast cancer, and I will display it here. Email to, make sure your shot is at least 450 pixels wide and tell me something about the photo. No blurry pics, please.

What Breast Cancer Looks Like – Lisa and her Mom, MaryJoe

Lisa says, “My mom is on her second fight with breast cancer. She was diagnosed this last time near Mother’s Day and I was getting married in September.  Last June she had a bilateral mastectomy, then 18 weeks of chemo, and then 30 treatments of radiation. During her first appointment with the oncologist she told her doctors to do what they needed to do, but she was going to my wedding (in Vegas) in September. I offered to change the wedding and she didn’t want me to do that. It was right in the middle of her chemo and she said it was a goal she set in her mind to get to that point. She went and got her chemo treatment that morning before we jumped in the car to go. She had all her instructions and whatnot in case she needed to go to a hospital out of town. Nothing was going to stop her … through out everything she kept the most positive attitude. She is amazing.

My day was so wonderful and special. I married a fabulous guy, but also a lot of that was b/c my mom was able to be there.  She is the rock in my family and I was so blessed that she was able to attend.”

Want to show me what you think breast cancer looks like? Please send me a photo that captures the essence of breast cancer, and I will display it here. Email to, make sure your shot is at least 450 pixels wide and tell me something about the photo. No blurry pics, please.