October is the month of Halloween, Columbus Day, pumpkin pie, and basically the start of Fall, but what’s more important than all of that combined? Breast Cancer Awareness! October is when we celebrate and raise awareness for the heroic women that have had breast cancer. You’ve probably seen those little pink ribbons everywhere this month, and wonder why. They’re used to create exposure and empowerment for those who have struggled with the disease and/or for those who have survived it. As you may already know, here at EVVEMI, we’re all about empowerment. We want EVERYBODY to feel beautiful and confident, and as a breast cancer patient or survivor, that shouldn’t be any different. These women deserve to feel amazing.
How Does It Feel?
Discovering that you have breast cancer is a scary feeling. You feel anxious, depressed, and overwhelmed by all sorts of emotions. Thoughts run through your head – your family, friends, how you’ll combat this, and your hair. More than likely, as a breast cancer patient, you’ll lose your hair through chemotherapy treatments. This is one of the most traumatic experiences about going through chemo, as you lose your sense of self with each strand or clump of hair you see fall to the ground.
During chemotherapy, hair follicles are killed with the cancer cells that the treatment is targeting. This results in the gradual loss of hair over treatments. Depending on the type of chemotherapy treatment used, hair on the head will be lost, and even eyebrows, eyelashes, and other body hair as well.
As women, hair is often used as a self-identifier. With the loss of hair, these women feel vulnerable and scared – it’s distressing for them. During chemo, the loss of hair is not slow. As mentioned before, it happens over the course of a few treatments, but the thinning and loss of hair comes out in clusters. During showers, it’s frightening to see bunches of hair fall to the drain. They can’t brush their hair without losing a chunk of it. This is what causes the trauma for these women. Seeing a long time part of their identity fall away without much warning is taxing on anyone.
When a woman loses her hair, she no longer feels like herself. Her family doesn’t see her as the person she was, and it’s pretty upsetting. It can be a terrifying thought to these women that their children may be afraid of them, and that they’ll only be a shell of what they once were while on the treatments.
Beating the Loss
Women who are diagnosed with breast cancer often know that hair loss is a common side effect. Some of these women choose to shave their heads before even starting chemo in order to avoid the obvious changes that cancer imposes. This can make the experience of hair loss less traumatic since there is less hair to be lost.
Cold caps is also an option. It’s a device that can be worn on the head before, during, or after chemotherapy that can help maintain the hair on the head. How does it work? The cold temperatures cool the head, constricting the blood vessels, thus preventing the chemo treatment from reaching the scalp. They can be costly, especially since they are not covered by insurance, but testimonials from women who have used the device have claimed that it helped them keep most of their hair. While the cold caps were definitely a pain sometimes (literally), they retained a woman’s sense of self.
Even with hair loss, however, styling the lack of hair could be something these women could do to maintain control over an aspect of their cancer. Scarves, wigs, and even jewelry can be used to keep a woman’s individuality and confidence. Their sense of style can shine through using these methods, and slowly, as they progress through their treatments, their hair will grow back.
Unfortunately, however, not all wigs are completely covered by insurance. When the physician writes a prescription for a wig, some insurance companies cover the cost fully, but some only cover the cost partially. The EVVEMI team is pretty unhappy about this. Why are they only covered partially? We believe the wigs should be fully covered across all insurance providers. Instead of being greedy, the companies should be compassionate. These insurance companies should recognize that the loss of hair is psychologically impairing for these women. Covering only the partial cost of a wig is alarming, especially when patients don’t have a choice in the matter.
If wigs could be fully covered across all insurance platforms, even the cold caps, then these women would have another means in which they would feel beautiful. Shouldn’t that be a thing? Shouldn’t these women be able to live a life that’s normalized? Yes. Of course they should. They have the support of family and friends to make it through, but with willpower and the ability to feel confident and beautiful, nothing can stop them from beating cancer.
This is the message that EVVEMI tries to instill into each and every person. Whether they are gay, straight, transexual, and even a cancer patient – everyone deserves to feel like the most stunning version of his or herself. It’s something that no one else can take away from them.