The Incredible Three-Day Hair Shower
It was nearly eight years ago that I learned I would probably lose my hair to the chemotherapy regime being prescribed then. I contacted someone I knew had lost their hair before to therapy and asked what I could expect.
"It falls out over a course of a couple days about three weeks after you start," he told me. Boy, was he right. That is EXACTLY what happened. I still remember what an incredible and strange experience it was
Since then, I've been blessed to not go completely bald all at once; my hair has fallen out so slowly that I usually have SOME growing. Not so this fourth time!
When I woke up on Sunday and jumped in the shower, I noticed a larger-than-normal amount of hair coming off my head and sticking to my hands as I was trying to shampoo. Uh-oh! I know what that means! The incredible three-day hair shower has begun. I quickly grabbed my trusty losing-my-hair drain cover to spare our pipes from what I knew was coming.
Honestly, having it start to fall out is a RELIEF, because the radiation already killed those hair roots after the very first dose. Since then, I have felt every single one of those zapped hair roots as they have itched, stung, prickled, and felt like red ants biting my scalp since radiation began last month. And my hair doesn't even LOOK good; the radiation has destroyed it. The only purpose it is serving me right now is as SOME warmth for my head.
Still, I shampooed gently with the recommended baby shampoo, not rubbing and trying to let the hairs fall out as "naturally" as I could. I stepped out of the shower and surveyed the damage:
When I told the others the hair shower had begun, they weren't quite so sure. "It still looks okay," they told me as they surveyed my head. Yeah, that's just 'cause there are A LOT of hairs on my head! And I do have a ways to go before they are all out. Like I said, it's an incredible three-day hair shower.
So Sunday night, my head was itchy and prickling and I tossed and turned from it. Monday morning, I repeated my shower and gentle baby shampoo rinse:
Surveying the damage afterward, the accumulation from Sunday's and Monday's showers was starting to look more significant:
Did I mention Sunday night was kinda miserable, with all those itching, prickling, stinging, hair roots? Well, that was NOTHING compared to Monday evening and night. Everywhere I went, hair plopped behind me in CHUNKS. Everytime I bent over the computer keyboard, hair plopped into the cracks. Everytime I went to take a bite of food, hair fell onto my plate. Laying my head on the pillow to sleep was impossible for all the ITCHING. I had hair down my back, itching me. I had hair in my eyelashes, poking my still-sensitive (sunblind) eyes. When I slept, hair got sucked into my nose and fell into my mouth. HAIR EVERYWHERE. Ugh.
Tuesday morning, and the next shower. By now, if I didn't know better, I'd have thought somebody had punked me during the night with a bottle of Nair or something... hair was beginning to come out in HANDFULS.
Now, the hair thinning/loss was much more obvious. AND...I could feel a kind of reverse "V" where my scalp was bare going up the back of my head, making it easy to know where the beams of radiation are being concentrated the most. I opted to wear a hat to hide the mess.
But by the time I got home from Tuesday's radiation, I'd had more than enough of this awful stuff posing as hair on my head. It just wasn't worth it. I told everyone I was heading back to the shower, and this time I grabbed the shampoo and SCRUBBED my head.
The hair continued to come out, clump by clump, as I gently rubbed my scalp and repeatedly rinsed it with a blast from the sprayer. If it hadn't started on Sunday, I would've SWORN someone had punked me with a bottle of Nair, it was that DRAMATIC. By the time I stepped from the shower, I had only a few wispy long hairs standing straight out, making me look like the old toy character you magnetically "put hair on" from the days of my youth.
We got the clippers out and trimmed the few remaining strands down to a more reasonable length (astroturf). Then I returned to the bathroom to survey the final damage:
When I went for radiation on Wednesday, the tech stared at my bald head.
"I just saw you Monday, and you weren't bald!" she said.
"Oh, I washed the rest of it off yesterday," I told her.
"You can do that?" she asked.
"Just like someone put a bottle of Nair on it."
And that my friends is the Incredible Three-Day Hair Shower. Fortunately, most radiation oncology patients do NOT get whole-brain radiation, and thus do NOT experience this phenomenon. And many of today's chemotherapies are much gentler and do not elicit this result. But if you DO find yourself facing it, all I can say is just keep showering till the itching stops!