It can be upsetting a disconcerting to both cancer patients and those who love them when hair loss results as a side effect of treatment. Of course, if someone you love has cancer, the last thing you want to do is distress them with your response to their loss of hair. In this article, we will discuss ways you can extend support and respond to hair loss caused by cancer treatments in a friend or loved one.
First of all, allow the person you love to take control of the situation by bringing up the subject first. Don’t press the issue or railroad your friend or loved one into finding a solution for a problem unless he or she expresses concern about the problem. Be helpful, empathetic and matter of fact in your assistance. Excessive sympathy can be very debilitating.
Remember that hair is important. Never trivialize your friend or relative’s loss of hair by comparing its seriousness to the seriousness of the illness. Focusing on loss of hair as a point of distress may actually be a good thing because there are many things that can be done to alleviate the problem. If your friend or loved one is distressed and feels helpless, take the opportunity to provide empowerment by helping find a solution to this problem.
If your loved one is distressed by hair loss, begin by exploring alternatives. Many people like to wear wigs, and that is certainly a viable alternative. You could peruse wig catalogs and visit wig shops together to choose styles and colors. You could help fill out insurance company paperwork to get assistance with the wig purchase, and you could chip in yourself to help get a very high quality and attractive wig.
Help your friend explore alternative head coverings. Even the very best wig can get awfully tiresome after a while. Some people coping with cancer actually prefer lighter weight and more creative alternatives such as henna tattoos, beautiful scarves, interesting hats and so on. Many cancer survivors wear their bald heads as a proud badge of courage. Be open to exploration and suggestions, and don’t judge your loved one’s choices. Just be supportive.
Never brush off the importance of your friend’s feelings of sorrow around hair loss. It is unlikely that he or she will become accustomed to being without hair. Telling the person that hair loss is an indication that treatment is going well may be true, but it is also insensitive.
Don’t touch wigs or head coverings unless you would have touched that person’s hair or head covering before. A cancer survivor’s head covering is not a curiosity or a novelty. By the same token, avoiding touching your friend after cancer when you were perfectly comfortable doing so before cancer could cause a tremendous feeling of loss.
No matter how itchy your dandruff is or how dry your hair is, don’t complain about it! This is simply insensitive. Your friend will feel put-upon and discouraged by your apparent expectation of sympathy for your hair problems when those problems are bound to be pretty trivial by comparison. Conversely, don’t avoid talking about any problems at all with your friend or loved one. Remember that being able to listen and help is an important part of being a friend, even for people who are coping with cancer. Don’t invalidate your friend with over-protection.
When you take care to empower your loved one who is struggling with cancer by letting him or her take the lead in the discussion of hair loss, you are off to a good start as a supportive and helpful friend. By being present, helpful, nonjudgmental and inclusive, you will help your friend to cope with hair loss caused by cancer treatment.