Celebrating Milestones in Remission
- Hollywood reporter Amanda Salas was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in June 2019. But now she’s celebrating almost 21 months in remission and the regrowth of her hair.
- Chemotherapy often causes hair loss which typically begins about three to four weeks after beginning chemotherapy and continues throughout treatment. Woman can expect regrowth around four to six weeks after they complete treatment, but changes to hair color and texture can occur as it grows back.
- Experts tell SurvivorNet that grieving over a cancer diagnosis often represents the end of them being a “healthy person.” They encourage embracing those emotions because it can help them get through tough steps along the way such as hair loss.
Salas, 35, underwent six rounds of 24-hour chemotherapy five days a week for treatment. Thankfully, the FOX LA reporter is doing well now and recently announced on Instagram she is almost 21 months in remission.
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“Just another MANE-ic Monday,” Salas wrote under a photo of her rocking some lovely curls.
And while the increasing length of her remission is probably the main cause for her smile, Salas was also delighted to point out the progress of her hair since treatment.
“*19 months of hair growth / *1,267 hair products / Countless blessings,” she added in her caption.
And this is not the first time Salas has posted about the effects of her cancer journey on her hair. In another post, she a photo of her in 2019 when she had lost her hair next to a photo of her currently. Under the post, she explained that some days with cancer are harder than others – both physically and emotionally.
“I won’t sit here and tell you ‘you got this’ or ‘it gets better’ …I’ll show you. I’ll share with you,” Salas wrote. “Sometimes you are going to complain about being bald and the awkward stages while growing it back….but one thing is for sure: no one understands what YOU are going through like another survivor. Find your people. Find your support. Share YOUR story…whenever you’re ready. It could help someone else.”
Understanding Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
Lymphoma, in general, is a cancer of the immune system that begins in the white blood cells called lymphocytes. There are more than 40 different types, with Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma being the main two sub-categories. The type of white blood cells linked to the disease determines the distinction. If doctors are unable to detect the Reed-Sternberg cell – a giant cell derived from B lymphocytes – then it is categorized as non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Currently, there’s no screening test for lymphoma, so being aware of risk is important. Being exposed to certain viruses, having another autoimmune disease or having a family history of the cancer can put you at a higher risk for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It’s also important to look out for potential symptoms of the disease which include swollen glands, fever, night sweats, weight loss and fatigue.
Hair Loss during Cancer Treatment
Many chemotherapies can cause hair loss or thinning, just like Salas’ did, and this can be an incredibly distressing side effect for some. It’s important to speak with your doctor about any personal issues that may be caused by treatment side effects including the loss or thinning of your hair. To help patients cope with hair loss, a doctor or nurse may be able to recommend a local wig-maker or other resources that can help slow down the process.
Hair loss typically begins about three to four weeks after a woman begins chemotherapy and continues throughout treatment. Woman can expect regrowth around four to six weeks after they complete treatment, but some patients may experience some changes to hair color and texture when it begins growing back. Keep in mind that the hair loss associated with chemo is temporary – just look at Salas’ lovely ‘do!
Prioritizing your mental health and doing whatever will make you the happiest is of the utmost importance when undergoing cancer treatment. And whether you decide to rock a bald head or go out with a fun wig, there are no right or wrong answers.
Take San Jose resident Teri Chow, for example. Chow was 44 years old when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She knew she would lose her hair during chemotherapy, and she even tried to prepare her family for the change by cutting her long locks into a short bob. In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, she explained the process and how she decided to cope with the side effect.
“I think it was shortly after the second round of chemo, so that would’ve been about four weeks after starting chemo, [my hair] started to fall out,” Chow says. “It was coming out in the shower [and] it was coming out just combing [my] hair.”
Some women choose to shave their heads right away so they don’t have to watch their hair fall out, but Chow decided to start wearing a wig immediately. She even looks back on that time in her life with some humor. Se would often laugh because many people didn’t even realize she was wearing a wig.
“The other moms at the school didn’t realized that I was going through this, and they’d compliment me on the wig and not knowing it was wig,” Chow laughs. “I made the mistake to somebody I thought knew. I went, ‘Oh, thank you,’ And I moved the wig forward and she freaked out [and I was] like, ‘Sorry, sorry, I thought you knew!’”
Then when her hair eventually started to grow back, Chow decided to switch things up and ditch the wig. She visited a hair dresser who transformed her short, curly, gray locks into a whole new look with a straightener and some dye.
And while Chow may have handled the hair loss journey with a bit more laughter than some, it’s important to know that everyone’s experience is individual. Feeling upset over losing your hair is very common and a completely warranted emotion.
Experts tell SurvivorNet that grieving over a cancer diagnosis often represents the end of them being a “healthy person.” They encourage patients to feel through those emotions because the grief can be a crucial step to accepting the new normal and being able to push through treatment. After grieving the initial shock of hair loss, it might be easier to accept and find some positivity from there.
“I help patients acknowledge their grief so they can move on. I think the more we try to push [those feelings] away and say, ‘Oh, it doesn’t matter,’ it tends to stick around a little longer,” says Laurie Ostacher, a medical social worker at Sutter Bay Medical Foundation in the Bay Area. “If [a woman] seems like she’s having trouble moving on, we explore [that too].”