A Tough Aspect of Cancer Treatment
- TV star Sarah Beeny, 50, is opening about the tough time she is going through after starting treatment for breast cancer.
- Not only is she struggling with chemotherapy-related hair loss, but her mother died from the disease 40 years ago when she was just 10 years old, which is far more triggering emotionally.
- For many people going through cancer treatment, changes to the physical appearance—like chemo-related hair loss—are a huge emotional burden. It can be difficult to adjust when you’re struggling to feel like yourself because you don’t look like yourself.
- Just know that there are many other women out there going through the same experience, and you may benefit from a cancer support group.
Not only is she struggling with chemotherapy-related hair loss, but her mother died from the disease 40 years ago when she was just 10 years old, which is far more triggering emotionally.Read More
After losing most of her hair just 24 hours after starting treatment, The Property Ladder host, who lives in Somerset, England, took matters into her own hands and shaved her entire head, a rite of passage that many cancer warriors choose to have some control over the disease, because it can feel more empowering.
The mom-of-four had her entire family standing by her side to help her shave off the rest of her lucks, the ultimate act of solidarity from loved ones showing support.
On her Instagram page, the real estate expert voiced how difficult this was for her.
“Sort of much harder that I expected it to be when it happened— in 24 hrs most hair fell out and I’ve shaved the rest off—onward and upward! X”
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Sarah’s fans immediately swooped in to brighten her spirits.
“Sending all my love and light,” one follower wrote, adding heart emojis.
“You can fight this Sarah, if anyone can, you can.”
“Sending you lots of love and hugs,” commented a second fan, while a third simply stated, “You got this,” adding a muscle and heart emoji.
Sarah’s Breast Cancer Battle
Sarah announced her breast cancer news last month after finding a lump in her breast and going to get checked.
When she completes her chemotherapy, she will undergo a mastectomy, followed by radiation when she is healed.
Sarah says her husband, actor Graham Swift—who is also father to their four kids—was a bit more delicate than their brood of boys, which consists of Billy, 18, Charlie, 16, Rafferty, 14, and Laurie, age 12.
“Graham was trying to cut it nicely, but the boys — well, they’re not going to be famous hairdressers. They said I looked like Cersei Lannister from Game of Thrones.”
“I mean, she’s beautiful so I was sort of flattered,” she said of the uplifting comment, “but my hair is about a centimetre long in some places and an inch long in others.”
Turning a corner, once Sarah got over the initial devastation of her hair loss, she started having some fun with wigs, and shared one of her new looks on Instagram. “New day new wig – this might be more fun than I expected…!!!” she captioned a pic of her in a bob with soft waves.
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The Psychological Aspect of Cancer-Related Hair Loss
For many people going through cancer treatment, changes to the physical appearance — like hair loss associated with chemotherapy — are a huge emotional burden. It can be difficult to adjust when you’re struggling to feel like yourself because you don’t look like yourself.
“For cancer patients losing one’s hair can be unbelievably stressful. To start with, the dread of losing one’s hair can lead to some sleepless nights and feelings of anxiety,” Dr. Samantha Boardman, a New York-based psychiatrist and author, told SurvivorNet.
To cope, Dr. Boardman suggested reaching out to other survivors who have been through a similar situation — if you feel comfortable doing so.
“Talk to people who have been through it, get their advice, voice your concerns to your caregiver and see what they can do,” Dr. Boardman added. She stressed that anxiety over hair loss doesn’t just affect women, as men going through cancer often struggle with it as well.
For those who can’t stand the idea of being seen without their hair, there are plenty of options available, such as wigs, head wraps, and hats. Some survivors have even created products specifically for people with cancer so they can feel comfortable in their own skin.
Dr. Boardman also noted that some people may not feel comfortable talking about hair loss, and that’s OK, too.
“To encourage them to bring that up, to encourage them to talk about it, I think can be very helpful,” she said. “But also, for patients it might be something that they don’t talk about. [And they should] feel good and strong about saying, ‘This is something that I don’t feel like discussing right now, and I’ll let you know when I do.’”
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
- Is it likely that I will lose my hair due to treatment?
- Is there anything I can do to reduce these side effects?
- What can I do to reduce anxiety I am feeling over hair loss?
- Are there any products you recommend?
Depending on your doctor or facility, you may or not be informed of a hair-loss prevention option called scalp-cooling.
These devices were approved by the FDA in recent years, first in breast cancer and then in a number of other cancers.
Dr. Julia Nangia, a medical oncologist at Baylor College of Medicine and a lead author on one of the major studies of the device, says 50 percent of women were able to keep their hair after four rounds of chemotherapy, and added “without the devices, 100 percent of patients lost their hair.”
There has been some question of safety when it comes to scalp-cooling, but Dr. Nangia says that when given to people who have solid tumors (like in breast, ovarian, colon, and lung cancer) the devices are safe.