Shedding your ‘identity’: Women discuss hair loss as a result of cancer treatmentAs a breast cancer patient, Deb Peterson of Devils Lake lost her hair three weeks after beginning chemotherapy.
By: Pamela Knudson, Grand Forks Herald
As a breast cancer patient, Deb Peterson of Devils Lake lost her hair three weeks after beginning chemotherapy.
“That was the worst part,” she said. “It’s defacing when you have to shave your head.”
She and her sister Donna Wolf, Devils Lake, who also battled breast cancer, both say losing one’s hair was “the hardest time” in their ordeal with the disease.
“You always have your hair, from the day you’re born,” Peterson said. “It’s part of your identity.”
Their mother, Joyce Mikkelsen, taught them to always fix their hair and have make-up on “before you walk out the door,” she said.
After losing their hair during cancer treatment, the sisters donned baseball caps and fashion hats but wigs were another matter.
When Peterson wore wigs “my head would get hot, sweaty and itchy,” she said. She decided against wearing them.
“I didn’t care how other people reacted,” she said. “I cared how my kids would react. They were fine with it.”
She and her sister turned it into a positive.
“It almost was kind of fun. We were always hat-shopping,” she said. And a co-worker gave her a NASCAR cap.
“That makes it tolerable,” she said.
Eventually, Peterson’s hair grew back the same as before.
Wolf, however, had a new look when her hair came back in a different color and soft curls.
“I went from blond to gray and curly.”
One high-profile cancer patient, “Good Morning America” co-anchor Robin Roberts, surprised and inspired viewers when she ditched her wig on-air in April 2010.
“I am not my hair,” she said at the time, almost three years into her breast cancer treatment. “I am the soul that lies within, and that’s it. No more wig. That’s it.”
Her bravery was moving, and her words even more so.
Founder of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization, Nancy Brinker offered some reflection for anyone going through cancer treatment.
“Try to learn from the experience. I think so often fear gets in the way from allowing one to use that experience to grow. Let go of the fear.”
Heidi Stevens, Chicago Tribune, contributed to this article. Call Knudson at (701) 780-1107; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1107; or send e-mail to email@example.com.