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Normalizing feelings tied to cancer-related hair loss | News

Cancer analysis and therapy can change virtually each facet of somebody’s life, together with monetary, relational, and private issues. Experiencing hair loss that typically comes with therapy provides to the record of adjustments sufferers should address, eliciting varied reactions and methods to manage.

Mental well being clinicians at Loma Linda University’s Cancer Center and Behavioral Medicine Center (BMC) MEND Program are specialists in serving to sufferers navigate the affect of hair loss and the way assist techniques can play a task in accompanying sufferers by way of the journey.

Normalizing the grief that comes with hair loss is one thing I want I noticed extra usually.Ashley Park

Hair loss might affect individuals’s self-image and sense of id, says Ashley Park, DMFT, AMFT, a scientific therapist on the BMC who works with sufferers going through power sickness by way of the MEND program.

“‘I don’t know who I am when I look in the mirror’ is something I’ve heard from patients before, or ‘I used to have long, flowy hair but now look at it,’” Park says.

Physical look performs a task within the development of 1’s self-identity, Park says, so undesirable adjustments in that look can shake up the best way somebody views themselves and their vanity.

Loss of hair additionally removes the choice of retaining privateness round a affected person’s sickness that they could have wished to protect, Park says. Because hair loss is commonly noticeable, sufferers lose the selection of whether or not or to not disclose their well being standing to household, pals, and strangers.

“Patients have told me, ‘I can cover it up, but people look. I can wear a wig, but people will know.’” Park says. “They feel like even with a wig, hat, or scarf, people know they have cancer even when it’s not their choice to share that.”

Many are simply craving for normalcy.Gina Morales

Moreover, sufferers might really feel like shedding their hair is a continuing reminder of the illness, says Gina Morales, LCSW, a scientific social employee at LLU Cancer Center.

“Everything about illness and cancer is adjusting to a new life, routine, and expectations,” Morales says. “Many are just yearning for normalcy. But, because hair loss is visible, it can feel like another reminder that things aren’t the normal they once knew.”

Often, sufferers’ assist techniques have good intentions when supporting family members going by way of hair loss, however Morales says the outcomes of their actions or phrases might negatively affect the individual they’re making an attempt to assist.

Members of a affected person’s assist system might provide phrases of encouragement, Morales says, akin to: “You’re a fighter,” “you got this,” “your hair will grow back,” “you’ll get better,” or “it’s just temporary.” But she says one of these phrasing tends to come back off as dismissive and invalidating to individuals experiencing hair loss, putting strain to behave positively when their actuality is complicated, fixed, and emotional.

Just sitting with somebody and assuring them ‘It’s okay to really feel what you’re feeling’ could make a world of distinction.Ashley Park

Consequentially, one of many most important elements of care that Park and Morales present sufferers with most cancers experiencing hair loss is normalizing their feelings. They encourage sufferers’ assist techniques to supply this type of assist too.

“It’s important to listen and see someone for who they are and whatever it is they’re feeling as they move through their hair loss experience,” Park says. “We can let them know that it’s okay to feel emotions like sadness, anger, grief, and loss.”

Even if the most cancers therapy is over, Park says sufferers’ hair might develop again in another way; this may occasionally current one other section of adjustment for survivors to face. However, assist techniques can proceed to assist their family members by way of this, too, she says.

For sufferers with most cancers experiencing hair loss, speaking to somebody outdoors of the familial assist system or good friend group can even show useful and provide extra protected area, Park and Morales say.

“Normalizing the grief that comes with hair loss is something I wish I saw more often than toxic positivity, which isn’t helpful to someone experiencing the hair loss first-hand,” Park says. “People may not know what to say or how to say it, but just sitting with someone and assuring them ‘It’s okay to feel what you feel’ can make a world of difference.”

Read: Loma Linda University Health’s integrative most cancers, behavioral, psychological well being providers allow whole-person care

To assist sufferers navigate these challenges, Loma Linda University Cancer Center works with the Behavioral Medicine Center MEND Program to offer people with most cancers customized, whole-person care by way of integrative psychological and behavioral well being providers. To study extra about the entire assets supplied to most cancers sufferers on the middle, go to or name 1-800-782-2623.

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