Should I Let My Children See Me Bald?

Question: Should I let my children see me bald?

Answer: It's really scary the first time you look in the mirror and see yourself bald, so you can imagine the reaction of other people around you -- especially kids. For young children, they're usually kind of mesmerized by seeing mommy without any hair. Teenagers though, genuinely will be shocked, because that's an element of looking at you and realizing Mom genuinely is sick; she does have something that is seriously wrong and is life-threatening. And baldness, I think, for society, for people undergoing chemotherapy, it has become a symbol of cancer.

I think it's perfectly fine for your family to see you bald. The effort you would have to go through to continue to hide from them -- what would be three to four months of baldness -- is not worth its effort. You may even want to have a little party in the process of getting bald. I encourage women to cut their hair very short and not have their hair long when it starts to fall out.

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Something that has been a fun project and women have actually taken photographs -- I've known several patients who have videotaped this -- is to have a hair removal party, which their children participate in. They sit in a chair in the kitchen with a towel around their neck; their hair's already been clipped very short. And your husband, or significant sweetie -- possibly even your mother or your sister -- is going to shave your head bald so that your kids can see that this is something they expect, something you expect, and that you're trying to make light of it as best that you can. Don't be upset if they make bald jokes about it; that's part of their way of dealing with this disease too -- to try to find laughter within them. And, you can also ask them to help you select a wig. That would be a good thing and a good project for them to go with you. In selecting the style you may even decide to try on different ones in front of them -- ones you would never plan to bring home -- that are different shades, different lengths. You may want to look like Dolly Parton for five minutes -- which would very much give them pleasure and hopefully also you. So don't hide what's happening to you, because it's also happening to them. And you can make them feel comfortable by demonstrating that you, too, are comfortable with your baldness.

Next: How can I help my family cope with my breast cancer?

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