Robin Roberts Talks About Losing Hair to Chemo

The GMA anchor appears without a wig in this week's People magazine.

ByABC News via logo
November 15, 2007, 8:59 AM

Nov. 15, 2007 — -- When I first spoke about my breast cancer, I said that when it was time to continue the conversation and when it warrants that I'd do it here with you, my "Good Morning America" family.

There are millions of Americans battling cancer, and for so many when you're first diagnosed, one of your first thoughts is about the side effects of the treatment. And one that comes to mind instantly, one of the most visible is loss of hair.

I am no stranger to that side effect of losing your hair. And this morning, I wanted to share what that felt like and looked like for me.

For so many of us there is no avoiding examining our image, and often we don't like what we see.

As my ABC colleague Cokie Roberts shared during a round-table discussion of breast cancer survivors, "I felt first going on the air in a wig that I looked really goofy, and Election Night 2002 it was my best wig. It was the human-hair wig not the synthetic wig, and I thought it just looked awful."

Hair often helps define a sense of self, a sense of identity, so much so it can even interfere with treatment as some women who have battled cancer shared with me.

"You would be surprised how many women opt not to do anything about their breast cancer because of losing their hair," said breast cancer survivor Donna Lindsay.

Three days after hosting a round table of cancer survivors on "GMA" and 17 days from when I started chemotherapy, my hair began to start falling out, simply by touching it.

Emotionally, it was devastating and draining. And as so many who have traveled this path before me had encouraged, as hard as it was, I knew what I had to do. I shaved it all off.

You know everyone tells you to shave your head preemptively. To go ahead and do it before it starts falling out and I thought, no, not me, that's not going to be me, because some chemotherapy patients don't lose their hair.

But let me tell you, I've joined that choir. That's a bit of advice I now preach, because when it starts to fall out, phew, that's rough.