Ask Dr.Moon Kitty #1

October 11, 2019

Ask Dr.Moon Kitty #1

Ask Dr.Moon Kitty #1: Cancer & Hair Loss

Author Dr.Moon Kitty / Category Advice, Lifestyle, Dr.MoonKitty / Published: Oct-11-2019

Hello Wig Lovers!
This week’s question comes from Jill in Georgia, who asked:
I was dealing well with my cancer diagnosis until my hair started falling out. Why is this so much harder to deal with than the C-word itself? - Jill

First of all, Jill,
I’m sending loving and supportive vibes your way. How people deal with both the diagnosis of cancer and the physical loss associated with it is highly personal and pretty unique to each individual, but one thing that I think maybe more or less universal, IS that sense of loss.  
One of the most commonly misunderstood things when it comes to loss is that there is a specific way that it happens-- some great landmark that tells you that you have successfully proceeded to the next level like you are playing a video game. Let’s start by reviewing the steps (that I am sure most or all of us have already heard) of the cycle of loss/grief:
  1. Denial and isolation
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance.

Here’s the thing that many people aren’t told:

Loss doesn’t just mean that someone close to you has passed away. Loss can be about lots of other things—a relationship that falls apart, a change in your job, even objects that are meaningful to you that are lost (like in a house fire). Loss is about the absence or change in status of something that is meaningful to you. I think one of the reasons that hair loss is so detrimental to many of us is that this loss is connected to identity and a sense of social belongingness. Especially for women, having long, lustrous locks is something that we have been brainwashed into thinking is the equivalent of femininity and health since Day 1. Every show, movie, advertisement, etc. that we see somehow portrays hair as this huge symbol to the outside world that we are okay. And as a result, a lot of us have started to internalize those thoughts.
When we lose something that we identify with, especially something that is so visual when we look in the mirror, it can be a HUGE status change in our perception of self (again, perhaps partially because we have in some subconscious way bought into this belief that our hair is what makes us attractive, feminine, important, or otherwise). It doesn’t help that everyone else around us has been brainwashed by these ads and movies/shows just as much, so it can often make it even harder to feel good about ourselves when we get so much social feedback that reflects those values. If you are more interested in some of the research that has gone into this topic, check out Jean Kilbourne’s “Killing Us Softly 4” film online. So partially what I am wondering (and maybe hypothesizing) is whether in addition to the new image of yourself that you can see in the mirror (which is, again, an identity that may take some time to recognize and come to terms with), other people may be interacting differently with you in a way that makes you feel even more subconscious.
When we consider all of the different types of loss that you are dealing with right now, I think it actually makes a lot of sense that this very physical and perceptible shift is giving you a hard time. And I’ll say what I always do—you are not alone. I encourage you to go talk to someone outside of your immediate support network (professionally), because another thing that people struggle with when any medical illness is in the picture, is feeling as if they have to be strong for everyone around them all the time, which frankly, can be exhausting.

So go share these feelings with someone who can help you process them without making you feel like you have to be a #1badass all the time.

Vulnerability is good in the right circumstances.  
I’ll be thinking about you and sending my extra healing vibes your way, Jill,
Until next time. Signing off,
Dr. Moon Kitty

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