Number of months since finishing chemo: 5
Amount of hair growing back: enough to need it cut
Amount of hair falling out: enough to wonder what on earth is going on?!
It's been a while since I've written, mainly because I've been spending my time hanging around in this ever-continuing limbo and have no real developments to talk of. However, about a week ago something rather unexpected started to occur, and I thought that with no warning having been given to me about it by the hospital, it was well worth letting everyone know about this very delayed effect from the chemo:
As you all know I had the chemo and in the process lost all my hair, eyebrows, eyelashes etc. Then within 3 months of finishing the treatment they had grown back and I already had quite a reasonable covering of hair. Well, it's now 5 months since I finished chemo and my eyebrows and eyelashes are falling out all over again! At first when a few of each fell out I hoped it was just some freaky coincidence and that would be the end of it. However it's now a week later, and they are both still coming out in large numbers. No-one at the hospital ever warned me that this could happen, so I've been pretty surprised to say the least! Fortunately (at the moment anyway) it doesn't seem to be affecting my hair, which is still tightly fixed in - I have even pulled at it to double check, which was a nervous moment because for all I knew a big clump could have come away in my hands!
So, having had no indication from the hospital that the chemo could cause this reaction months after finishing treatment, I turned to the internet to see if anyone else out there has experienced a similar thing. And yes, it turns out that this can be a side-effect, and that for several years after chemotherapy your eyelashes and eyebrows can continue to fall out cyclically. I couldn't believe it! I had absolutely no idea that could happen, or that the chemo nurses and doctors could have failed to warn me and prepare me for it possible happening. I knew that the chemo could damage your hair follicles, which is why your hair can grow back a different colour and texture to how it was before you had chemo (for many their hair grows back curly, and although mine is pretty much still straight it definitely does have slightly more of a wave to it), but I just never translated this into it affecting your eyebrows and eyelashes too. Of course when you think about it logically it seems obvious that it could, but sometimes unless someone sits you down and tells you these things they just don't occur to you. I really never imagined having lost my eyebrows and eyelashes once from the chemo, that when it was over it could still keep happening. Even more scarily it seems from everything I have read that it can keep happening for several years, so I could be in a perpetual cycle of having my eyebrows and eyelashes grow and fall out again for quite a while to come! Let this be a warning for anyone who has treatment, or knows someone who is - eyelashes and eyebrows may not be as permanent as you expect when they grow back through after finishing chemotherapy!
The only good thing at the moment is that despite it feeling like so many eyelashes and eyebrow hairs have fallen out there can't be any left, in actual fact they just look a lot thinner, and to anyone who didn't know it would probably just look like I've decided to have really thin eyebrows. I'm actually not sure what is worse though, people knowing I've had chemo because my eyebrows have half thinned out, or them thinking I've chosen to pluck my eyebrows to within an inch of their lives because I think it looks good?! With my eyelashes I can already see new growth coming through, so I don't think it's going to be very noticeable to anyone that they are falling out, unless huge clumps start disappearing. However, I'm prepared now that anything new that grows through may well be falling out again in just a few months time...
Bizarrely, in complete contrast, my hair has now grown back sufficiently enough that I actually had to have it cut last Friday! It was my first haircut in almost a year, and it felt very strange to be walking into a hairdressers again. It also felt great, like another step towards getting back to doing normal things. I haven't exactly got long flowing locks yet, but it was starting to get a bit unruly around my ears and neck, so I got it neatened up a bit and thinned out slightly through the top. My hair has grown back very similarly to how it was before I had the chemo, except that strangely it seems to be thicker over the top. I don't know whether or not that's just because it's still so short, but my hairdresser was telling me another client of hers has had chemo, and her hair came back thicker on top too. Maybe it's another hair follicle anomaly that they don't warn you about?!