A Greater Appreciation for the Follicly Impaired
Having a sense of humor about hair loss during chemo can make a big difference
How Humor Can Help If You're Losing Your Hair
by Christine Clifford
The subject of humor and its healing powers has been written about, researched, analyzed, recommended and embraced since the beginning of time. With “alternative therapy” as a healthcare buzz word, I like to think of laughter as a “complementary therapy” in conjunction with traditional and alternative medicines for the new millennium.
Yet I am often asked, “Christine, I can’t think of a single thing that is humorous about a cancer experience.” When someone makes that observation, I challenge them to close their eyes and think about: what is the number one thing that makes you laugh?
I hope that just thinking about laughter brings a smile to your face. There are all kinds of things that make me laugh: animals, children, jokes, memories, visual stimulation, and even awkward situations. Certainly losing my hair was at the bottom of things that I ever thought I’d be able to laugh at…
The year I was going through my treatments for breast cancer, my husband and I decided to take a break from the cold, Minnesota winter and flew off to Scottsdale, Arizona. While we were there, the Senior PGA Golf Tour was hosting an event called “The Tradition”, and we thought that would be just the thing to lift my spirits.
We bought tickets, and I was standing on the tee, watching my three idols in golf tee off: Jack Nicklaus, Raymond Floyd, and Tom Weiskopf. A gust of wind came up and blew my hat and my hair right off my head into the middle of the fairway. The gallery went silent, all eyes upon me.
I took a deep breath, went under the ropes, ran out into the middle of the fairway, grabbed my hat and my hair and turned to the golfers. “Gentlemen,” I offered, “the wind is blowing left to right.”
They say the laughter could be heard all the way back to the clubhouse, and I realized that once again, laughter is the best medicine.
Webster defines laughter as “that which expresses amusement, mirth, contempt, fear by inarticulate, explosive sounds which result from the forcing out of air from the lungs, usually accompanied by convulsive, muscular movements, especially of the face.” If I didn’t know better, I’d say that is what I used to look like when I was going through my chemotherapy!
Certainly laughter is not an emotion that most people think of when they try to define dealing with a cancer experience. However, the process it takes to get through treatment for cancer is a long process: usually a minimum of six months to often years. If you do not find laughter in that amount of time, you will dry up.
Think about how you feel when you laugh… you feel pleasure; you feel release; you feel good; you feel satisfied; you feel happy; you feel healthy; you want to do it again!
When I was going through my treatments, I met a man who had also lost all of his hair. We nicknamed each other “the Captains of Chrome”. One day he came running up to me, “Christine, Christine…do you notice anything different about me?”
Well, he was so adamant, I looked him up and down, and round & round, and finally had to say, “I’m sorry, Bill, I really don’t.”
With that he replied, “I’ve parted my hair on the other side!”
Your hair will grow back one day, and you will be able to look back on this experience and laugh. Take time every day to share a funny story, a joke, a happy memory. And don’t forget to laugh!
Christine Clifford Beckwith, CSP is CEO/President of The Cancer Club, a company that markets humorous and helpful products for people with cancer (www.cancerclub.com). She is the author of four books including Not Now. I'm Having a No Hair Day!, Our Family Has Cancer, Too! Cancer Has Its Privileges: Stories of Hope & Laughter, and her newest book, Your Guardian Angel's Gift.