Going bald

This is kind of a personal post. It’s about Paul’s brother Kevin who has a form of cancer that’s not curable but it is treatable for a while. It’s called Plasmacytoma and after it’s spread it’s called Multiple Myeloma. Well, Kevin’s has spread and it’s been really hard on everyone in our family. He was diagnosed a few days before Christmas. He’s been down at the Mayo Clinic for the last 6 weeks getting a bone marrow transplant.

I’m not going to get into the “what’s and hows” but I do need an opinion and a “what would you do” here?

Kevin also started chemo when he got to the Mayo and his hair is starting to fall out. They went to shave his head 4 weeks ago but he just couldn’t go through with it. For some people, losing your hair is the hardest part of having cancer.

So, here’s the question. A huge amount of people are shaving their heads in support of Kevin and as a reminder to say a prayer for him. I don’t forget to pray for him but I would like to support him. I’m not sure yet if the brothers are going to do it or not. Kevin’s wife Karen said she was going to shave her head so she could be like him and he asked her”why would I want to look at a bald wife?” If you knew Kevin, I know you can just hear him say that. So she said she’ll wear a scarf. So Karen and their two daughters are wearing scarves.

I’d shave my head in a second to show support to him IF anyone ever saw me. But, like most families, we don’t see each other all that often. They aren’t encouraging people to go down and visit because of the germs because he can’t get an infection so it’s not like he’s even going to see us until he gets home. So I live here in the middle of nowhere and the only people who’d see my ugly shaved head are the people I’d see at the grocery store or my neighbors and that’s not often either.

Would you shave your head to support someone else? Do you think it’s harder for women to do it than men?

Come on really people, would you shave your head?? REALLY??

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25 Responses to Going bald

  1. mssc54 says:

    I think women must struggle with this more than men do. I would shave my entire body if I thought it would make even the slightest bit of emotional difference. Heck it’s only hair.

    • Joy says:

      I think it must really be hard on women. It would be hard on me. It hit Kevin pretty hard. He couldn’t bring himself to shave it and then he got really sick and couldn’t and now it’s starting to fall out. I think it might matter to men if they have “good” hair too. Paul and Kevin are the two boys who got the “good hair.”

      Does anyone know about how long it takes to start to grow?

      I know Michael, it really is only hair.

      • mssc54 says:

        Well I can grow a full beard in 10-14 days so….

        I think with each cancer patient it MAY be different. Some may appreciate that you are willing to shave your head while others may be made uncomfortable by your “pitty.”

        I think perhaps a conversation (face to face if possible) with the patient. Ask them how they would like for you to show your support.

  2. SKL says:

    Odd, I was just thinking about that today – whether I’d ever dare to be bald. I’m pretty confident that I would not look good bald, but would I do it for “a good cause”?

    I’m thinking not.

    I suppose that sounds really cold. But it’s like Kevin said – even if he did ever see me, would seeing my bald head make him feel better or worse? Wouldn’t he rather think about something other than baldness when people came to visit him? Or when he gets to come back home?

    I think he’ll get over being bald if people don’t make a huge deal out of it. Lots of men shave their hair willingly, or don’t have much to begin with. I think it would be harder for a woman, though I know some men like their hair.

    And I think it does start to grow back fairly soon after the really strong chemo ends.

    My mom had chemo and it turned her fingers and toes and gums black, as well as causing hair to fall out. I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have been comforted by us putting shoe polish on our fingers when coming to visit. She wanted to think about life outside of the illness.

    So my feeling is, unless you have a reason to believe he’d feel better if you shaved your head, you shouldn’t feel pressured to do so.

    • Joy says:

      Now that you say that, he may rather look at “normal” people. It’s so hard when you want or need to show support but you just don’t know how. I mean, he knows we love him but how often as an adult do you say that to another adult who’s not your child? The only “adults” I ever say I love you too are Jason and Toby.

  3. Ellen says:

    I do not think I would ever want someone to do that for me and I am pretty confident I would not do it. Maybe, maybe for my husband I would do it, but he would not let me.

  4. Laura says:

    I agree with SKL, that he likely wants to think of life outside the illness.

    Something to think about…

    Why, really, do people shave their heads when others get cancer? I mean, I totally get it if it’s kids doing it – there is soooo much peer pressure to look a certain way when you’re a kid, any hair out of place is an invitation to have names called, be labeled, or worse. So when a kid gets sick and his “posse” shaves their heads, it’s like the Three Musketeers getting together: All for one and one for all.

    But adults?

    Like has been mentioned before, adults going bald, either by genetics or by choice, is no big deal. It’s a fashion statement, nothing else.

    So that brings me to the question that may rub some the wrong way, and I don’t mean it to… I really don’t… but having been on both sides of the ‘trauma’ line, I feel compelled to ask:

    Who are they doing it for, really? Are they REALLY doing it for him? Will it REALLY help him, emotionally, to have his entire family walking around bald? Or are they doing it because they feel helpless, and this is the only thing they can do?

    Please understand, I’m not condemning… people do what they must to cope with difficult situations. But people often also displace their feelings, saying, “I’m doing this for you,” when really, they’re doing it for themselves, and *saying* “I’m doing it for you” to assuage uncomfortable feelings.

    In the end, it comes down to you and him. If you really think that this is the way he wants to be supported, then by all means, break out the razor and shaving cream. And the purple & gold markers while you’re at it, and fashion a Vikings tat on the side of your head. If you’re gonna do it, go all the way. (or the blue and orange, of course, if he’s a Bears fan….)

    But if the sentiment is all he needs, and his sense of humor is well assembled, the next time you see him, show up in a “bald wig” – because the sentiment is there, regardless, and he could probably use a good laugh above all else.

  5. shanef says:

    I shave my head all the time in the summer. So it wouldn’t be hard for me. I hate it when people at work call me tennis ball head though!!

  6. Ed says:

    IMHO: The head shaving thing has morphed from the original intentions to this thing called “showing support”. So I tend to look at it like this… If you hear about a person jumping off a cliff – do you go to the nearest cliff and jump to show support?

    Loosing ones hair is one of the many byproducts of chemo treatments. In some the loss of hair can be very traumatic on top of everything else going on – and perhaps that is where some of the original shaving happened. This fits partway in my previous analogy – in that a person is right on the edge of the cliff – but instead of jumping – someone close holds their hand and helps them down off the edge. So being there with them, holding their hand, and yes shaving one’s head if need be – is part of the closeness two people can share.

    Having been very close to several persons that have had cancer, and recently having a very close friend and co-worker die after a long and valiant fight – I can attest that the knowledge of someone distant shaving a head did nothing to comfort them.

    A cancer patient needs true support. Keep in mind this is not sympathy – they tend to hate this – rather they want that hand, the touch, the closeness, the friendship, the love – and the knowledge that they are cared and loved – and they are not alone.

    So – no shaving for me – rather I find a way to bridge the miles and let them know I care.

  7. Just a Mom says:

    I don’t think I would be able to do it and if I was the one who had cancer I would not want anyone to do it. My husband had cancer before I knew him and he shaved his head with no problem.

  8. Jenny says:

    Like you said Joy that you don’t see him very much. So why would you want to shave your head? Yes it would be showing support, but for women I think it would be so hard to shave your head even if it was for someone even closer! For men it would be so easy I would think. But in my honest opinion I don’t think I could do it for someone close that I would see often. And there’s no way I would do it for someone I hardly see.

  9. Karen Joy says:

    Having been a hairstylist for many years,you would be very surprised how many men are really bothered by losing their hair.We think it doesn’t but I found that not to be so for alot.If Kevin is having a hard time with shaving his head maybe thats not something he would so want the family to do.The need to DO SOMETHING is huge for you,I can imagine and understand.The family can feel helpless and I believe thats why ideas like shaving your head in support come up when really it doesn’t serve the one going through the cancer anything.Just let him know he is loved and your praying for him…actually tell him we all are.I will continue too pray.Thats a huge source of comfort.Joy,if he’s not going to see you(much) dont shave your head.Send him messages of comfort rather.Im not saying those who shave their head are wrong,we all deal differently but I know I wouldn’t and I wouldn’t want anyone around me too.Just my opinion.

    • Joy says:

      Thanks Karen for your input. You hit the nail on the head. We feel helpless and I think the “thought” of uniting and all doing the same thing is something we can share. We’re all going through it. We all know how dire it is but nobody can say that out loud so the hair thing takes center stage. It takes the real “heat’ off us for a minute.

      I know how you can relate to this.

  10. Karen Joy says:

    We never went through chemo with mom as it was too late but when we first thought she would have it we talked about her losing her hair.Her and I discussed the pretty scarves we would buy etc.Well it didnt happen so Joy,maybe I dont understand this part.I “think” I wouldnt shave my head but until a person is in that position ya just dont know.Yes the need to do and show support weighs on yuor minds Im sure…whatever you decide we all stand in support with you!And your right,you are ALL going through this!

  11. Nikki says:

    It depends on who it is, and if they really feel it is a form of support. I have always been known for my hair. It would be scary to shave it but I would do it, under the right circumstances. It would grow back. I am quite certain I would look god awful with a bald head though!!!!

    It would have to be for someone like my own husband, sister, or child. I wouldn’t do it for just anyone.

  12. starlaschat says:

    This is a tough one I would say do what you feel is right for you. Maybe not shaving your head, but to be involved in sweet ways that only you could do. It is such a helpless feeling when someone you care about gets sick. Just letting them know you love them and care. Maybe a little card or pictures to make him smile. :+) I don’t know. I stuggle with this, it is a really hard part of life. Some times I just don’t really know what to say or what to do, but I think that the heart transends all of that. I agree with Karen Joy as to what she said on this topic. I sometimes cook when I don’t know what to do, I guess because it keeps me busy and in a funny way makes me feel like I’m doing something. I’m sorry to hear this news.

  13. Laura says:

    I’m wobbling around a thought here… and letting you in on the incredibly weird thought process that goes on in my head. I get that the ‘hair thing’ is a popular rallying cry for those who have cancer. Ok, not for them, but for those around them. Those folks feel helpless in the face of this overwhelming horror that is happening to their loved one. And the only way they see is to shave their heads in support.

    But there have to be other ways to show support, don’t there? Like you said, Joy – what is it going to do for Kevin for YOU to shave your head when you’re sequestered away on your property, rarely going out, and seeing him even less? How does that help him, when he can’t even see you?

    What else would make him feel loved? What about a windfall of get-well cards? Loving cards (the mooshy ones) and humorous, pee-in-your-pants funny ones? I remember the flood of cards that Steve got when he was in the hospital. I read every single one to him, and hung them all over his room. One of the best cards we got was one that was just laugh out loud funny. Oh, how both of us needed that. We were facing our entire lives being changed, and that card making us laugh sure brightened several days for us, since we kept going back and reading it… and to share the joy:

    “Hang in there… sometimes life hands you lemons, but then you can make lemonade.
    Of course, sometimes life pulls down your pants, runs a power sander across your naked butt, then pours lemon juice on your raw, abraded buttocks.
    In that case, a cool citrus drink wouldn’t really help but, darn it… you’ve got to hang in there anyway!”

    I couldn’t read that card all the way through the first time, because I was laughing and crying so very hard. It came from my cousin, who is about as irreverent as you can get… but always manages to know exactly what people need. And we needed to laugh.

    Some other things that really, really helped us:
    – a group that Steve’s mom worked with took up a collection and bought a gift card, good at all of the University of Iowa Hospitals cafeterias – which meant that I would eat, and not have to go “off campus” when I didn’t have a vehicle at my disposal.
    – gift cards to local stores – grocery, Target, Walmart, even the local flower shop, because sometimes your spouse needs flowers.

    I’m thinking here, that he’s as worried about his family and what’s going to happen to them. Shaving your head is a grand gesture. But taking the money you would have spent on that, and putting it in a gift card so his family can have dinner might be a better one.

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