For Women Facing Chemo-Induced Hair Loss

Noelle Nickerson is much younger than I, and she’s been my hairstylist for more than a decade. When Noelle was diagnosed with breast cancer, she wasn’t sure how to respond. But now she knows. Noelle’s response is  “Both Sides of the Scissors.

If you know someone who is facing the side-effects of chemotherapy,
consider Both Sides of the Scissors, a unique, free service for women facing hair loss.

Noelle’s Story: In November of 2015, I got “The Call.”  You know, the one that comes after your routine mammogram. The one you never want.  There was a spot.

Next was the biopsy, and then I waited for what-seemed-like forever.  When the results came back, my world exploded. Breast cancer. I met the surgeon and the oncologist. Invasive ductal carcinoma; stage 1; grade 1. Treatment was surgery, radiation, and five years of hormone therapy.

In that moment I felt lucky. At least I didn’t need chemo. Like every woman I know, my hair is part of my identity.

For a long time, I kept quiet about my diagnosis. I’m a hairstylist with 20 years of experience. I spend my time making people look and feel beautiful. Often, I prepare my clients for the happiest days of their lives. I want to keep the focus on them. But because there were months when my schedule was dictated by doctors’ appointments, treatments, and recoveries, some of my regular clients had to be told.

Recently, I welcomed a new referral who didn’t know my cancer history. I always begin a first appointment by asking, “What are you thinking of?” She told me, haltingly, that she was receiving chemo. She knew she would lose her hair. She felt lost, unprepared, and filled with dread.

Trust me, I know how important our hair is when it comes to feeling vivacious, alluring, or classically elegant. Hairstyle is a reflection of who we are, who we aspire to be, and the impression we want to make.

Immediately, our conversation became intimate. Was she ready to shave her shoulder-length hair today? Could I ease the transition by giving her a bold, short haircut?

That morning I had no intention of ever “going public,” but this new client was preparing to face one of the worst days of her life. Without planning to, I told her my story because I wanted to create a private, compassionate setting where she could safely explore how she wanted to present herself.

We can’t control our treatment, but we can make choices about how we face the changes. 

We reviewed her options. Would she gradually ease into the inevitable, or did she prefer to make the leap straight into the deep end? Later, as we shared her delight with her new cut, I realized how I wanted this to end.

I wanted to give back, and act on my feelings of gratitude for all the help and guidance I had received. So as she pulled out her wallet, I waved it away. “It is how I give back,” I told her, as my “Ah Hah” moment became crystal clear. I assured her that when she finishes treatment, I will be here, ready to provide guidance as her post-treatment hair makes its debut.

And this is how Both Sides of the Scissors began. Now I encourage my clients to refer to me women who are facing chemotherapy-induced hair loss. I offer free consultations and haircuts that reflect the unique personality of each woman who is gathering the strength to face the inevitable.

No one can change the reality of treatment,
but I am here to share the burden. 

I am Noelle Nickerson. My salon, Tresses Unlimited, is located in the complex on the northwest corner of Scottsdale Road and Shea Boulevard (7130 East Mercer Lane). Call me at (480) 991-0543 or send me an email:
noellenickerson@yahoo.com

 

Nancy L Howe

I was a daily exerciser and I ate my fruits and vegetables, but in 1997, I was diagnosed with cancer anyway. I experienced first-hand the benefits of physical activity during treatment and beyond. That was my "Aha!" moment. I left my corporate career, earned my masters at Arizona State University studying exercise science, and joined the staff of University of Arizona cancer researchers in 2005. In 2013, I earned my Cancer Exercise Specialist certification from the University of Northern Colorado, Rocky Mountain Cancer Rehabilitation Institute, and founded Strong Cancer Recovery. In 2017, I joined the Arizona State University Cancer Prevention and Integrative Medicine research team, and entered the PhD program at ASU's College of Nursing and Health Innovation. My research focus is breast-cancer-related lymphedema, including the preventive and ameliorative benefits of physical activity.

One thought on “For Women Facing Chemo-Induced Hair Loss

  1. Noelle,
    What a great way to give back your gift! You are a strong beautiful woman and I’m lucky to call you my amazing hairstylist, but even more proud to call you my friend! Love you, Ruth

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