For women who undergo cancer treatments, coping with hair loss is an emotionally painful side-effect of chemotherapy. Many women turn to wigs for the duration of their chemotherapy, but in some situations, a wig isn’t necessarily a viable long-term solution. For Mindy, a brain cancer survivor, the situation was unique: though she was able to beat her cancer, she was unable to regrow parts of her hair.
“I lost my mother to breast cancer when I was seventeen,” Mindy said. “As a daughter and caretaker, I knew the complexities and challenges that come with fighting cancer. In March of 2015, I was shocked when an MRI revealed a brain tumor after I went to my doctor for what I later discovered were simple partial seizures caused by the tumor. I am fortunate that I had a successful treatment, clear scans and that my type of brain cancer is chemo and radiation-sensitive, even though there is no cure.”
Dealing with permanent hair loss from cancer treatments
As part of treatment, Mindy underwent radiation and was left with some permanent hair loss. “Though I found a strong cancer community for young adults, not many people in the cancer community have the problem that I have. For the majority of patients and survivors, their hair grows back after treatment ends. I’m in a very small percentage of people that are lucky enough to have the problem of permanent hair loss — typically, when there’s radiation on the brain, that means that another type of cancer has metastasized, or brain cancer patients continue to focus on actively continuing treatment because there is no cure and remission is not a reality for everyone. I’m lucky and grateful for my prognosis, but there is still a shortage of resources when it comes to permanent hair loss from cancer treatment. Every time I looked in the mirror, I was reminded of the toll that cancer had taken. I didn’t feel young, or like myself, so I started looking for help.”
Mindy turned first to a hair transplant. The procedure wasn’t covered by insurance, so she relied on her family for help. “It was an expensive and painful procedure,” Mindy said. “The hair restoration world is primarily geared towards older men, so being a young female patient, let alone a cancer survivor… it was difficult. The patient care I received was not what it should have been, and wasn’t particularly sensitive to my needs as a young woman or a cancer patient.” Mindy found that the hair restoration world was unregulated and difficult to navigate, and was displeased with both the quality of her care and the quality of her transplant.
Mindy’s hairdresser in Austin had known Shanna as a stylist and knew that Shanna had gotten into hair restoration. She gave Mindy Shanna’s phone number, and Mindy called for help.
“I was blown away to find that Refined Hair is one of two places in all of Texas that’s certified for CNC hair systems. So I went to meet with her, and we talked about my different options. She treated me with a lot of care and concern, and she made me feel that she was truly invested in me from the moment I met her. She wanted to make sure that I had a hair solution without compromise, and that’s what we were able to do.”
Choosing a CNC hair system
“Because CNC hair systems are quite expensive, my family and friends stepped up to support me. My sister set up a GoFundMe page that raised over $9,000 for the system. I was blown away by everyone’s generosity and support to help me move beyond cancer,” Mindy said. “It’s frustrating because the product and all of its individual pieces are FDA approved, but no insurance company will touch it or even most hair restoration procedures. But even though it might be financially difficult to pursue, I really recommend a CNC hair system. The results aren’t under-promised in any way! Within a few weeks of getting the hair system, I felt like a completely different person. I have a new level of confidence now. I finally feel like my healing from cancer can move beyond myself and my body. Now I can be a cancer survivor who’s supportive to the community, rather than trying to heal myself physically. I’d like to specifically help and mention the BrainPower 5k community and the Dr. Marnie Rose Foundation, both of which were important resources to me during my own cancer treatment and recovery.”
Learning to care for the new CNC system took a little while, but Mindy felt she mastered it quickly. “I use the CR Labs products, which work really well, and I started using them prior to getting the hair system,” she said. “I hadn’t had hair for three years, and now I have this long, curly hair again. It’s been a re-education process for me to learn how to wash and style it, but Shanna and everyone else at Refined Hair has been incredible working with and helping me.”
The CNC system works in conjunction with Mindy’s natural hair, as well as the transplant. “The transplanted hair grew back in a very different texture,” Mindy said. “We utilized it to help the system blend into my bio-hair. It took two tries to get the CNC system adhered to my head and scalp in a way that worked really well, but Shanna was patient and committed. Throughout the process she did keratin treatments on my transplant hair, toning some of the sun exposure out of my bio-hair to make it match the hair system, and blending everything, all without any additional cost to me. I continue to be floored by Shanna’s generosity and flexibility. When I had a wig that was given to me by someone else in the cancer community, Shanna styled it for me and taught me how to care for it. Even though it wasn’t her system, she was excited to help me learn about it in preparation for a CNC system.”
Healing through Hair Care
Mindy continues to be pleased with the treatment she’s received at Refined Hair. “You can tell this is Shanna’s true passion. She goes above and beyond because she’s so emotionally attached to everyone’s individual stories and struggles. Shanna really makes sure that her team is providing the most support and best care for her clients, no matter who they are or where they’re from.”
For Mindy, her CNC system is just the next step in her journey of healing and happiness. She hopes that sharing her story will help others like her. “I felt very alone and isolated in my hair journey,” she said. “There weren’t a lot of people like me, and it was hard to find stories that were similar to my own. But this has really been an important piece of my recovery. It helps that I’m getting married in October to the love of my life. He’s been by my side through all of this and was my caretaker. Now we’re getting married, and I’m so happy that my concern isn’t whether or not I’ll have hair, but instead what I can do with my hair for our wedding day.”
If you’re seeking help with hair loss from cancer treatments, or need help dealing with other causes of hair loss, contact Shanna. She and her team can help you find a solution that will work well for you and offer you beauty without compromise.