I want to address a popular misconception about the reason(s) I lost my hair. From what I read on blogs, websites and forums, it seems that some assume I lost my hair because of cancer and was/ am undergoing treatment in the form of chemo or radiation....which is false.
My hair loss was almost entirely related to auto-immune diseases affecting hormones and vice versa.
It is right that at some point I was dealing with cancer. I may have been vague about it in the past, so I thought it would be good to have a recent post that clarifies how my illnesses have affected my hair (and also how things have bettered)
First, let me introduce my pre hair loss hair...you may not know it ;)
Color: Red Henna on my dark reddish brown hair. Resulted in a dark cherry color.
Texture: Very slippery and silky, not much volume, just some at the roots, got stringy easily.
Health: 0 splits or tangles...not even kidding *sigh*
1a - stick straight hair
M - medium thick single strands of hair (0.06 mm)
ii-iii - 10cm / 4" ponytail circumference was the biggest measured spring 2009
Other: a tendency for taper and thinner ends, which I was patiently growing out
Hair loss July 2009- January 2010
My hair loss then stopped when I took a medicament (pill form) called "cabergoline".
It was also found that I had Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, which I believe had caused my hair texture to change into something less silky and more dry and prone to splits then. Hashimoto's is an auto-immune disease, which causes the body to attack and eventually destroy the thyroid. I was prescribed Synthroid, which really caused my hairs texture to worsen. I got off Synthroid January 2012.
Hair loss December 2011- April 2012
Postpartum hair loss. So to be expected. However, I experienced it very strongly and was lucky it did not last extremely long. My prolactin levels would not go down on their own (they are supposed to go down a few weeks after birth), but eventually did. I also went full on Paleo Diet in late January in the hope of bettering my overall health.
Hair loss October 2012 - March 2013
A combination of hormones adjusting to the return of my menstrual period 1 year after the birth of my son, and a healthy diet gone wrong. I had not watched my carb intake, and went low carb by total accident, which is known for triggering hair loss in many. Low carb can also cause problems with your thyroid. Really it was a recipe for disaster, and I am glad I actually researched enough to figure out my diet could have triggered all this. Especially in someone like me who has a tendency for whacky hormones and thyroid issues.
Fix: Added more carbs, geared up on my supplements (like D3!) and helped my hormones find balance with herbal supplements (posted about them a few posts back).
Now, my cancer problem.
It started with HPV, which was passed on by my Ex husband. HPV is a virus that can lead to cervical cancer. In most cases however, the body clears it within a few years. After that time frame, ridding yourself of it is said to be much harder. In 2004 my PAP test came back abnormal for the first time. I remember I was at a Seminar my past work place was holding, when my cell phone suddenly rang. The doctor explained to me what it was and said not to panic...easier said than done. Although back then it was only classified as a PAP 3, just hearing the words "cervical cancer" are scary. Plus, the doctor (US. Military) was speaking to me in English...and back then my English was not what it is now...far worse ;).
Further tests showed that it was really just an abnormal PAP...for now. I had to keep getting tested and it remained a PAP 3 for a few years. In Summer 2009 however, my doctor said that things are looking more serious and that a biopsy needed to be done. I was also diagnosed with syphilis, which I also got from...guess who? My Ex...who was NOT faithful.
Back then I received treatment in the form of a lot of antibiotics (caused me daily nose bleeds), biopsy and a freezing procedure...the last two were meant to kill off and remove the still considerably small amount of abnormal cells. Radiation treatment was being talked about, but I was instructed to wait and retest first.
After that I ignored the problem...or rather, was too busy with separating from my Ex and getting my life back on track.
A year later, I was in a new (long distance) relationship and wanted to get tested before doing anything that could cause a transfer of the HPV. The tests came back positive as always....at that point the words "cervical cancer" sounded about as familiar as "how are you" to me...it was getting old. It was hard to not reply to the diagnosis with a "what else is new?".
Another biopsy was done, this time more tissue. I was told the lab tests came back "okay"...meaning that there were some abnormal cells, but "nothing to worry about". And so I didn't. I was still hoping it would clear on its own.
But, a few months later, my doctor sent me an Email saying that there had been a mistake and that I need to call him so we can discuss a treatment plan. A concerning amount of abnormal *cancerous cells was found.
I actually still have the Emails:
The doctor arranged an immediate appointment for LEEP surgery. During this procedure tissue is taken off the cervix (burned off). It was very painful because it was impossible to get me completely numb. Everyone was trying to help me get through it as good as possible.
I drove back right after, because I had to continue with the move. I was supposed to rest and not lift anything heavy, but I had no choice really. So I continued to pack boxes and drive them to the storage unit, while my Ex was yelling and cursing things I don't remember and trying to sabotage my move.
I was still bleeding when I boarded the flight to California, but it got better every day. The pain feels much like period cramping gone severe.
I had my next PAP test when I was 26 weeks pregnant. Later as planned, but doctors weren't sure whether I should get tested or not. It came back abnormal again, with pre cancerous cells, which was a bummer. I was told that after delivery I would have to discuss further treatment.
When I was pregnant, I often felt horrible about being so "diseased". I was imagining my future child and how he deserves a healthy strong mother. Me and my boyfriend did a TON of research and read a lot about alternative treatments for cancer and other diseases. Also a dietary plan tailored to helping the body fight cancer, by supporting its immune system and starving cancer cells, lowering inflammation...etc.
Changing my diet was not something I had to think about for long.
I did also discuss treatment with doctors, who were now suggesting Chemo and Radiation. But I decided against these treatments at the time, because I wanted to try the natural route first, and had also read A LOT of downsides to those treatments. Often it is not the cancer that kills the patient, but Chemo...It can fight cancer cells, but it can also attack other parts of the body. So for me that wasn't an option then. It seemed there were more risks to the treatment than waiting in my case.
But the actual results really shocked me...not only were there NO cancerous cells to be found. There was also NO trace of the HPV. Nothing! After 8 years of dealing with this issue and unsuccessful treatments, my body just got rid of it like it was a common cold...
My doctor was also very surprised.
So, here I am in 2013...healthy as anyone else. No Pituitary Tumor, no Hashimoto's, no Cancer.
I hope this cleared things up :)
* when is cancer cancer?
We all have a certain, small amount of abnormal cells in our bodies always. But when abnormal cells mutate and multiply to the point where the body can't fight them off anymore, it is referred to as cancer. Cancer is a really complex happening. You don't simply get cancer. It slowly develops over time.
When your problem is categorized, really they just try to determine how much abnormalities you are dealing with. So yes, "abnormal cells" means you are dealing with a mild form of cancer, but not the invasive kind. The CIN levels 1-3 are a way to label the severity. CIN3 is one small step away from the type of cancer that is not an easy fix.