Originally Post Oct. 5, 2009 on Natural Hair Rules!!! Updated
Crystal Brown-Tatum is a courageous survivor of Triple Negative Breast Cancer who share her fears of hair loss and beast cancer treatment. Triple Negative Breast Cancer is an unique but very aggressive form of breast cancer. In addition to being a breast cancer advocate, Mrs. Brown-Tatum is also an Army Wife, Mother, and owner of Crystal Clear Communications.
As community manager for a breast cancer advocacy group in my former life I met Crystal where she graciously agreed to share her story of chemotherapy and fear of hair loss. Read below.
In regards to hair loss and breast cancer treatments, I was ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIED at the thought of losing my shoulder length hair. I had worn my hair relaxed, long and straight my entire life. I was an one month newlywed who was still beaming over my wedding pictures with a beautiful updo and now I was facing news that I would lose my eyebrows, eyelashes, and glorious crown?
For weeks, I tried to come to terms with the treatment and I honestly thought that I could NOT live as a bald woman. I had decided on how I would inform my family that I chose not to undergo chemotherapy and that I would enjoy the quality of my life and see what happens. When my teenage daughter got wind of this, she told me bluntly that she would never forgive me if I didn’t do chemotherapy and died. That is all I needed to hear.
When my hairline started receding and my hair began to fall out in clumps, I knew that the hair loss was inevitable. One afternoon I drove to a salon and requested they shave my head. It was even hard for the Black stylists who kept asking me if I wanted a short “Halle Berry” style instead of shaving it. But I needed to shave it so I could move forward with the treatments bravely. I decided it was time to empower myself by shaving it. My hair was falling out daily and was matted and dry. I didn’t shed one tear in the chair. The big picture was life – hair couldn’t rob me of that.
Once the deed was done, I didn’t cry. I looked on the mirror and actually was taken back at how beautiful my head was! For sentimental reasons, I took the bag of hair home with me. I remember studying it and noticing how dead and unhealthy it looked. As I held the bag of hair in my hand, I thought about how silly it was for me to have passed up chemo treatments out of fear of losing what I knew would grow back.
I never heard my 13-year-old daughter say to me that she was proud of me, despite my numerous accomplishments, until I showed her my bald head. She gave me the biggest hug, and I knew that it would be okay. I am forever humbled by this experience and hope to share my story with other young women with cancer someday. Cancer doesn’t care if you are all that and a bag of chips. Cancer doesn’t care at all.
Since the thought of losing my hair was so frightening to me, I went on a Houston, TX, community affairs television program bald to show viewers what the result of chemotherapy looked like and that being bald wasn’t so bad. I even shared home video of my hair falling out to help other women facing this medical challenge. For a former Texas beauty queen, this took a lot of courage.
Breast cancer is a sisterhood that no one wants to join, but once you are a member, the privileges are invaluable. My name is Crystal, and I am a breast cancer survivor.
Crystal Brown-Tatum is the president and founder of Crystal Clear Communications (www.crystalcommunicates.com), a public relations firm based in Houston, TX. She is author of the book Saltwater Taffy and Red High Heels: My Journey Through Breast Cancer, available at http://www.lulu.com.