How do I explain hair loss to a toddler?
I’ve tried. Believe me, I’ve tried. I’ve tried to explain to 2 year old Widget that Mommy has very short hair now, and wears hats, and I’m still the same Mommy. That soon Mommy will have REALLY short hair, or no hair, like baby Little Bear! He giggles and thinks it’s funny. Unless we’re headed to bed and I’m wearing my haircap and Buff. Then he wants “Mommy! Hat off!” But I have to keep it on to collect the hair that falls out overnight, so it doesn’t make such a mess on my pillow.
The last two days have been different. My hair … is falling out in clumps. Big clumps. So we’ve spent the days outside (so as not to muck up the house — like the first two days with a rescue dog! — for those of you who have fostered/adoped a dog from animal rescue, you know that no matter what you do, a new dog from the animal shelter is probably going to make a mess of your house in the first 48 hours. So we typically spend much of those days outside if the weather is nice), on the hammock, mostly.
The chemo is working. When chemotherapy acts on a person, it first slows the rate of fast-growing cells. The most fast-growing cell in the body is a cancer cell. The second is the hair follicles. The third is mucus membranes, like those that replenish the mouth, nose, and throat.
My hair is falling out in clumps. When I run my hands through my hair, they come out looking like I just petted a stray Newfoundland. If I grab a piece and tug, it comes out — with a couple dozen of its friends. The hair comes out complete with follicle (for those of you who are curious, like my husband was), but no white marker on the end — because the skin has let go of the follicles, and they are no longer growing.
But they are making a mess of my shower!
So how do I explain this to my toddler? So far, the best I’ve come up with is, “Mommy’s hair is going bye-bye. Soon my hair will look like Little Bear’s! But I will always love you.”
And I will.