Will I Lose my Hair? 2024
This has to be the first question every woman asks when informed they will be having chemotherapy, right? Read on...
What does this mean 'We are every woman'? We are your wife, your girlfriend, your mother, sister, and daughter. If you're a man this is important for you, too. You can find out how it might affect your life, towards the end of this page. I'll be adding to this blog as more news comes out so please check back from time to time.
Who Am I?
My name is Shirley, a regular sixty-five-year-old woman. I'm a wife, mother, sister and grandmother. I'm co-founder of a global support group, I write, enjoy gardening and I suffer from permanent chemotherapy induced alopecia. For a woman...this is soul-destroying.
For the last eighteen years, I've dedicated my life to raising awareness about this 'concealed' adverse side-effect of the chemotherapy drug Taxotere or as it's often referred to as Docetaxel. It is the same drug, Taxotere is the brand produced by pharmaceutical giants, Sanofi.
At the age of forty-five, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Surgery, sentinel node biopsy, adjuvant chemotherapy, and radiotherapy, followed. Because my breast cancer was hormone ( oestrogen - progesterone ++) receptive I then had to have Tamoxifen for three years and an aromatase inhibitor for the next two years, which was Letrozole or Femara. I believe I'm correct is saying that if your cancer is triple-negative you are not usually prescribed hormone treatment. I know many women suffer terrible side-effects from their hormone treatment. Some even stop taking this teeny tiny pill because of the severity of their symptoms. Luckily mine wasn't too bad but I do remember suffering from stiff painful ankles and other joints.
So, after my chemotherapy came to a celebrated end I soon discovered that something was amiss.
My hair. It wasn't growing back as it should. My oncologist phoned Sanofi Aventis in Paris, to discuss my problem and to find out whether it had anything to do with this new wonder drug, Taxotere. This chemotherapy drug had been used for many years before on patients diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, but it had only just started to be used on patients with early-stage breast cancer.
At this stage, I still believed my hair would return and I was just being a bit slow off the mark, plus I do like to be different! Anyway, he told me that after speaking with Sanofi, they said they were sorry it had happened to me but yes, it can happen, albeit very rarely. They also said it would NEVER grow back.
My mental health went into free fall and my 'rare' disfigurement became a full-time obsession. I also kept going over in my head that I had asked my oncologist if I could use a cold cap but she said it didn't work for Taxotere so it wasn't an option for me. Currently, it is the preferred treatment in France with many oncologists for anyone prescribed Taxotere/Docetaxel.
How my oncologist knew the cold cap wouldn't work for me, having Taxotere for early stage breast cancer, when it had only been used for early stage for a few months is a mystery and a question only she can answer.
I soon found another lady in the USA, Pam, who was suffering from the same side-effect. We couldn't help but wonder, as we found each other so easily there must be more women out there waiting to be found. That's when we decided to look for them and form a support group. That was the birth of our safe place - we were the 'Taxotears'.
It quickly became a global support group that sadly increases, even to this day, by women who all believed they were the only ones. We were the freaks of chemo. We were part of a dirty little secret. Our 'raising awareness' needed to be suppressed and our claims would be discredited and silenced. All in the name of money.
We carried on regardless of all the brick walls we faced in our mission. We had each other and this gave us empowerment. Several independent studies showed this side-effect was occurring in up to 30% but still the drug maker, Sanofi, continued to manipulate the figures or just blatantly ignore it. They constantly refused to abide by the classification table. You know that little paper that states all the possible side-effects in every packet of pills you buy? They are split into groups;
Common and frequent