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Helping Breast Cancer Patients Cope With Hair Loss

Sydney Berry

Owner, Salon Services & Supplies, Inc.

When women undergo radiation and chemotherapy, it can be an extremely difficult time. In addition to battling a frightening disease, they experience side effects that typically include hair loss. Sydney Berry, owner of the Seattle-area distributorship Salon Services & Supplies, Inc., wants to make that transition as easy as possible.

“Our outward appearance to our world is very important, specifically when you’re going through treatment, as it supports continuity of your ‘who you are,’ while undergoing medical aspects that change the visual for yourself and how you project yourself in your interactions with others,” said Berry, who understands the pain of losing all your hair — including eyelashes and eyebrows.

“One of the first places women go when they’re in chemo is to the hairdresser. A stylist can transform their vision of who they are and can also listen and console.”

Looks do matter

Berry explained that as a woman endures surgeries and treatments, it’s essential for her to hold on to the sanctity of self-image. 

“When you step out of the shower, you’ve suddenly lost the perception of who you are. It can be scary. That’s why the outward appearance is important, to let you know you’re going to be okay,” she said. “It’s a fact that eight to 12 percent of cancer patients will forgo chemotherapy due to loss of hair.”

COVID complications

The global pandemic has made a difficult situation even more challenging for cancer patients. Some may even consider skipping a trip to the physician’s office, which Berry calls a huge mistake.

“I have to see a doctor every three weeks to monitor my progress. The medical community takes every precaution necessary to keep you safe. The biggest priority is adherence to the medical protocol that’s established to monitor the success, or not, so they can assess the next option.”

Berry shared her personal experience as an example.  “As a cancer ‘thriver’ of 31 years, with the last six years with metastasized bone cancer treatments, we’ve altered the treatment seven times, with various results,” she explained. “The one I am on now is the best, as it’s lowering my cancer markers. The doctors wouldn’t be able to address [your cancer] if you’re inconsistent with your treatment protocol, if you weren’t adhering to the specifications required.”

Finding solutions

Fortunately, there are options for patients worried about losing their locks. HairtoStay, for example, is a foundation that makes cooling caps — which can help reduce hair loss during chemotherapy — affordable for patients facing financial hardship.

“In addition, ‘Look Good, Feel Better’ is taught by volunteers within the beauty industry and in association with Professional Beauty Association, which I currently chair and have been involved with for decades,” Berry said. “They host workshops to assist in teaching beauty techniques to people, with lessons in skin and nail care, cosmetics, wigs, and stylists to help find some normalcy in their lives.”  

Giving back

“As a company, we consistently work with foundations we believe are making a difference in the world,” said Berry. “We work with and in raising monies for hospital wings to doctors researching cures for cancer, with a vaccine with immunotherapy for your body to work in its own defense.”

Berry added, “We align with many more foundations, as salons are so connected to the world in understanding and supporting clients, plus generous in their giving to be the resource for their clients. Our industry is one of beauty and well-being, and we’re here to be their resource with avenues to support.”

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