Brilliantly: That's so powerful. There's so many areas where you can shape your story. Telling yourself a positive version of your story matters. It matters while you're going through it, it matters while you're healing, it matters for the rest of your life.
Sonya: By treating yourself to new experiences, you’re also creating positive memories. Wearing earrings or lipstick is just for you. I had fun with it at even at home. There were many days where I couldn't go out or be very active because of treatment but playing around with my personal style reminded me that I was still myself. I am a fluid person. I am not defined by this one experience.
Brilliantly: Right. There are small ways to keep yourself feeling normal. And I think that can translate into any part of this, whether you're the patient or the caregiver.
Sonya: That’s how the head wraps came to be. When I was in treatment, I was living and working full-time in Washington, DC and I was getting treated in New York City, so I was traveling every three weeks for chemo.
I took a train back and forth. And when you're going through treatment and hair loss, you feel the air conditioning and temperature change so much more. I was freezing. I could not believe how cold I was without hair. I had never experienced that before. And so, I started to experiment with some Indian cloths at home and I made my first satiny, cream head wrap.
Then I started to look at different fabrics, a little bit of a thicker, bigger cotton and knit-style wraps. I saw creating head wraps as a solution because, for me, wearing a wig was not an option for long-term travel or even a full workday. Wigs are essentially putting a very uncomfortable bandage over a very big problem, so I really did turn to different fabrics that provided that comfort and coverage as well.
Brilliantly: I love the idea of having different wraps for different moods, outfits, and weather.
Sonya: I recommend finding a few different head wraps in several different styles. We send out our head wraps in breathable cases so you can take them anywhere, have that variety, and if you wanna switch between a head wrap and something else, you can easily do that.
If you lose it, having very little hair is going to be the state of things for months. That’s why it’s important to think about what you have in your wardrobe that will help you live your life well for the coming seasons as your hair grows back. And depending on what season you're starting treatment in you might want a cozy scarf or breezy coverup to match your wrap. Having layers is essential to staying comfortable.
Brilliantly: What are the other parts of hair loss that you can prepare yourself for?
Sonya: Hair loss is definitely much more than just the hair falling out. Your scalp will become very sensitive to the touch, and you're also going to find that you might be susceptible to headaches or migraines. Just putting your head down on a pillow can cause pain. It’s normal. It's unfortunate, but it's normal.
Brilliantly: Is there something you can start putting on your scalp to help prepare or deal with that once it starts happening?
Sonya: My recommendation is a migraine cap. It’s basically a cap with insertable thin ice packs that fits around in your head. It really helped me. Every time I'd come home, I would take it out of the freezer and put it on my head and feel instant relief. It soothed my entire scalp. It helped both ease the sensitivity issue while also calming down any headache I was having.
Brilliantly: If you met a woman who was just diagnosed and knew she was going to lose her hair, are there any other tips that you share?
Sonya: I think many women wear wigs to keep up our image at work or when we're out and about, but make sure you anticipate that you're not going to want to wear it all the time.
Think about what you're comfortable with, whether that's rocking the bald look, or if you like a head covering, and make those arrangements ahead of time so you have them on hand when you need them.
Brilliantly: So much energy and time is spent thinking about and preparing for surgery, and thinking about survival, and yet, there are so many other things to think about. Thanks for providing such helpful insights.
Sonya Keshwani was diagnosed with breast cancer at 29 and founded StyleEsteem Wardrobe when she lost her hair to chemo and needed a comfortable and fashionable solution. Wearing a wig after hair loss was extremely painful on her sensitive skin and felt untrue to her identity. And the head wraps she found in stores were either too boring or made her look like a cancer patient. So she started to experiment with fabric between rounds of chemotherapy, and came up with designs that made her feel stylish and confident again, and transformed her quality of life.
Sonya hopes that StyleEsteem helps every woman empower her personal style with self-love and fierceness throughout her hair journey.
Brilliantly aims to improve women’s feelings of ease through thoughtful products and services, share practical wisdom and a community of support, and amplify stories of radiant women whose lives have been impacted by breast cancer. Learn more about Brilliantly here.
This dialogue belongs to a three part series.
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