La Verne Cook

La Verne Cook

Side Effects can impact quality of life. Members sharing their stories and their strategies for coping with side effects can help others. In this article, LRG member La Verne Cook shares insights into one particular side effect.

Diagnosed in 2004, I was NED (No evidence of disease) until a recurrence in 2009, when I started Gleevec. Currently, I am on my 3rd drug line therapy. My side effects run the gambit: cracked corners of my mouth, appetite/taste, nine-pound weight loss, foot and leg cramps, thinning hair, dehydration at night, diarrhea, sore mouth, fatigue and hoarseness (ugh! It’s bad!) Many of these I have managed to reduce and/or learn to live with.

I have decided to write about one particular side effect -thinning hair, as I have had some recent success in dealing with this issue. I realize it is not often mentioned as a side effect, but I am hoping that will change.

A few months after starting Stivarga, the sink and floor in my bathroom was covered in my hair. It was simply breaking off. Just running my hands through my hair caused this to happen. Bald spots started showing on the back of my head. This was devastating. My hairdresser explained that the thinning hair was revealing the growth patterns. I set out to research the issue to see if there was anything I could do.

Here are some tips I found helpful:

Coconut Oil My new best friend!! It is also inexpensive. I warm it between my hands and gently work it into dry hair. Typically, I do this once a week and let it set for 30-60 minutes. (Time may not matter). Afterwards, my hair has more texture and feels wonderful.  I follow this with a gentle wash and cool rinse.

Reduce WashingOnly wash your hair when absolutely necessary. Many times I just wet it down and use a little conditioner if necessary. I started using sulfate-free shampoo. Does it help? Who knows, but remember, I was desperate.

Brushing Don’t. Use either a wide tooth comb or vent brush that has a lot of width between the teeth. This reduces drag on the hair.

Products Try to avoid them. I’ve noticed that things like hair spray makes the hair feel more compromised. Once my hair was healthy again, I researched my hair products for drying ingredients. Even now, I only use them on special occasions.

Silk or Satin Pillowcases Wow! I’ve heard how they save your style. It’s true. The silk is gentler on the hair, causing less friction/pull than cotton.

Be gentle. This is key.

It wasn’t long after beginning this program that I noticed there wasn’t nearly as much hair on the bathroom floor. My hair isn’t growing back at the rate it once did, but I’m not losing the hair I have. After about six months of this routine, my hair is looking healthy and it’s growing back slowly. (Very slowly). It’s coming back curly along the neckline. Yet another issue to deal with –ha! I’ll take it.

These are suggestions shared by an individual and not a medical professional.