I wake up and loose strands of hair are on my pillow.

They are on my clothes. On the countertops. In the bathroom sink.

It has started.

And by “it,” I mean the rapid loss of my hair because of the chemotherapy drugs I am taking for breast cancer treatment. My oncologist and the nurses warned me it would happen. And still, I hung onto an unfounded hope that it would not happen to me.

So now I have a new goal: to keep my hair until after a family gathering on the weekend, so my appearance won't add to the worry I always see in the eyes of my parents and siblings.

I try washing my hair, knowing it will be my last wash. Big mistake.

I am gentle but my hair starts coming out in clumps.

I get out of the shower and there is a bald patch in the front of my head. The rest of my hair is a matted mess. When I try to put a brush through it, my hair falls out in big pieces.

So I leave it to look disastrous because this is the first day I have felt well since my second chemo treatment, and I just want to be a hockey mom for a couple hours.

I put on a hat and go to my son’s game. I’ll deal with it later.

But later, my hair has dried in two “rolls." It looks a bit like twisted wool. Combing it only leads to big pieces falling out.

I text my hairdresser, Emily. She knew this text would be coming, perhaps just not so soon.

Late that night, I’m at her home. I could have asked a friend to go with me but in the end, I want to be by myself.

My hairdresser chokes up when she sees me. We have a little cry. And then it begins. She shaves one section. Then the next. Within minutes, my hair is lying in a pile on the floor.

Michele Brunoro

Emily hugs me and I head home. I tell myself it’s only hair but there are moments when I feel like I am fighting grief as dark as the night around me.

My daughter is the first in my family to see my new look.

"Oh mom," she says, wrapping me in a big hug. "It will grow back."

And she is right. It will grow back, and I can’t wait to have a shoulder-length head of hair again. But I also know this: I am not defined by the hair on my head.

I am defined by who I am on the inside. And on the inside: I. Am. Strong.

And so are you.

If you are going through chemo treatment and your hair has fallen out, and you feel like cancer has stripped you of yet one more thing, you are not alone.

I’ve got this. You’ve got this. We’ve got this. 

Michele Brunoro will be providing ongoing updates during her medical leave on her blog, The 3,800 Club.

Michele Brunoro