Cancer patients facing hair loss get help

Sometimes, cancer has a look.

The chemotherapy that is used to treat cancer often causes baldness in patients. Those patients may then feel as though they’re being judged when they’re trying to live their lives outside of the hospital.

Jill Shump of Battle Creek felt that way. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2013 and went into remission that October. But in between, she lost her hair. As she put it, she was “pulling small animals out.”

Shump said women already face judgment on their appearance in society, on top of what a bald woman might face.

“Society, as a rule, judges women unfairly,” Shump said. The TRMI employee remembers not worrying about hair loss right away — there are more immediate worries when being diagnosed with cancer — but eventually had to deal with it because her job wouldn’t let her wear only a head scarf.

Shump at first was wearing a work hat with a scarf, but eventually decided to just shave it off. Looking at herself in the mirror, she said, she started to cry. Frankie Shump, her then-6-year-old son, came to the rescue.

“He said, ‘don’t worry mom,'” Shump said. “‘I’m going to stay right here with you and I will give you a hug whenever you need it.’ After that, I just kind of let it go.”

Scenes like that might not happen as often for Battle Creek breast cancer patients anymore.

Bronson Battle Creek’s Cancer Care Center is trying to help those patients keep at least some of their hair despite going through chemo. Through funds raised by theBronson Health Foundation, a head cap that can reduce the amount of hair lost called a DigniCap is being offered to patients to use for free.

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