By Elizabeth Leapley
In April of 2015, I was packed and ready to go on a 3-day trip. As a flight attendant, this was no different than any other morning for the past 22 years. I got on the employee bus, stowed my bags, and arrived at the airport. Exiting the bus, a kind young man offered to get my luggage. With no bags to worry about, I stepped aside to allow a JetBlue flight attendant to retrieve her items. As I watched her place her bags on the ground at the base of the steps, I quickly turned to thank the young man getting my bags. I stepped off the bus and fell directly on top of that JetBlue Flight Attendant’s suitcase, lunch box, and flight bag.
Bam! Right over I went, using my left hand to stop the first fall, my more than ample hips cushioning the second bounce off her steel-framed Purdy Neat Stuff luggage. More embarrassed than hurt, I brushed myself off and collected my bags. I tried to stop her continuous pleas to forgive “her careless bag placement.”
I briefly spoke with my supervisor, joking about what had just happened regarding my “fall” and how silly I felt. Against my protestations, she removed me from my trip and sent me to an OJI (on-the-job injury) doctor as a precaution. Little did I know that precaution would start the wheels in motion for the detection of my breast cancer.
After several x-rays, I was diagnosed with a fractured wrist, sprained ankle, and a bruised spine, and was ordered to not work for the next four weeks. It was during this unplanned time off to heal, that I decided to get that mammogram I’d been meaning to follow up on for months. The outcome of that mammogram and other tests (ultrasound, MRI, and a biopsy) would change my life forever. These tests revealed that I had Stage III Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC) Breast Cancer that had spread to my lymph nodes. A double mastectomy, chemotherapy (ACT), and radiation (33 treatments) immediately followed.
“In June 2015, I recovered from the double mastectomy with little to no additional medical problems.”
In June 2015, I recovered from the double mastectomy with little to no additional medical problems.
After four weeks, my incisions healed and the administration of ironically life-sustaining poisons – chemotherapy – was about to begin.
I asked my hairdresser, Patsy, to come over with scissors (and a cold bottle of chardonnay) to cut my once long hair into a cute, “stylish,” buzz cut. I had assumed I was going to control WHEN I would lose my hair, not this cancer. A short ten days later, all doubt was removed as to who or what was really in control of my hair loss. And it wasn’t me. I was left with a bald head now covered by fashionable headscarves. I felt as if I were on display everywhere I went as the oh-so-distinguishable cancer patient. The loving, pitied looks I received, along with their “thoughts and prayers,” soon followed.
Radiation started three weeks after the last chemo treatment. My radiation “simulation” was complete and they marked my body with small ink tattoos that would guide the technicians during my treatments. I had six weeks, 33 treatments, of daily radiation.
On February 26, 2016, my treatments were complete. Ten months of my life had sped by in a flash. The diagnosis, the mastectomy, the chemo, and the radiation were over. Finished. I felt as if I just stepped off a roller coaster ride that I never wanted to be on in the first place. And now I wait. Will the treatments work?
Fast forward to May 2016. I recall being in Fort Lauderdale with a very dear friend of mine when I received a long-awaited call from my doctor. The PET scan, he said, showed NED – No Evidence of Disease. What great news, I thought. This beast had finally left my body. No trace remained. Every six month since I have been given the same report. I am happy to declare that I remain cancer free to this day.
My hair grew back as beautiful as I remembered it to be. It was short and spiky at first but then it grew to be long, full, and thick! Thanks to Patsy, I sported the cutest haircuts once again. Additionally, I was extremely pleased following my breast cancer reconstruction surgeries. All aspects of my femininity that I had long lost to this monster were now returning. All was great! Life was great! Then, nine months ago, I noticed that my hair started thinning and was beginning to fall out again. My ponytail was unusually thinner than it was before. I used to be able to hold all my hair up in a large banana clip but now, for some reason, a medium to small clip would do the job. Panic began to set in.
“My ponytail was unusually thinner than it was before.”
I observed my part was widening, my scalp could be seen fully under certain lighting conditions, and my hairline along my temple was noticeably receding. Every day there was more and more hair on the sink counter, the shower drain, and in my brush. I decided to collect and document this hair loss. Month after month, I was literally filling bathroom-size Dixie cups with my hair. The sight of my hair in those cups suggests more than words can about what real hair loss looks like. It’s one thing to “think” you’re losing your hair; it’s quite another to actually “see” the amount of hair you’ve lost over time.
I used an arsenal of hair products, special shampoos, conditioners, scalp treatments, hair fibers, and minoxidil… you name it, I bought it. When these products went on sale, I would buy one and get one free but in the back of my mind, I wondered if I’d run out of hair before I ran out of these products. As time went on, I stopped buying in large quantities.
In both my personal and professional life there is inherent stress: as a single mom, a cancer survivor, a post-menopausal aged woman, and as a flight attendant constantly on the go. Quite possibly all those factors may contribute to my hair loss.
My job as a flight attendant, right after safety and security, is to have a polished, professional appearance that represents my company well. My outward appearance to the public is central to my overall self-confidence. I can hide any traces of breast cancer and my surgeries behind my uniform, but unless I were to wear a wig or extensions, my thinning hair is out there on display for the flying public to see. When I’m going through the safety demo, pointing out the exits, putting on the life vest, and oxygen mask, then walking through the cabin, I wonder if my passengers are focused on my demo or looking at my thinning hair. My once very high self-confidence and self-esteem were overshadowed by embarrassment, anxiety, and stress. It’s a constant concern which remains very stressful. I have had nightmares that of all my hair has fallen out during one of my trips.
“Using the HairMax LaserBand, as directed, for just a few short seven weeks, I am excited to report that I have found new hair growth.”
It wasn’t until one night, when I couldn’t sleep that I found, quite by accident, information which led me to discover HairMax. After Googling every variation I could think of on “how to stop hair loss”, “what causes hair loss”, and “menopause and hair loss” did a YouTube video link appear with Dr. Oz demonstrating the HairMax LaserBand. The next morning, I began to research this company, its’ products, and its’ success stories. I followed the links and read every one of their clinical research and results reports. I compared their products with other low-level laser therapy (LLLT) company products. I read how HairMax was FDA cleared, which was a huge selling point for me. After a few weeks, I evaluated my findings and decided to buy the LaserBand.
I have to admit some initial skepticism but decided to give the HairMax LaserBand a chance since it best fit my lifestyle primarily because of the cordless, hands-free design as well as the very short time needed for each treatment. I simply use the LaserBand every other day while putting on my makeup. With my mobile lifestyle, this device is perfect for me in that it is designed to be completely lightweight, compact, and portable and can be used on the road without having to be recharged every day.
Using the HairMax LaserBand, as directed, for just a few short seven weeks, I am excited to report that I have found new hair growth. The overall health and general appearance of my hair have improved substantially. I have no doubt that my hair will continue to increase in volume, coverage, density, and appearance over time using this device. I do realize that patience and consistency is the key to achieving any successful results and am looking forward to sharing my progress over the next 6 months and beyond. It will be a happy day when I will be able to report that those Dixie cups are no longer needed! Thank you HairMax, I’m already starting to love my hair again.