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By Lisa Assetta
Patient Advisor, Patient and Family Advisory Program

I was in my final weeks of chemotherapy treatment for my second case of breast cancer. Although it was the second time, it was the first time I had to have chemo. As a child, I had long straight hair, but that grew naturally wavy as an adult and I kept it past shoulder length. It was a pretty shade of brown that I often had colored at the salon every four weeks to cover any grays. I liked my hair and received many compliments on it. It was a big part of my identity!

I still had hair at that point, even though it had been slowly but steadily thinning throughout my treatment. At first, I was able to cover the bald spots when I styled my hair. After a while, I started wearing headscarves that still let the longest part of my hair show. I thought I could make it through my treatment without losing all my hair and I was almost there! I believe it was my physician assistant who suggested I consider cutting it at this point so I made an appointment at Magnolias Salon to see what they would recommend.

My appointment was with Monica, the current salon supervisor. I knew I was in good hands within just a few minutes of sitting down. She took a good, long look at my hair and ran her hands through it. Monica explained that it would take a long time for the new hair to grow the length of my longest strands. She suggested that I should cut it if I wanted it to grow evenly. She didn’t use the word shave, but that’s what I thought would happen if I agreed. Among all the other big decisions I had to make through treatment, I was facing another one… this one felt scary too.

Monica was calm and knowledgeable. She went on to share that the health of both my scalp and hair were important factors to consider. I learned from her that "chemo-hair" is considered unhealthy because it can contain toxins from the treatment — yet another reason to cut it. She said that "chemo-hair" is also dry and the scalp can become dry and irritated along with it. Once I understood the importance of caring for your hair and scalp, I was sold! Like many cancer patients, my health is everything to me!

Monica was gentle and explained every step and product she used. She performed a scalp detox and shampoo massage. When it was time for the cut, I felt prepared. I still had enough hair remaining to achieve a haircut and not a full shave. I would not leave the salon being completely bald! That said, I found myself ready for it — if that needed to happen. Monica’s knowledge was so valuable and comforting. When the cut was done, I saw a completely different person staring back at me in the mirror. She helped me feel good about my new and "cool" short hair.

She even took a few glamour shots of me. I found myself smiling and ready to face the world with my new hair! It was not only shorter than I’d ever worn it but was completely gray! Monica also took time to recommend good shampoo and styling products, some of which feature all-natural ingredients and were created by cancer patients. She gave me a schedule for my next haircut, and I decided then and there that I would continue making appointments at Magnolias. My scalp and hair care would become a regular part of my post-treatment wellness routine! I’ve been back for haircuts and advice multiple times since my first time.

The salon recently underwent renovations. The new setup is spacious, and the environment is even more inviting. I also learned that their services and retail have expanded to include fittings for compression garments, breast prostheses, mastectomy bras and more. Magnolias Salon may be one of the best-kept secrets at Moffitt and I want to spread the word about it! In my role as a volunteer Patient Advisor and Peer Visitor for Moffitt’s Patient and Family Advisory Program, I share information with other cancer patients about the resources Moffitt offers. I’m now incorporating information about the salon so more patients can experience this wonderful benefit. I give many thanks to Monica and Moffitt for adding an incredible hair salon to the long list of ways patients are supported throughout treatment, recovery and healing!

Interested in visiting the salon? The Magnolias Salon is located at Moffitt's Magnolia Campus on the ground floor near elevator C. Patients can visit the salon Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., by appointment only. Services can be booked by calling 813-745-7299 or making an appointment online.