My Natural Hair Journey: Chemo Curls

At DevaCurl we often hear stories of natural hair journeys. Many contain big chops, life changing stylists, and amazing after photos. But the transformation isn’t always easy. In 2015, Hollie, a mother and grandmother based in Tacoma Washington, was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. She underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments and like so many, lost her hair in the process. When that happened, she saw an opportunity to begin her curl journey and she hasn’t looked back since. Today, we’re sharing her story.

When I turned 40, I went for a mammogram.

Every year since turning 40, I’ve gone for one.

I have never missed an appointment.

In April 2015, at the age of 47, I went for my annual visit. And, for the first time, when the results came back my doctor had identified a ‘suspicious spot.’

I had follow up appointments.

I went through a biopsy.

By the end of April, I had been diagnosed with Stage 1 Breast Cancer.

The doctors determined I need to have a lumpectomy, four rounds of chemotherapy, and 33 rounds of radiation.

Compared to most people diagnosed with Breast Cancer, that was nothing.

They were planning out the chemo cocktail they would use to treat my cancer, and I asked my doctors, “Am I going to lose my hair?”

There were no ifs, ands, or buts about it – they told me it was definite.

I tried to mentally prep myself and cut my hair down.

I thought I was prepared.

I wasn’t.

I remember the moment it happened.

I was between my first and second round of chemotherapy. It was an early morning and I was getting ready to meet my mom. I headed into the shower, and I noticed this black stuff on my shoulders

I wear glasses, so my vision was blurry, and I couldn’t tell what it was.

Chemo CurlsI left the bathroom, put on my glasses and realized that hair was everywhere.

On my shoulders. My floor. All over my sheets.

I cried.

I expected shedding, instead it was just all—gone.

Just like that, in huge clumps.

I called my husband, and he talked me through it.

He organized a ‘Head Shaving Day’ where we both got our heads shaved.

And suddenly, I was bald.

It wasn’t until I started radiation, post-chemo that the peach fuzz started growing back.

I didn’t know what to expect, I hadn’t had my natural hair in years – I’d been relaxing it.

But then, my first chemo curls grew in.

The hair was super soft and fine, since the treatment was still effecting it. There wasn’t much I could do to care for it, so I just used gentle baby shampoo.

And I said to myself, when my hair grows back, really grows back, I’m going to keep it natural.

I had a clean slate, and an opportunity to really do this with virgin hair.

I started researching, looking for products that were healthy for my scalp and my body. I didn’t want to take chances, and it was important for me to take care of my body and my new hair.

When I had about a half an inch of hair and began to see my curls, I started using DevaCurl.

I started researching how I wanted to wear my hair as it grew out, I was googling, asking friends, and then I found my hair stylist, Carolyn at Mahogany Soul Salon.

I had asked her if she’d be able to do comb twists on my curls, and she said yes, so I paid her a visit. And what did she have on display and use in her salon? DevaCurl.

“It’s the best thing for your curls – good choice, keep using it.”

So I did.

As my hair got longer she introduced me to different DevaCurl products.

I kept trying to learn as much as I could. My daughter was like, “Mom, go to YouTube!”

“What’s YouTube?”

I had no idea.

My daughter explained that there were tons of videos on how to care for natural hair, so I started looking and then I found Bianca Renee.

I started following her and I learned so much from her.

My hair’s grown out a lot more, and in the process I learned that I have three different textures.

This is my hair–post cancer.

I think back, and I don’t miss my old hair at all.

My natural hair feels like a badge of honor.

I earned this hair and I love it.

It took so much for me to get here, and I cherish it.

I look at pictures of me bald, and I cannot believe how far I’ve come.

This has been so empowering.

I love my hair, it’s a reminder of what I had to go through to get to where I am.