Singer Kellie Pickler, right, and friend Summer Holt Miller after the pair… (Russ Harrington )
Kellie Pickler shaved her head this week in a sign of solidarity with a close childhood friend facing cancer, and to raise awareness about early prevention of the disease. But the country singer might not know how many other cancer patients were moved by her gesture.
Cancer patients endure a particular kind of hell when they lose their hair, said Nancy Lumb of Chevy Chase, Md. For many -- especially women -- it's the single hardest part of their battle.
Lumb should know. She never cried when she was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago. She stayed strong when she had to tell her husband, her friends and her family about the diagnosis. She bravely faced a lumpectomy, four months of chemo and 33 rounds of radiation treatment.
"But I cried when I lost my hair," she said. "It's sad that it's as big of a deal as it is. For us women, we get a lot of confidence based on the way that you look. When you lose your hair, it can really kind of shake you."
Lumb, 45, has been cancer-free for the last four years, and she's now a spokeswoman for Look Good Feel Better, a nonprofit organization that helps cancer patients improve their self-esteem.
She told the Los Angeles Times that people who have never had cancer might see Pickler's actions as merely a nicety. But, Lumb said, the singer is helping to remove the sting and the stigma from hair loss due to cancer.
Her gesture also shows cancer patients that shaking up one's look can be liberating -- and fun.
"What she did was a beautiful thing," Lumb said. It sends a powerful message that a woman is more than just her "crowning glory," she said. "I think [Pickler] was devaluing the need for hair; that makes it more of an even playing field. It says, 'Just be willing to do something different with your look.' "
It's no mere cosmetic gesture, said Louanne Roark, executive director of the Look Good Feel Better organization, which is part of the Personal Care Products Council Foundation. The organization works closely with the American Cancer Society and the Professional Beauty Assn. to bring services to cancer patients.
Most cancer patients will lose their hair during treatment, Roark told the Los Angeles Times. But a recent survey found that 57% of the cancer patients who actively address their appearance felt that it empowered them -- a necessary mind-set for fighting the Big C.
She added: "I think that [Pickler] is stepping forward and making a powerful statement. Hair does not define you."
And there's an even deeper element of symbolism contained in those wisps of hair that fall to the ground, she said. "Hair loss and cancer treatment is temporary."
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