I’m wondering how unusual it is for a patient undergoing chemotherapy to not have any hair loss.
I ask because one of my wife’s longtime girlfriends supposedly discovered a malignancy in her breast and has had six weeks of chemotherapy. And today is the second time she called my wife asking to borrow money.
So I meet her to give her some money. She looks a bit frail, but not unhealthy, and she makes a point of mentioning that she’s one of the lucky few who don’t lose their hair with chemo.
I can understand that chemo = no hair might not always be the case. And I really wouldn’t think twice about it, except a more plausible story exists…
She’s a 40 year old unemployed, uninsured, woman with a long history of illegal drug use, and she now lives with her brother who allegedly makes a living manufacturing crystal meth.
But that’s not all. When I gave her the money today, she was very grateful and humble and thankful, and naturally I was my usual gracious self and helped her maintain her dignity.
Yet, she begins telling me how she’s working hard to change her life. Tomorrow, she’s going to her AA meeting and working with her counselor. Tomorow, she will start going to church again. And she’s going to stop dating her ex-husband who she dearly loves, but he treats her like dirt. He only gives her money if they get to fool around.
Her words sounded less like gratitude and more like an assurance that she’d get a grip on her addictions, and wouldn’t ask for more money. I don’t plan on seeing the money again.
So back to the OP. How common is it for chemo patients not to exhibit hair loss?
Qadgop, MD here. Sounds like you’re being scammed. The whole point of chemo and radiation therapy is to kill off all rapidly dividing cells, ie the cancer cells. Other cells get caught up in this, most particularly hair, also intestinal lining, causing diarrhea.
I’ve worked with a lot of addicts in my career too, being involved in their medical care, and in trying to get them into recovery programs, and this scam is a common one. I’ve heard many addicts talk about pretending to have cancer to get money from sympathetic family and friends.
To summarize, it’s unusual to not lose hair from chemo for breast cancer, and its usual to have addicts pretend to have cancer so they can feed their addictions. I think you’re wise to kiss the money goodbye, but if you contribute any more without SOLID documentation of her having cancer and getting it treated, all you are doing is protecting her addiction. And as for her addiction, you (and your wife) didn’t cause it, can’t cure it, and can’t control it
So maybe you’re not being scammed after all. Unemployed, uninsured people with histories of addiction who have relatives who are crystal meth manufacturers do sometimes get cancer and do go through chemotherapy and, shaken by the reality of peering into the Eternal Pit courtesy of the Big C, do actually resolve to start going to AA and church, and to stop dating the loser ex-husband.
Don’t be too quick to cut her off, is what I’m saying. You and your wife may be the only “normal” people she knows, and she may be relying on you as a sort of touchstone. I think it’s great that she may have resolved to “get a grip on her addictions, and [not] ask for more money.” (Sheesh, this is turning into a MPSIMS thread.)
Qadgop - your insights from the field are helpful. Now that I know this is a common ploy, I (or more likely my wife) will get her to volunteer soem more information, like the name of her Doctor for starters.
And Duck Duck Goose, thanks for reminding me to keep an open mind. Things aren’t always as they seem. I know we’ll end up helping her out in some fashion, because she’s been a friend of my wife’s for well over 20 years.
And I don’t care if she’s paying bills or buying Christmas presents for her kids with the money we give her. I just don’t want our support to feed her appetite for drugs for another week, if that’s what it’s currently used for.