These pictures show how devastating chemo can be, but also how resilient many of us are in the face of cancer.
Health and wellness touch each of us differently. This is one person’s story.
Eileen Posner, a cancer survivor who lost all her hair to chemotherapy, kept a year-long photo diary showing her changing appearance as she went through recovery.
A 41-year-old mother of two, Posner had long, flowing locks before she was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. She went bald as a result of her life-saving chemotherapy treatment.
In total, she had 6 doses of chemo between January and April 2017, as well as 28 doses of radiation therapy and a double mastectomy to remove a mass on her left breast.
Chemotherapy kills cancer cells but also affects hair root cells, which resulted in Posner’s head hair, eyelashes, and eyebrows falling out.
“I was hoping I would be the one and only person that didn’t lose their hair and it didn’t fall out until after my second dose — but then it fell out in clumps.”
“Losing my hair to chemo was way more traumatic than losing my breasts to cancer,” she says, noting that strangers gave her looks of pity whenever she went out in public.
“When you don’t have hair, everyone knows what you are going through. I got these looks of pity — no one knows how to speak to you anymore. That was the hardest part — to be reduced to my diagnosis,” Posner says.
Six weeks after undergoing her final chemo session, the first tufts of hair began to reappear on her head.
Posner decided to document the progress her hair made during treatment, and then recovery.
“I took my first picture one week post-chemo because it was very important for me to document that year and prove to myself that I was getting better — looking better,” she says.
While the growth was slow at first, pictures show her brunette mop becoming fuller as each week goes by. In her final photo, she poses with a full head of hair.
She put the 52 images together in a video montage to show her journey, which she hopes will help others who are also battling the disease.
Eileen was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2016 after her son, Declan, then 3, rolled onto her breast and she experienced a sharp pain.
“My breasts were there to feed my babies — they were like elbows. I didn’t pay attention to them,” she says.
Posner, who says she’s back to feeling 100 percent, adds: “When I heard the words ‘breast cancer,’ mortality washed over me. All I could think about was leaving my children without a mother and leaving my husband without a wife.”
She tries to instill hope in anyone undergoing treatment or struggling with recovery. “I just hope that anyone who is in the middle of treatment can watch this and see that things get better.”
Talking about life post-treatment, she adds, “It’s not going to be the same, but you get better. You are going to get a renewed sense of who you are and maybe even find the new you.”