Henna crown helps women cope with hair loss after chemotherapy
A bald scalp is a blank canvas for artwork that is helping some patients cope with hair loss after chemotherapy treatments at the MultiCare Regional Cancer Center.
Called a henna crown, the intricate designs are created with a plant-based dye. The reddish-brown paste temporarily stains the skin as it dries. Unlike a tattoo, henna art lasts about two and a half weeks before it begins to fade away.
After Kayla lost her hair to chemotherapy treatments, she believed that her bald head was jarring for other people. In public, she’d often cover her head with a scarf to help “soften” her appearance, even though she preferred the comfort of not wearing anything.
“When people see someone without hair, it’s uncomfortable, and a little scary and sad,” Kayla said. “But when they see henna, the person is more approachable and it’s not so sad and depressing.”
Kayla, an ARNP at the Mary Bridge Pediatric Heart Center, describes herself as an artistic person. She met a henna artist when she attended the Pierce County Cancer Survivorship Conference at the University of Puget Sound.
“I walked up to her and pulled off my scarf and said, ‘Would you do something on my head?’” Kayla said.
Since then, Kayla set up regular appointments with Tacoma-based artist Jada Moon, just a four blocks away from the campus of Tacoma General Hospital and Mary Bridge.
“The hair loss component of cancer is one of the most difficult things to deal with,” Kayla said. “As a woman going through breast cancer, there are a lot of body challenges, between surgery and chemotherapy. Women love to accessorize with jewelry and things, to make us feel beautiful, and this is one way to do that. It’s one way to feel pretty.”
For about eight years, Jada Moon has created henna designs, mostly on the bellies of pregnant women. More recently she started doing the henna crowns for women who have lost hair to chemotherapy.
While a pregnancy is a very different experience than cancer treatments, Jada Moon sees similarities.
“I think the common thread is both women are in places in their life where they need to be nurtured, and when they need to feel more beautiful and more celebrated,” Jada Moon said. “Both women are sort of wanting a protective talisman. Henna is a visual reminder to bring back positive thoughts.”
Kayla said that since she was losing her hair, henna seemed like “a cool way to cope with the loss.”
“For me, being diagnosed, and going through some of the things I’ve gone through, it’s really about finding the gifts in the experience,” Kayla said. “When I would pick up my 4-year-old daughter from day care, all the kids would say, ‘Can I see the pretty design on your head?’ I’ve chosen to look at the gifts and the beauty that can come out of a difficult situation, and the henna represents that in a very visual way.”
Kayla’s last chemotherapy treatment was in February, and her hair is already starting to grow back.
“I feel like the henna made people smile, like when someone sees beautiful art in your house,” Kayla said. “It was an honor to be a vessel for that. What an opportunity to be a walking canvas, and that brightened my week.
“I’m kind of going to miss it.”
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