It was 11:40 a.m. on Sept. 6, 2012. Marian Barr, then 57, was at work preparing to print insurance checks when her phone rang. It was her gynecologist. A needle biopsy performed on a suspicious lump a few days earlier revealed a fast-growing, aggressive breast cancer. “There were no words,” she recalled. “Tears just rolled from my eyes onto my desk.”
After undergoing a lumpectomy, doctors determined that the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes on her left side. She would require a second surgery, and would have to brave chemotherapy, radiation and chemo-related hair loss.
About six months after her chemotherapy ended, she asked her doctors when her hair, eyelashes and eyebrows would grow back. “They said for some it takes several months and for others, it’s longer,” said Marian, of Lindenhurst.
However within two years, she got a definitive diagnosis: permanent alopecia or hair loss. “This happens to only 1 to 2 percent of people who undergo chemotherapy, and that’s the lottery I won,” she said.
Initially, she wore a wig in public, but because wigs can be uncomfortable, especially in the summer, sometimes she foregoes wearing it.
“To this day, my baldness is the most devastating thing of my entire experience,” she said. “You get up and you feel good and then you pass that mirror.” Despite her hair loss and lymphedema, a swelling in her left arm caused by the removal of her lymph nodes, she credits her family and a strong support system for her positive attitude. “Five years later, we’re here and it’s all good,” said Marian, now 62.