Diem Brown showed some muscle when she competed on MTV’s “Real World/Road Rules Challenge,” but she’s exhibiting far more strength during her real-life battle with ovarian cancer. In June, the TV personality was diagnosed with the disease for the second time, and she’s been candidly sharing her story, including undergoing controversial fertility procedures with the hope of freezing her eggs as well as the most recent development – hair loss.
“This week I wanted to do something a lil different,” the 30-year-old writes in her blog for People magazine. “One, because I've been really quite ill and haven't been able to think straight through the medication haze to write a coherent blog. And two, because making a chemo hair loss video is something I have always wanted to do – video of the hair loss process was something I had searched for the first time I had cancer.”
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Brown went on to share how when she lost her hair the first time she had cancer – when she was 23 – she searched online for videos of cancer patients experiencing hair loss as a result of chemotherapy. The results were disappointing. Instead of seeing images of other women fighting similar battles, she found pictures of Hollywood stars – like Natalie Portman and Britney Spears – who had shaved their heads for reasons good (a movie role) and not-so-good (a meltdown). Finally, Brown found a photo of Melissa Etheridge during her memorable appearance at the 2005 Grammys – at the time she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer – that served as her inspiration. “I remember studying her picture on the Internet, amazed and proud she didn't throw on a wig ... she was bald, beautiful and strong!” Brown wrote.
With Etheridge in mind, Brown captured video footage of her five hardest hair loss days throughout chemo – and it’s really interesting to watch such personal and intimate moments. It starts with her wrapped in a towel in her bathroom after showering. She’s combing her wet hair and large clumps just fall into her hands. In another clip Brown speaks candidly about the emotional impact hair loss has on a cancer patient. “You go through waves where sometimes you’re fine and then sometime you get upset because it’s frustrating,” she says softly. “If anyone gets mad or makes fun of you for talking about your hair too much … tell them to [experience it] because it’s a frustrating feeling. … It’s not the freaking hair so much as it’s more and more realization that you’re sick.”
Later in the video, Brown has several bald patches all over her head. There is one part where she gets very upset while she’s brushing the remaining few long locks as she realized that a substantial chunk is going to fall out next. As a viewer, it’s difficult not to get emotional as she’s is crying, “Oh, no! Oh, no!” as the hair falls in her hand. But that moment is off-set by another where she is feeling empowered. In the final shot where her bald patches well outnumber the spots in which she has hair, Brown says, “I’m actually pretty proud. I think I’m growing.”
This video has only been online briefly, but the feedback has been very positive. On Facebook, Rachel Adams wrote, "This hurt my heart. Prayers for you. Thank you for being so open and real. You GOT THIS girl!!” And a commenter named Marianne Stephan shared, “You are amazing, Diem!! One of my best friend's weddings was the weekend before my second round [of chemo]. They expected I would have my hair, but it started to fall out so I hid it in an up-do and used a lot of hairspray to disguise any loss. The day after, it started coming out in clumps. It's really something that totally freaks you out and I think you are so wonderful for putting this out there!”
Brown noted on Facebook that her goal for creating the video was to share the hair loss experience so that other people would know what to expect. Well, mission accomplished. She did just that – in a really eye-opening way.