Kyssi Andrews' three lessons on coping with hair loss
For 5-year-old Khyrstin Andrews, better known as Kyssi, and her mom, Marla, it was just as tough when Kyssi lost her hair the third time as it was the first.
In 2012, Kyssi was diagnosed with a Wilms' Tumor, a type of childhood cancer that affects the kidneys. After undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, she was declared cancer-free. But not long after that, her Wilms' Tumor returned and metastasized to her lungs. She underwent a surgery and an intense type of chemotherapy called ICE (a combination of ifosfamide, carboplatin and etoposide).
In January 2014, Kyssi was declared cancer-free once again. But at her six-month follow-up appointment, doctors found that Kyssi's cancer had returned a third time. As always, Kyssi and her family, friends and more than 160,000 Facebook page supporters and more than 9,000 Instagram followers, were ready to beat Wilms' Tumor -- and smile while doing it.
Kyssi and Marla, an inseparable pair, know it's important to look on the bright side even on the toughest days, so they decided to make shaving Kyssi's head as fun as possible.
Here are Marla's tips for those helping others cope with hair loss:
1. Remind them that they're beautiful with or without their hair.
After almost six months of being cancer-free, Kyssi's tight, dark curls were growing back, and she was not excited to lose them yet again.
"Kyssi loves her hair. It's an important part of her. It's an important part of any little girl, or anyone. And Kyssi is a diva," Marla says.
Marla understood just how Kyssi felt. As much as Kyssi didn't want to shave her head, Marla hated seeing her baby girl experience it even more. But after several chemotherapy treatments, she started finding clumps of Kyssi's hair. It covered her pillows and her hair brush. It even got in her mouth. It got on her clothes, and the shedding left her embarrassed in public. She knew it was time to shave Kyssi's head.
She gave Kyssi a pep talk and assured her that it would be better if they cut her hair.
"Most importantly, I just kept assuring her she was going to be beautiful with or without her hair," Marla says.
When asked what she thought of her new look, Kyssi smiles and says, "I think I look beautiful."
Marla then asked her if other people going through cancer treatment should be nervous about losing their hair. Kyssi quickly shook her head. "No, because they'll look beautiful, too," she says.
2. Find a way to make it fun.
Marla decided to make Kyssi's haircut into a fun video shoot instead of a chore. Kyssi complained of a stomachache that morning, but soon after they began making the video, she and Marla were smiling, laughing and singing. Marla even let Kyssi use the hair trimmer to cut the first few pieces of hair.
Marla shared the video on Kyssi's Facebook page in two parts, and each one received thousands of messages of support.
But the video wasn't all in fun. Marla says she was also hoping to help others -- especially those preparing for cancer treatment - understand what hair loss is really like.
"They don't give you a class for this," she says. "There's no rule. There's no manual."
3. Show support.
Each time Kyssi saved her head, Marla shaved her head, too. In fact, each time Kyssi has had to do almost anything as a part of her cancer treatment, Marla has done it, too. When Kyssi wears a mask, Marla wears a mask.
"I just don't want her to go feel alone," Marla says. "This experience is like no other. The key to it all is support, love and being happy."
Kyssi chimes in with one of the duo's favorite mantras. She says, "HAPPY IS HEALTHY."