When Shaquita Estes was diagnosed with breast cancer, one of the hardest things she said she had to deal with was the loss of her hair from chemotherapy.
It was also hard for her to find books to help explain what was happening with her to her 8-year-old daughter, Lexie, a third-grader at Brooks Elementary. She said she couldn’t find books that show people who look like them or who they can relate to in their cancer journey.
“One day, we were sitting down talking, and she could really remember so much of this journey that we had been on as a family for a year,” Estes said. “So then I said, ‘Why don’t we put it to a book? This would be therapeutic to write down our journey.’”
The book they wrote, “No Hair, Don’t Care,” is told through Lexie’s eyes as she watched her mom battle breast cancer. Estes said Lexie wrote down her thoughts, and then she went back and helped Lexie put the book together.
Their book is about how they navigated physical and emotional changes chemotherapy brought as a family.
Lexie was having a hard time dealing with what her mom was going to look like on the outside while being treated for breast cancer.
Estes said hair is important, especially to African American women, and they were both having a hard time dealing with the physical changes chemotherapy brought.
“I wanted her to know that love will conquer everything, with hair or without hair, I will still be her mommy,” she said.
They are self-publishing the book through DG Self-Publishing, based out of Arizona. The company helps authors self-publish children’s books, according to www.dgselfpublishing.com .
Estes said the book is scheduled to come out at the beginning of December. The book will be available on Amazon, and she is working on getting it in Barnes and Noble.
She plans on going on a book tour in Georgia around Christmas.
Estes was diagnosed with breast cancer a year ago. After six months of chemo, 33 days of radiation and four months of oral chemo, she said there is currently no evidence of disease in her body.
She said right now she is looking to do some clinical trials and is working on her new normal routine of diet and exercise.
Her oncologist, Dr. Sarah Friend from the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University, wrote the forward for Estes’ book.
“There are many reasons why hair loss is feared, not only is hair essential to patient's identity and self-esteem, losing hair automatically informs the public about the cancer journey, which some patients would rather keep private,” Friend wrote in the forward.
Before she began chemo, Estes said she had a head full of hair that she enjoyed styling and going to get done.
She said that not being able to control her hair was devastating to her. Between her first and second chemo treatment, she noticed she was beginning to lose a lot of hair.
Estes decided to have it shaved off, and her best friend and sister-in-law were they to support her.
“I realized that I feel beautiful, I’m still that bubbly energetic woman, I just look a little different,” she said. “I just really had to embrace it, and it was liberating to be quite honest.”
Estes hopes the book will be a resource for people who have cancer to have conversations with children in their life about what they are going through.
“To be quite honest, it has really helped me get through a part of my journey, too,” she said.
Estes was also prompted to share her and her daughter’s story because of her job as a pediatric nurse practitioner, which she has done for nearly 20 years.
Her position in health care was another way she could understand why kids sometimes have a hard time understanding cancer and hair loss.
Lexie was 7 years old when Estes received her cancer diagnosis, which she said is a time developmentally where kids begin to understand death.
Estes added that children are more aware of their surroundings than parents may think, and it is important to discuss what cancer is and how it can affect family members with children.
Estes said she’s glad she was able to share her journey with Lexie because it has helped her heal.
“Even though some things are hard, all you have to do is push through it, and your life will get better,” Lexie said.
Estes said she wants their book to change the way people talk about cancer, especially with children. She hopes other moms will see that it’s okay to need support, even from their kids.
“God has worked a miracle in me. I’ve taken such a traumatic and life-changing experience and turned it into something so positive. Now, I feel like I have more purpose in life than I ever had before,” she said.