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A man sitting in a barber chair listening to his hair dresser talk loudly

My Barber, My Doctor

I got a haircut last week. I have so little hair at this point that my wife and kids haven’t even noticed it, two weeks later. Having so little hair has its advantages; I’m usually in and out of the barber’s in 10 or 15 minutes. It beats waiting at the doctor’s office, that’s for sure.

Which is good, because a few hundred years ago, doctors were barbers. At least, the surgeons were barbers. Physicians thought that surgery was beneath them, so they left it to the barbers. Barbers would perform surgical procedures, amputations, bloodletting, and dentistry, among other services.1

I’m not sure I’d want my barber to be my surgeon (I just can’t see her doing a good job on a lymph node biopsy). But thankfully, she gives me plenty of free advice on my health, whether I ask for it or not.

Free medical advice…or not

At my most recent haircut, health was a topic of conversation – my health and hers. It’s not so much a conversation as a lecture from her. But somehow I managed to squeeze in that I had been put on blood pressure medication a couple of days before. She asked which one, and I told her I didn’t remember but I thought it started with an I. It actually starts with an A, but that didn’t matter to her. She knows all about it. Her brother-in-law is also on it, and she gave me a rundown of all the side effects I could expect and when (and if) they would go away.

I think my favorite conversation (lecture) from her came a few months after I was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma. I have, for years, had small hairless patches on my body that come and go. As she cut my hair, she saw one at the back of my head near my neck. She asked if I knew it was there. I told her they come and go and wondered out loud if it had anything to do with my recent lymphoma diagnosis.

LYMPHOMA!” she shouted in my ear. “That’s easy. Blood transfusions. That takes care of it. My cousin had it. Blood transfusions.”

“Well,” I said, “my doctor and I have talked about things like chemo and monoclonal antibodies, but not blood transf—.”

“Yeah, BLOOD TRANSFUSIONS! My cousin had them.”

She finished up my haircut, talking some more about blood transfusions and her cousin. I paid, left her a tip, and as the door closed behind me, I heard her yell again, “BLOOD TRANSFUSIONS!”

(For the record, I am not a doctor. I’m not even a barber. But I do know that blood transfusions will not cure or control any type of lymphoma.)

Getting real advice about my follicular lymphoma

I like to tell that story and laugh about it. It’s easier to laugh about her “medical advice” now after so many years, but even then, after a pretty recent diagnosis, I knew better than to take her too seriously.

But in another way, it’s no laughing matter. Lots of people are willing to give us advice – whether we ask for it or not – about our cancer. But this is a good reminder that, if you are considering some kind of self-treatment, whether you read about it on the internet or got it from someone in a checkout line, you should talk to your doctor before you try it. Even legitimate complimentary medicine can have negative effects with some conventional treatments.

You wouldn’t let your barber do surgery. So check twice before you let her prescribe anything else.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Blood-Cancer.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Bloody History of Barber-Surgeons. Medical Dialog Review. Available at https://www.mdrnyu.org/fall-2015-bloody-history-of-barber-surgeons/

Comments

  • Ann Harper moderator
    2 months ago

    It’s definitely true that people, well meaning if course, like to offer advice. Sometimes it’s even helpful. It can get overwhelming at times though. I usually excuse myself to look for a restroom-lol.

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator
    2 months ago

    I miss my hair stylist! She and I both had the gift to gab. She was and still is so encouraging when I was diagnosed. I’d leave her shop refreshed and glamorous along with positive energy… that I will get through this mess!

  • Ann Harper moderator
    2 months ago

    Sometimes it’s nice to get out and just pamper yourself!

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator
    2 months ago

    Yes, Ann always!

  • Bob McEachern author
    2 months ago

    Yolanda, I think the chances of you coming out glamorous are much greater than my chances ;).
    But I agree that it is great to have someone that makes you feel good. I had that kind of relationship with a nurse at my old onologist’s office. We’d only see each other every few months, but it was like seeing an old friend, and I’d always come out feeling positive about things.

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator
    2 months ago

    Awh, Thank you, Bob!
    I do agree these fine people helped you forget about your troubles. In most cases, there would be someone sitting in the next chair chiming in in the worst predicament than me. I guess this is where that statement count your blessings comes in play.

  • c.e.connely@gmail.com
    2 months ago

    I enjoyed reading this, Bob! I get it. People like to give advice, whether we ask for it or not.

  • Ann Harper moderator
    2 months ago

    So true!

  • Bob McEachern author
    2 months ago

    They sure do. I’ve mostly learned to laugh at it when it’s too outrageous, and to always assume that it was meant well.

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