My first question to my doctor after being told I had breast cancer at the age of 34 was, “Will I lose my hair?” … not “Will I lose my life?” Seems silly now after everything else I’ve faced on this journey. My husband, Scott, said “Really, you are willing to trade your life just to keep your hair?” No, I didn’t want to do that, but I didn’t want to look ridiculous either. I didn’t want people whispering, “Oh, that’s a wig!”
For many women, hair loss is a part of the fight. I found the wig shopping process to be horrible. Sitting in those wig chairs was the loneliest I’d ever felt. It suddenly hit me that I really had cancer. Couldn’t the wig shop employees see and feel my fear and desperation? I needed help. Where was the compassion?
I became really good with wigs during my journey. I had always been blonde, but cancer gave me the confidence to try new things. I marched into my last chemo session feeling sassy in a red wig and announced to the nurses that I’d decided hair was a waste of time and I would keep my hair short when it grew back and just wear wigs. They all stood looking at me like I was crazy. Was this the same emotional wreck that was so worked up about wearing a wig? Yup, same gal, but different attitude and new perspective.
I will be a six-year survivor this October and I still wear a wig every day. I never thought I could love wigs and I do! I really think they need a new name like “spare hair” or “easy hair.” For me, they’re an accessory. I change my bag, my shoes … and my hair! I love never having a bad hair day and the ability to change styles and colors. I realize that wearing a wig makes the fact that you are going through cancer real, and that some women who experience chemo-related hair loss may opt to not wear a wig; but if you choose to wear a wig, try to look at it as a chance to have an alter ego … Your butt-kicking-cancer ego!
Four years ago I started my own boutique, called Wigged Out because I want other women to have a better experience than I did. I want them to know I’ve been right where they are and to walk out feeling beautiful and confident. My goal is to empower other women to fight their cancer and win — while looking fabulous.
I thought I’d share some things I’ve learned along the way …
In retrospect, I handled the hair loss all wrong. It initially came out 10-15 strands at a time and it gradually got worse. But, once my hair was gone, I stopped crying about it. I put on my wig and felt pretty normal. So, my advice is don’t allow the hair loss to control you. Take control of it and you will feel more in charge and can say, “All right cancer, you messed with the wrong chick!”
Should you get human hair or synthetic? Everyone has a different opinion. Here are some things to consider:
• Generally more expensive. Quality wigs in this category usually start around $800.
• Requires daily styling (curling, flat iron, etc.), just like regular hair.
• Can get split ends (from heated styling tools) that will need to be trimmed.
• Needs to be washed with a mild shampoo and conditioner every 6-10 uses.
• Tends to feel heavier and hotter.
• Tend to be less expensive ($150-$400 for a nicer one).
• Are available with a monofilament fiber that looks like a human scalp.
• Need to be cleaned once a month with shampoo for synthetic hair, but daily you just need to shake it out and pop it on. Do not brush a synthetic wig, only use a wide-toothed comb and never comb it when it is wet.
• Can be cut to fit your face. Make sure you go to someone with experience cutting synthetic hair. If it is cut wrong, it will stick out in an awkward way.
• Are heat sensitive. You can’t open an oven, hot dishwasher, cook on a stove or expose it to any type of high heat or steam. If you decide to go with synthetic, it is best not to wear your wig in the kitchen.
I wish you well on this journey and please know you are not alone!