12:06am July 7th 2014.
How I’m feeling: Tired and my stomach is a little off. I haven’t been sleeping well the past couple of days – and I’m not sure why. I may have to re-enforce only allowing myself 1 activity per day. Today (yesterday) I had 2: Shopping and family dinner plans.
This post has been sitting in my draft folder for a while now. I wanted to publish it when I felt ready and when I could dedicate some real time to writing this.
As a young woman, one of the most daunting parts of this whole chemotherapy cancer treatment thing can be losing your hair. It was for me. It was one of the first things I thought about when the word “chemotherapy” was dropped by my oncologist. And I don’t mean shedding like many women (and their boyfriends and husbands) complain about. I don’t mean hair thinning. I mean LOSING ALL OF YOUR HAIR.
I did a tonne of reading and research on when my hair would start to fall out – but it was already made evident to me that everything about this cancer journey was going to be unpredictable. I had already learned that the experience is different for everyone. There is nothing you can plan out and anticipate really, no matter how many other stories you read up on and no matter how many other cancer patients you talk to. You just don’t know – until you know.
As for the hair loss, I know some who started losing it in small chunks, some who found it extremely painful, some whom didn’t lose much at all, some whom didn’t start losing hair until their 3rd session of chemo. After I got around to accepting the fact that it was inevitably going to happen, I knew that I wanted to have one incredible wig ready for me before my hair would start to fall out. I started losing my hair 2 weeks after my first session of chemotherapy. I will never forget that day. But me being me – I tried to be as prepared as I could have been (without going insane and without being too hard on myself) in this unpredictable whirlwind of a chapter of mine.
And so, I started asking around and researching wigs, wigs specifically for cancer patients, wig care for cancer patients, scalp care for cancer patients, wig shoppes in Toronto – you name it!
My good friend Danielle made it her mission with me to find me a wig I was comfortable with and loved. By the time we got to checking out the couple of wig shops we had researched, I knew that I wanted:
- Hair that would feel and look like my own
- 100% natural European hair
- One really good quality wig that I could style any way I want. Some opt for going with a couple of”ok” quality wigs – but I wanted one amazing and versatile one!
The first place we visited, we loved – Gabi’s Wigs. I did not have an appointment but I walked in to check out the vibe and the selection of wigs they had anyways. I was immediately welcomed with a smile from Gabi herself. There were a couple of customers in the store that were getting their wigs styled/cut – but Gabi took the time to really get to know what my needs were. After trying to figure out inside of my head how to tell her about my situation – I eventually told Gabi that I was going through chemotherapy. In fact, I may have just said while looking at the floor “So, I’m currently going through chemotherapy – and I want to be as prepared as I can be for what’s going to happen” She and the couple of other customers looked at me with such sympathy and warmth in their eyes. “But, you’re so young” Gabi said. “I know……” I responded. She took the time to speak to me about my situation – and did a great job at remaining positive for me. A woman sitting in a salon chair quietly offered me a business card to her naturopath and wished me luck, light and love on my journey. I felt so loved.
Gabi started looking at and touching my hair and brought over a few boxes. I didn’t want something that looked wig-y and overly done. In general, I’m a really low maintenance person – and my hair tells the same story. I pretty much wash it, let it air dry, (kind of) brush it and go. And so, while voluminous, sex-kitten, va-va-voom, mermaid-like hair was really tempting – I didn’t want something that wasn’t me. I tried on 3 wigs Gabi felt could work for me. The first one looked EXACTLY like my current hair at the time, the other one was longer with some layers and another was a thicker version of the second one. I was happy with what I saw and the service at Gabi’s – but I went with the intention of just shopping around. Especially, after learning that these wigs start at around $1800 – I wanted to make sure I did whatever would make me feel content with this big and important purchase.
We went down the street to another wig shoppe – and we were immediately turned off by their customer service (or lack thereof). The store wasn’t super busy, there wasn’t a big selection of product and there was just less care in the servicing. They didn’t take the time to really get to know what I was looking for and what my situation was. I wasn’t looking for a big cry/sympathy party – but there was no reaction to my situation at all. They also did not mention any of the wig care things that are specific to those going through chemotherapy vs. anyone else looking for wig. While, I liked one of the wigs I had tried on – something didn’t feel right. It wasn’t until debriefing with Danielle afterwards when I realized that I didn’t have complete confidence in their ability to provide me with the service and care I needed. A nice looking place – but it just wasn’t for me.
Getting my wig was a really big deal – and I was really nervous about it. And so I figured I’m allowed to be “choosy” with whom I want to spend it with.
The next week, I decided it was time for me to get my wig. Time was ticking – and started noticing more hair on my pillow case and sheets every morning. Danielle and I went to Gabi’s and I tried on one of the three wigs that had been on my mind since I tried it on the previous week. It was the wig that I naturally started playing with and twirling around my fingers the moment I had it on. Again – I went without an appointment (whoops!) but Gabi told me that someone had cancelled their appointment and that if I wanted the wig – they could wash, style and cut it right there for me. I looked at Danielle – and said “I think I’m going to get it” I was so nervous – and so excited – but really nervous.
Gabi asked if my hair had started to fall out yet – and I told her that I had been so scared to touch and wash my hair. She asked if she could check, and when she softly brushed it – hair fell out. I couldn’t see – but I could hear her and Danielle’s reaction and knew what had happened. I started to cry. I looked at myself in the mirror – and started to cry.
Gabi, the motherly type she is consoled me and made me feel like everything was going to be ok. Danielle was right by my side. What a good friend. After a deep breath, I was ready to start the process:
Those whom have been closely following along my journey via my blog posts or by keeping in close touch with me know that my hair started really falling out in April – but those whom haven’t, have been completely fooled by my wig! So many have said to me “At least you didn’t lose your hair!” “And your hair didn’t fall out!” And I usually say “Oh – no no. It’s all gone”
While the wig was pricey, it was a really important purchase for me. After all, it’s something I could be wearing for up to a year every single day and so it had to be something I was comfortable and happy with. It’s also a really good wig. Ever since purchasing mine, I’m always checking out other wigs and I can tell that mine is really high quality. It’s no coincidence that it looks very real and is comfortable. Looking back, I’m really glad I went with something that felt and looked very “me”. At this point, I don’t feel like me at all. I feel like I’m inside someone else’s body – like an alien. Everything about this shell of a body feels so foreign. And so, at least having a wig that I feel comfortable with helps a little.
I highly recommend going to Gabi’s for your wig needs – whether or not you’re a cancer patient. You can tell and feel that Gabi has a love for what she does and has been around the block in the industry for a long while. I also love the boxes and boxes of wigs in the store – no, those aren’t shoe boxes in the background 😉 She and her staff are incredible at what they do and whenever I step in, it feels like such a safe haven for me. I cannot be more grateful that Gabi has made what I thought would be a really scary and nerving experience – a really great one! Thanks Mama Gabi 🙂 Pass this post along to anyone whom you know is in need of a great wig, wig care or is about to go through chemotherapy.
Tel: 416 787 3129
Other posts on hair loss:
Goodbye Hair. I’m going to miss you so much
Facing myself in the mirror
Shaving what was left of my hair off