Wigs in my life for 20 years - For better for worse
- my partner for life
A Wigmakers Thoughts
We are delighted to bring you a double blog this week with first up, a powerful blog by Heather who shares her experience of wig wearing. This is followed by Shelara, a Gloucestershire wigmaker who has been supportive of Wigwam; she writes about wig making.
In conversations I’ve had with people living with cancer, it is disturbing to hear that in many places there is still a very poor service for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups. Leanne Pero of Black Women Rising shared her experience at Trew Fields several years ago and sadly after the workshop her team organised on Race and Cancer last week, the situation is still very poor indeed: https://youtu.be/ORoWhkwtMDE
Lastly there is a link to a great charity that can help you navigate the world of wig wearing including afro hair and a video about NHS wig supply for cancer patients during Covid-19 (incl charges, discounts and/or if the hospital trust will pay the full costs): https://youtu.be/U9qW42e8Jj8
Wigs in my life for 20 years - For better for worse - my partner for life
As I write this I am 63 had a mastectomy 4 weeks ago for a primary non-spreading hormone receptor Breast Cancer. The reason for such drastic measures was because I had two lumpectomies in the same breast 4 years ago without adjuvant therapy so decided to remove all tissue this time.
So why did I need a wig as no Chemotherapy!! Well in my 20’s I was diagnosed with autoimmune thyrotoxicosis and angina which was so bad that I got alopecia. At the time, I had very long thick hair that I could sit on and was my crowning glory. I was devastated and tried every lotion, potion, injection and therapy spending loads of money and time to save it. Cortisone injections in the scalp slowed it down but there are only so many injections you can have. I went for a thyroidectomy and took a break travelling and my hair got stronger. As soon as I went back to my stressful career in sales it started to fall out again. I then had a car accident in 1999 where I was hit by a lorry and left my partner of 24 years a year later.
I decided that a radical change to my life was required, so I went off to India to learn to be a yoga teacher in 2000. I started to wear a wig when I came back to the UK. as my hair was so thin and patchy. Then In 2008 I saw my best friend being killed accidentally by a train as she slipped on the line, I tried CPR until the paramedics arrived- ghastly….. So my autoimmune response was to lose all head hair and body hair within a few weeks.
Today I have a bald head, legs (so no waxing, whoopee) and arms and no other body hair which means I get cold very quickly. I’ve also lost most of my nose hairs but have managed to keep my eyelashes which I did lose 4 years ago but have grown back. I’m sooo grateful.
Having started wearing wigs in 2001, the year I met my current partner, now husband, who didn’t know what alopecia was and didn’t get phased by my very thinning head of hair, I was 43. He is a rock and says he has two women in his life the professional Yoga therapist and the bonkers bald lady he sees in our private times (BTW Heather can be bonkers as a yoga therapist as well 😊 Tony).
I go to a wonderful wig shop called Beasley and Goodmans in Little Sandhurst. They are amazing, sensitive and resourceful and allowed me to do a headstand in the shop to check if the wig stayed on. I am now very comfortable that I will never have hair again and enjoy the easiness of getting ready!! No dryers curlers straighteners just wash and condition once a week.
When getting my first wig I chose to go to a specialists to help me with colour style and maybe a trim. They helped me with products and wig caps a non-slip cover for a bald head or to keep my thinning hair in. They showed how to put in on and get the cap fitting in the right place so it was not obvious I had a wig, plus how to care for it.
Yes there have been days where it is so windy I get a little nervous so put it on tighter or wear a tight fitting hat. There are times when I am so hot under it and sweat pours down my ears and neck. This happened teaching in Retreats and Festivals in India, Jordan and Egypt. I cannot swim very well so don’t miss going into pools. I used to buy 4 wigs a year but now I make them last 6 months and have changed my style 3 times to go with my age. They have always been a bob type and not long as they are harder to keep looking good.
Yes I have had wig sores probably about 6 times for about a month and used witch-hazel to clean the skin. The wig caps help with this and its usually in the heat.
When I was diagnosed with Cancer first in 2017 and was told it hadn’t spread and didn’t need chemo, so many commented that I wouldn’t need to wear a wig and it was then I realised how many didn’t know I was had been wearing a wig since 2001, how funny!!
I know that for me it’s for ever yet for most cancer thrivers and survivors it is transient so perhaps a mail-order wig would suffice. It is a matter of choice. Enjoy having a change of colour or style, have fun with it.
I will always remember ringing my Mum outside Beasley and Goodmans crying and saying ‘O’h Mum, it’s amazing and looks like I have been to an expensive hairdressers. You will love the NEW HEATHER.
Heather George, Yoga Therapist, Pilates and Meditation Teacher and Wigwam Co-leader, Staines-upon-Thames www.omtropy.com
A Wigmakers Thoughts
Hair is our crown, it is a way to be expressive, show creativity reflecting style and personality. Anyway hair grows is uniquely beautiful; this could be curly, straight, kinky, black, orange or blonde. Hair plays an important role in individual confidence and self-image.
Having a bad hair day is a term used so loosely but this can be a reality for some chemotherapy patients. Chemotherapy can certainly save lives which we all want and are grateful for, but it can also cause hair loss. Whilst destroying the bad cells in the body it can also damage the healthy cells; causing hair follicles to become become weak and fall out. Hair loss is rarely permanent, and it should all grow back once any treatment is complete. Whilst hair loss is a problem there is help available and I am here to share a little knowledge on hair and scalp care and wigs.
During treatment, the scalp can become extremely sensitive and some gentle TLC could help. A few oils and butter that could help moisturise and soothe the scalp and hair are Castor Oil, Coconut Oil and Shea Butter. These products all carry incredible different properties alone but can also be mixed together in moderation and can also be mixed with essential oils for scent and a boost of additional benefits. For example, Lavender Oil has a pleasant scent and research shows that it has stress reducing properties and can also help generate growth of cells. All products should be worked into the hand and then gently rubbed onto the hair and scalp; most of these oils are also great for the skin.
Nothing is guaranteed but pampering and self-care are good for relaxation and can in turn prevent chronic stress. This simple self-care practise is good from the inside out and consistent application of these will for sure penetrate the scalp, delivering nutrients and antioxidants as well as possibly reducing inflammation.
The wigs I make are made to fit from individual measurements, in different lengths, textures and colours. They are unique, diverse, simple but effective elegant solutions that work for anyone experiencing hair loss. I have made wigs for many women and an extra special one for a precious little girl. I will one day be able to make a wig for a man or a toupee, I just have not been able to master it yet.
Wigs can help with the exterior concerns of hair loss and can be a positive coping aid. I offer ‘natural’ looking lace frontal wigs which are handstitched with hair tracks and ‘comfortable’ to wear. I put an emphasis on comfort and natural because these two things are particularly important and work hand in hand for the perfect wig. Not to be critical but I see too many wigs that are not pretty and look almost plastic, which some people will not wear because it does not look like them.
There are plenty of resources available to have wigs that follow the natural hairline, they can be undetectable, and nobody needs to know or would know it is a wig. My wigs are made from breathable mesh caps which follow the natural head shape and structure of most heads. I attach a type of elastic band inside the wig which helps with the snug fit, adds extra security and adds reassurance that the wig will not move. The wigs can be placed directly onto the head or a thin wig cap can go onto the headfirst and the wig placed on top. They can be worn glue less or with glue, the glue would be layered around the natural hair line and is perfectly safe to use and with knowledge and practise is easy to apply and remove.
Wigs are an option, but they are not for everyone. If they are not for you then you can wear head coverings like turbans, hats or scarves. Or you can just trust your process, take care of your body and be naturally beautifully hair free and embrace it. It is also important to take perfect care of oneself, physically, emotionally and mentally. Eat a good balanced diet drink plenty of water and eat fresh produce. Be kind and gentle on yourself, love yourself and take each day as it comes.
Shelara - business name: Laced By Lara (see video of Shelara above showing a wig and some of the recent wigs also above). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Instagram: lac3d_by_lara (coming soon)
Cancer Hair Care Charity
This Charity offers a free hair loss advisory service led by their trained Cancer Hair Care NHS Clinical Specialists. The site also has loads of good info: https://www.cancerhaircare.co.uk
And their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CancerHairCare