With a few phone calls and flips through the yellow pages, I was set. Several wig places even advertised discounts for chemotherapy patients! Who knew? I decided this was going to be an adventure I would only share with females who knew me well and would be honest. My daughter and my aunt were available and willing. Our first stop was a small boutique where a sweet, Asian woman showed compassion for my predicament. She educated us on the benefits of and differences between synthetic and human hair wigs. She provided a skull cap to keep my leftover bristles intact and tried a variety of wigs on me to get a feel for what I wanted. I really wanted to be Cher for a moment and pick about eight completely different looks just to see if I could pull them off. Bright red, long and curly – why not? Blonde, spiky and sassy – bring it on! Sultry, sleek brunette – yeah, baby! Chemo makes you a little crazy, and the choices were a bit overwhelming. We settled on a style and chose a color, but that combination wasn’t in stock. I placed my order, made a deposit, and went to lunch. Hopefully, it wouldn’t take too long to be shipped.
Next stop – another wig shop with more selection. Their ad promised thousands in stock. It was a back-up plan. As women, we never totally settle on a purchase until we’ve checked all the stores, right? Besides, friends who had gone through breast cancer thought nothing of having a few wigs. It made total sense to consider having two or more. Immediately, I didn’t like this place. The customer service was awful. We strolled aisles of wigs and hairpieces on shelves from floor to ceiling. It was Wigs ‘R Us without a clerk in sight. Finally, a petite woman approached the three of us and asked “So, which one of you is looking for a wig today?” Incredulously, I refrained from flinging off my baseball cap and shaking it out on her. “Oh, I don’t know…maybe the BALD one!!???”
She made me buy a skull cap, touting the protection it gave me and future customers. So why was her coworker trying on wig after wig over her own hair without one of these special caps? Am I going to get head lice from something she’s played with? Nothing we tried “fit.” Too “old lady,” too curly, too short, too long, too skanky. Who on earth would spend over $100 for a wig that made it look like you were six months overdue for a color job? Dark roots with blonde hair…on purpose? The saleswomen assured us that look really was “in style.” Clearly I am old, sick — and out of style.
Nearing exhaustion, we half-heartedly narrowed the choices to a couple of possibilities. Then the high pressure sales began. If I ordered two and paid 30% down, I could return one and they’d throw in the wig care kit, blah blah blah. After exchanging some uncertain glances with my consultants, I politely explained that we’d talk about it and maybe come back later with a decision. Once out the door, we heaved a collective sigh of relief. What a nightmare! I still have my $1 skull cap as a souvenir.
Our last stop was like walking into a spa. Calm music and soothing décor greeted us. Not a wig in sight. I thought perhaps we’d walked into the waiting room of a plastic surgeon. The receptionist was pleasant and understanding and explained their business philosophy. They were familiar with wig shopping nightmares and were out to create the anti-Wigs ‘R Us experience. Consultations took place in a private area in the back where you could shop for hats, scarves, and prosthesis-friendly swimsuits and bras. Although I didn’t need all those services, the warmth and care was a refreshing change. We left with some valuable knowledge – and a wig care kit.
Back at home, without a single wig, we reviewed our afternoon of frustration. Who knew it would take so long to find a suitable “cranial prosthesis” as the insurance company refers to them? To add insult to injury, I had a “prescription” from my oncologist, but my insurance didn’t cover wigs, so it would have to be reimbursed through my medical spending account. I needed a nap, and a good cry. I desperately wanted to shave my head and move on to the wig. My mirror was a freak show and I often scared myself. Who was that person looking back? And if my forehead just blends into my scalp, where will I stop putting on foundation? Would my eyebrows and lashes be next? Would I be able to leave the house the rest of the summer or become a hermit and shuffle around in slippers all day, growing pale and emaciated? What exactly did the coming weeks hold? Does God answer wig prayers? I’d settle for one good one. Really. Forget the collection. I was just kidding about the Cher stuff.
The next day, I got a call from wig shop #1. The style I’d chosen would not be available for 8 weeks, but she’d taken the liberty of ordering something similar. Would I like to come in and try it on? Didn’t seem like I had many options, so why not? Go figure – it was perfect. My daughter immediately loved it, it made me look younger (yay!), and we were out the door in minutes. My son gave it his stamp of approval and didn’t think it needed a bit of customizing or tailoring to my face. Wa-Hoo! Let the head shaving begin.