A hairy situation

As we headed back to Indiana on Friday I spent a good deal of time researching hair replacement options. Chris seems to think that it is unnecessary, but I want to have at least one option on hand when I need it. Obviously I am quite shallow, as I feel like the threat to my hair is the most upsetting part of this whole ordeal.

After checking out my options, I made an appointment at a place on the north side of Indy with a lady who specializes in fitting and cutting wigs, or, as she called them, cranial prosthesis. Somehow buying a cranial prosthesis sounds less threatening, particularly because many devices by that name are covered by health insurance.

Saturday afternoon, Chris, Kai, and I arrived in a suburban Indianapolis neighborhood and let ourselves into the wig salon. There were tens of wigged heads staring at us from shelves on the wall, we were surrounded on every side. It was beyond weird, I considered bailing immediately upon arrival. The only thing that stopped me was that I know that I will have to put myself in that situation at some point if I want to maintain the appearance of having hair, or even just the option to have hair sometimes. Geez, talk about high pressure.

So, there we sat, in the middle of the room, all eyes on us, discussing the finer points of cranial prostheses. We decided that I would want something hand knotted, all lace, synthetic, blonde, and a bit below my shoulders. [As an aside, can you imagine hand knotting a wig? Talk about a tedious job!] She had just one option available that met my requirements and it only came with a right part. I part my hair on the left. It looked strange, in large part because it was the mirror image of my hair.

We decided not to buy anything. It was such an odd experience and I think Chris and I were both too uncomfortable with the situation. As we drove away, I began to research options in New York. The wig lady had mentioned that she had the best selection in Indiana, she thought the only way to get a better wig was to go to Los Angeles and have a custom wig made. I don’t think a trip to LA is in the cards in the next few weeks, but I was correct in guessing that New York had plenty of custom wig makers. Hopefully I can visit one this week when we go back there. In the meantime I will deny away the likely fate of my hair.

*For my family: Please don’t discuss my hair situation with me. I’m comfortable discussing it on my blog, but I don’t think I’m ready to talk about it yet. I still want to pretend that it won’t be a problem.

  1. branny said:

    I remember when my mom was about to go through chemo and she went through a similar experience. Her hair was her trademark and she was understandably uncomfortable with the idea of losing that signature. She bought a very expensive custom wig. I think she wore it once. She never regretted the purchase – in fact she said it was as important to have that option, sitting there on a styrofoam head in her closet, as it was to do any and all other things in preparation for her battle (arrange meals, child care, drivers, etc.). Sometimes you just have to know you have the option there even if you never use it.

    • Brit said:

      Branny, that is really good feedback. I have a feeling that the same will be true for me. Even if I never choose to use it, it will be an important security blanket for me.

  2. How would you like to be a ginger? I’m currently growing mine out for locks of love, I’ll gladly send it to you. 😉 I’d shave my head along with you dear. Be strong.

    • Brit said:

      Aww, you’re sweet. I should donate mine since it is probably going bye-bye anyway. I don’t think they’ll take mine since it has been processed.

      • Hm, I don’t know what rules they have. But I’m a natural ginger so I think I’ll be ok. I told myself last year that I’m going to make it a yearly thing. Grow my hair out all winter then cut it and donate it every summer. I’m pretty excited. No really though, I’ll send it to a wig maker for you. 😉

  3. Lisa said:

    Whatever feels right is what you’ve got to do in this situation. If you don’t want the part on the wrong side, you don’t have to have it that way. 🙂 I think ginger would be lovely on you, but I understand wanting to stay similar to your lovely blonde locks. You’ll know.

  4. Getting a foot of hair cut off is traumatizing enough for me – I can’t imagine giving it all up but I think you are doing a great job of facing the facts and letting reality happen. Whether you wear it a lot or not I think just having the option would be reassuring.

    • Brit said:

      Yeah, when you chopped your hair off I remember just the thought of doing so sounded traumatic. I couldn’t believe how brave you were!

  5. Amanda said:

    I am new to your blog but I had to comment on the hair situation. My best friend had cancer while we were in college and she too had a hard time with the wigs. She had the same reaction to hospital-issued wigs – like the part was weird. She ended up wearing a bandana tied like a headband over it. Then we went to L.A. on a girl’s trip and the wigs we found there were awesome – no “cranial prothesis” but straight up wigs for cross dressers or something – way more real and they hand-cut them in the style you wanted. It was so realistic that when we ran into people from high school they thought she had gotten her hair professionally done (her hair had been curly and she got a wavy style so it was a change). It made a huge difference. Just wanted to let you know that there are options out there.

    • Brit said:

      Thank you Amanda! It is really nice to hear that I am not alone with this weird wig situation. I bet it is pretty common to skip it altogether because the options readily available are less than ideal.

    • I totally think Amanda has the right idea. I’m fact, I bet that in NYC or een Indy you can find a wig shop that wouldn’t dream of using the words “cranial prosthesis”, and would be happy to make you the perfect security blanket. Just instead of asking at doctor’s offices, ask at burlesque shows!

  6. Aria said:

    Have you heard of or researched cold caps? I recently read a blog and the woman was very successful in keeping her hair during chemo. I’m sure it’s dependent on type of treatment, but worth looking into!


    • Brit said:

      I have! That’s a great question! I was interested in using cold caps, but I have two significant barriers. First, Sloan-Kettering does not, as a general rule, subscribe to the use of cold caps. There is some concern that the chemo drugs do not circulate through your body properly when you use a cold cap because cold caps work by diverting blood flow away from your head. Second, at this point I plan to receive my chemo treatments at home in Indiana and there is no hospital nearby that owns a cold cap system. As far as I can tell, it would be prohibitively expensive for me to buy my own.

      I do think that cold caps are a great option for someone who is better positioned to use them. I’m glad to hear about cold cap success stories. 🙂

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