I realize that I am posting this on the day after my 2nd round of chemo. I wrote most of the below blog post during my infusion yesterday, and it’s a big topic so I wanted to get it posted. But since I’m sure you’re all wondering how I’m doing I’ll plan to have a longer status report tomorrow. For today, suffice it to say I’m actually feeling pretty ok, probably because I woke up yesterday at a more reasonable hour (if you’ll recall, for chemo #1, I woke up at 2:30am and made soup!). I have not started any epic naps yet. More info tomorrow, and without further ado…
Finally, my long-awaited wig posting!
Wigs are complicated. I finally picked mine up last Saturday. I can’t say that I’m particularly happy with it and have some ideas for improvements. I also have to say that I’m having so much fun with the hats and the scarves that I suspect I won’t wear the wig very often anyway. I’ve heard that people wear wigs mostly when they just need a “normal hair day,” and I get that.
I started “researching” this back in July, before going to London. Elisabeth and I swung by a wig shop in Hillcrest that got great Yelp reviews. They were very friendly and helpful but catered more to the queer/trans community more than the chemo community; I think it would have been a great option if I knew exactly what I was looking for. So I found a more “mainstream” shop with a pretty good selection of wigs to try in Mission Valley. They were fully on top of the insurance/chemo situation.
Sometime in August I started poking around my health insurer’s website to try to figure out how much would be covered (it’s a referred to as a “durable medical device”). After making some phone calls I learned that they cover 100% with no limit! (Normally they’d cover 80% but I’ve obviously hit my maximum out-of-pocket expense limit, so it’s totally covered.) I also learned that I would need a prescription from my doctor. As I write this, I’ve paid for the wig out-of-pocket, and submitted all my paperwork, but have yet to hear back. Finger’s crossed.
In any case, learning that the sky is the limit with the wig cost, I changed my earlier decision to buy a synthetic wig and decided to by a real hair wig. These are much more expensive, but you can wash, color, cut, and style them (including hot tools) like normal hair. The downside, which I did not initially realize, was that since the customer is anticipated to want to color and style the wig themselves, they are sort of a “blank canvas,” which makes choosing the wig a lot more difficult.
On top of all that, there are differences in the way the hair is attached to the “scalp.” Again, I did not want to spend my health insurer’s money wastefully, but I did prefer the more expensive “hand tied” attachment style; it was more comfortable and the hair seemed to move more naturally.
About a week and a half ago, my lovely neighbor Kim and I headed down to the wig shop for me to make my selection. On the left you are various wigs we tried on that day, photos courtesy of Kim (except for the top one, which I tried on at my first visit – which is a synthetic wig that I actually really liked). Of course they did not have the exact perfect real-hair wig with the right color, right style, right length, and right hair attachment method. So I ended up getting a wig that was longer and blonder than I’d wanted, with plans to have “Yolanda next door” dye and style it. (Please don’t tell me, “Oh, I like the 4th one!” or whatever, since it’s done and I can’t exchange what I bought.)
Back home, I called Yolanda, and she had lots of questions about the wig I’d selected. It was an odd conversation; it’s a wig, not rocket science (right?? then again, maybe…). I met with last Thursday, and once she saw the wig and what I wanted to do she became much more comfortable with it.
She took her time to put in the low lights and wash it between Thursday and Saturday. When I went in on Saturday, she styled it while it was on my head. The color looked great, she did a really nice job. I think she also did the best she could with styling it – she fixed the messy ends, and she put long layers in it that fall very nicely. While she worked we chatted a bit, and I learned how she got into wig styling. She is unaffiliated with the wig shop next door, but they send lots of people her way, as in my case. Years ago she was at a different salon next to a much smaller wig shop, and the owner needed some help with color and styling, and allowed Yolanda to practice on her wigs. Fast forward about 25 years later, she still is a regular hairdresser but seems to have a pretty good business going on with wig styling.
After she was done styling it, she gave me a lovely gift! Turns out she also makes jewelry, and since she helps out so many chemo patients, she keeps a stash of pink beads. She gave me a little gift pouch with some pretty pink earrings and kind words of encouragement – how sweet! I’ll have to add a pic to my Shrine O’ Cancer on the home page.
All of that said, I’m not super happy with the wig. The hairs in front are not falling correctly; try as I might (I’ve used a flat iron and various styling products), I can’t get them to do anything but drop down onto the front of my face. I can’t stop thinking of Garth Algar (sidebar: so awesome!!! Live in the NOW!). Clipping it back works; and also my oncology nurse from yesterday, Jessica, suggested parting it differently, and I do plan to play with that a bit. I have a few other ideas too: an acquaintance on FB who has some kind of long-term condition (maybe female-pattern hair loss? Not sure) whom I could ask for advice. Also there is supposed to be a high-end wig guru in Carlsbad that everyone recommends – it’s an hour drive and I was unwilling to do that, but it might be worth the trip. My own super-duper hairdresser has also offered to help; she does not specialize in wigs but might have ideas.
And of course, another option is to just pay for a cheap synthetic wig that is perfect out of the box with my own money. They are much less expensive. I also have a great wig given to me by my friend John, whose mother recently passed away from cancer. It’s the wrong color (lots of gray), and can’t be dyed (because it’s synthetic – although I have found some DIY suggestions on Google that I have yet to look into), but otherwise is a good-looking no-nonsense short cut. Oh, and of course I’ve bought a funky purple wig for $10 on Amazon just because. So if I get sick of the hats and scarves, I have options.
I have decided to shamelessly copy my good friend Mary’s very funny decision to name her wig after the stylist who helped her (her wig’s name was Helen), and have decided to name my wig also.
So without further ado, let me introduce you to: Yolanda!