July 9, 2015

Why I Spent a Pile on a Wig

By Diane McDaniel

It’s been just over a month since I had abdominal surgery and received my diagnosis of ovarian cancer, and things are now starting to sink in. The following are among the things that are bothering me: the eight-inch scar traversing my belly, the sci-fi port in my chest with a tube running under the skin of my neck, chemicals poured into my body via the port every week, taking Glutamine to combat neuropathy, a wobbly stomach, lack of energy, and impending baldness, to name a few.

I’m trying to forget the conversation I had with another ovarian cancer patient who I met in the chemotherapy room this past Tuesday. She is on her fourth recurrence. She finished her last treatment two months ago.

I won’t be starting any more conversations in the chemotherapy room. I am not going to get distracted in my determination to get out of there for good.

In the face of these concerns, I’m obsessed with my disappearing hair and the purchase of a wig. I want to point out that I’m not using the word “obsessed” lightly; my hair and the procuring of a wig have pretty much taken over all of my thoughts. The other night I woke up every two hours with a single thought on my mind: which wig is the right wig?

Whichever particular wig I choose, the right one for me — made of European human hair — does not come cheap. My first four cars, including my beloved 1976 BMW 2002, cost less than the full price of my future wig.

I came a bit late to the decision to purchase some hair for my balding head, and so I’m buying a pre-made wig rather than having one custom made for me. When the idea of a wig was first proposed — during chemotherapy education prior my first treatment — I recoiled at the thought. A wig was definitely not for me; I’d be set with a few caps. Nicole and I shopped for some lovely, soft yarns, and she and Dexter set off on the task of knitting me a few caps.

Tying on wigs in Beverly Hills

And so how did I end up trying on wigs at different tucked-out-of-the-way locations in Westwood and Beverly Hills?

My journey from recoil to interest in purchasing a wig came from speaking with other women who have gone through chemotherapy. Carin shared with me her desire while in treatment not to be readily visually identified as someone with cancer and how having hair made her children feel more comfortable. While these and other ideas definitely resonated with me in a way that was surprising, one comment she made — “my hair never looked so good” — really piqued my interest. Wearing a wig could have an upside that had not before occurred to me.

As I’ve shared my obsession with others, I’ve received quite a few opinions on the topic of hair and whether or not to wear a wig. Philippe likes the idea of being baldies together. Others have suggested that I’d look good in a scarf. Women who I’ve spoken to who’ve lost their hair because of alopecia or chemotherapy swear by their wigs.

It seems that the topic of hair is a hot one. It was certainly the case when Dominique wrote a piece in the New York Times a few years ago called “Why Can’t Middle-Aged Women Have Long Hair?” This seemingly innocuous topic generated 1,200 comments on the NY Times website and numerous invitations for Dominique to appear on morning shows to discuss women and their hair. Go figure.

Given the list of things on my mind, I’ve decided to make lemonade out of my lemons by wearing hair that’s a lot nicer than what I have naturally. My wig hair will be styled longer and quite a bit fuller than my natural hair. If I have to lose my hair and I’m going to get a wig to replace it until it grows back, I might as well go with a look and style that is a step up from what I have during the best of times.

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