On November 14, 2014, I got the news that I never wanted to hear, you have stage 2 breast cancer. I cried. I was angry and asked the question why me? What was going to happen and how am I going to work in a business that not only judges you on your expertise, but equally on your appearance? When I asked if I was going to lose my hair, the immediate answer was yes. What a blow! How, as a woman, could I walk into a high-powered beauty meeting with not a strand of hair on my head? Losing my hair was equally as devastating to me as the word cancer. I decided that I desperately needed to talk to my hairstylist and ask for help!
Many people, including my Oncologist, told me not to worry about it. It’s just hair, and it will grow back. JUST Hair? It was my signature, it was the one thing that every hairstylist I met told me how beautiful it was. Now, it would vanish. Would people accept me for “me” and be able to get passed my bald head? Baldness for a woman has a negative perception. I had to change that!
My hairstylist, Alisa along with Fantasia Salon, was my answer. Both understood the emotional upheaval that women experience with not only cancer treatments, but also the side effect of hair loss. Alisa immediately discussed the plan with me, about how we would find me the perfect wig. I have to admit, I was really nervous about it because despite being in the beauty business, nothing ever prepared me for this. I had so many questions, but most importantly, I wanted to feel confident when wearing it and wanted to make sure that everyone would think my hair was the real deal. I thought to myself, “Are these things even possible?”
Once I scheduled my appointment, I asked a close friend to join me because I could not do this alone. Walking into my wig appointment, I was anxious and skeptical at the same time. Like most cancer patients, for every cancer appointment, you hoped for the best and expected the worse. I felt helpless and overwhelmed in the meeting, and I cried. Michelle, a Master Hair Loss Specialist at Fantasia, immediately turned my bad hair day into a reassuring experience. Not only did the team make me feel at ease, they immediately knew by my hairstyle, shape of my head and hair texture, what styles would work best. I had so many questions, and they had all the answers. The education I received that day assured me that I was going to win the battle of hair loss and proudly live through it.
I must have tried on 30 wigs, and I never realized how many shapes, sizes, colors, textures and prices were available. And Fantasia was even able to match my original hair color and style in my wig. I could find a wig that fit my budget whether faux or real. I could wash it, store it and easily apply to my head. My panic and anxiety melted away, and the afternoon turned into a fun and uplifting outing with my new best friends! I was thankful that she assisted in my decision and gave me honest feedback on what styles worked with my lifestyle, and personality.
I finally found the wig that was right for me. I ordered it and anxiously waited for its arrival. Once it was pulled from the box, the Fantasia team was ready to walk me through how to care for my it. I purchased a wig made of human hair and Alisa was able to cut and style it for me. I tried my wig on and looked in the mirror. The joyful tears rolled down my face and I knew I was ready to take on the world, my Chemotherapy and my Cancer. I felt confident! I had no doubts or worries in making a business presentation to the executive committee, or having my photo taken for a corporate headshot. Most importantly, the wig allowed me to be me. I may have been going through cancer treatments, but the obvious side effect was not noticeable.
During this stressful time, it was a relief to realize that taking care of my hair was a breeze. A wig was worry free. Traveling to many different climates, my wig never lost its shape or texture. I never worried about a hair dryer, hot rollers, flat irons, knotty hair, hair spray or gel!
As my hair started to grow back, I retired my wig, but never threw it away. It sits on a closet shelf as a reminder of what I had accomplished and learned through my cancer. I treasure my hair and my wig for what they gave to me then and now. I am forever grateful for my friends, family and especially Fantasia Salon and Alisa for showing me the way to a good hair day through a bad time.
As I move into my 3rd year of remission, I have no issues sharing my cancer stories with others that going through the side effects of Chemotherapy. It is not easy, but sharing this experience, may ease your anxiety and give you hope to better hair days ahead.
Donna Tarantino has been working in the beauty industry for the past 20 years. As an executive, she continues to work with many CEOs, Founders, Celebrities as well as Professional Make-Up artists and hairstylists. Donna is happy to call the Twin Cities her home.