One of the biggest worries surrounding chemotherapy is hair loss. While we can tell ourselves it’s only hair and that it will grow back, losing your hair is a big deal for many women. Once again, I’d like to stress that just as deciding to shave your hair off or not is a personal decision, so is choosing to buy and wear a wig. Many women are comfortable going out in public bald, but many, including me, are not.
If you do decide to purchase a wig, the task of choosing one can feel over-whelming. This is why I decided to share a chapter from my new book, Getting Past the Fear: A guide to help you mentally prepare for chemotherapy.
If you’re going to be wig shopping soon, I hope you find my tips helpful.
Do You Want to Buy a Wig?
Don’t wait, shop early on
While I do not believe it’s necessary to shave your hair off early on, wig shopping is another matter. Once you know your hair will probably soon be a thing of the past, if you choose to buy a wig, the sooner you do it the better.
First of all, the further you get into chemo, the less likely it is you will feel like going out to wig shop, or shop at all for that matter. As fatigue and other side effects kick in, you just might not feel up to the task.
The right color makes all the difference
If you want to shop for a wig style that is similar to your own hairstyle, obviously sooner is better than later. Another piece of advice here though, is don’t worry so much about matching up to your present style. The most important part of wig selection is choosing the right color. The right color can make or break how your wig looks, or rather how you look in the wig.
If possible, buy more than one
My next piece of advice is if you can afford it, buy more than one wig. It’s nice to have two options. If possible, spend a little more on one and then buy another cheaper one for those whenever times.
Some people prefer wigs made from real hair, but they are more expensive, and I’ve been told more difficult to take care of as well. Just think of your own hair, is it really all that easy to take care of? Probably not. So the easiest and most economical way to go is the synthetic route.
There are some amazing wigs available now, take advantage.
Trying wigs on is a must
There are numerous catalogs offering very good choices as well as very good prices. If possible, I would suggest going to a store for at least one wig. Let’s face it; everything looks great on a model in a catalog. You can’t really tell how the wig is going to look on you until you try it on.
I shopped at a Merle Norman Store and the experience was wonderful. Well, wonderful is a stretch. I mean I was shopping for a wig because I was going to have chemo and lose my hair, but you know what I mean. I tried on a lot of wigs in a lot of colors and the sales person was compassionate and extremely helpful; so much so, I don’t even mind “plugging” them here.
Shopping at a retail store in person was the way to go for me. If you do decide to shop by catalog, be sure to check the return policy over carefully.
A second opinion comes in handy here too
Another suggestion is to take someone along with you when you shop for a wig. This might be your spouse or partner, a good friend, a sister, daughter or whomever. I took dear hubby because I knew he’d be brutally honest if need be and he was. Also, I figured he was going to be the person looking at me the most, so he deserved a say in the matter.
Try to find someone who will actually be helpful to accompany you. You don’t want to take someone who will just nod in agreement with you. This is one time when you need another voiced opinion, so maybe one of your more outspoken friends is the one you might want to take with you. Honesty is always the best policy and in this case, it’s the only policy worth having.
What about all those accessories?
When you buy your wig, it’s also a good idea to buy one of those little head caps that fit under it. Strangely enough, I found they did help keep me cooler and minimized itching. Also, be sure to pick up some wig shampoo, a wig hairbrush and a stand on which to dry your wig after you wash it.
As for other head gear, I did buy some bandannas and caps. I never could get the hang of scarves, but they look fabulous if you can figure them out. Caps are great, except for that little hole in the back that seems to scream “bald.” Those fake bang fringes are not really worthwhile.
Another thing to consider is getting something to wear at night. You will be surprised at how much chillier you feel in general with no hair on your head and unless you sleep with the covers pulled up over your head, you may very well feel cold at night. Plus, if you get up at night to use the bathroom, it can be quite startling to face your bald self in the mirror. Purchasing a nice soft cottony sleep cap easily and comfortably takes care of both issues.
Covering the cost
If money is tight, and it may well be, your cancer center should be able to direct you to an American Cancer Society contact person who can direct you to someplace to go to get a wig for free. Some hospitals also have donation centers, so check out what they have.
If you have some friends who want to help, this is a good opportunity for them. Ask them to donate some dollars to help you buy a wig. They might jump at the chance to do something meaningful.
And remember if you do have insurance, they might cover the cost of a wig, at least up to a set amount. Ask. If they do not cover the expense, be sure to complain and complain loudly. Remember if your insurance does cover the cost of a wig, you will need a doctor’s prescription for one. They generally refer to a wig as a cranial prosthetic, a label that frankly, I found condescending and somehow silly and over the top, but…
How long will you need a wig? (If you choose to wear one)
Finally, I must admit I didn’t wear my wigs all that much, but when I wanted to they sure were nice to have. I had a wedding the summer I was bald and a couple of other events to attend. It was just
easier less stressful for me to go wearing a wig.
Also, remember you will still be bald for a while after chemo ends, and it might be some time before you have hair you feel comfortable with. Some people don’t give a hoot about going out in public bald or with only some peach fuzz up there, but if you do, wigs come in quite handy.
Ultimately, wigs are uncomfortable, hot and itchy; they are wigs after all. If you buy one that fits right, you might be able to stand wearing it for a few hours at a time for those occasions when and if you feel the need.
Remember you do not ever have to buy or wear a wig to please someone else. I cannot emphasize this enough. If someone is uncomfortable with your baldness, that’s their problem not yours.
Wearing a wig or not is entirely up to you.
Have you ever purchased a wig for any reason?
What are your tips for buying or wearing a wig?
Do you prefer wigs made of real hair or do you prefer synthetic wigs?
For more tips on preparing for chemotherapy, check out my book, Getting Past the Fear: A Guide to Help You Mentally Prepare for Chemotherapy.