chemotherapy treatment

6 Hair Replacement Tips for Chemotherapy Patients

Many of my more recent clients that are undergoing chemotherapy have told me that they have not receiving any hair loss or wig information when they are told about their treatment regimen. I find this odd because it used to be that all the hospitals would immediately give their patients lists of options and vendors to help them with their hair loss and privacy issues. However lately I have been told that at certain hospitals they have not.

This has caused some patients to scramble and be under pressure to find something suitable for them after their hair has started or has already fallen out. This makes it difficult for the patient because as a survivor I can tell you the last thing you want to do when under the effects of chemo is to go wig shopping. It also makes it difficult for the hair replacement salon because we have to guess or go by photos as to colours and styles. This is something that should at least be looked into well in advance of the treatment starting to have effect on the hair.

I have contacted people I know at Sunnybrook and have been told that they do make sure that patients are aware of these issues. I have tried to get in contact with other hospitals but I have not had anyone get back to me.

Maybe they do not know what a nice guy I am. Yet. But I hope that all centres working with patients that will suffer hair loss due to chemotherapy and radiation will give their patients some guidance.

Until then, here are some tips for you or the person you are researching for:

  1. Start early, but you don’t have to make a decision.
    You should look around even before you start your treatment. Ask your hairstylist for some advice. Bring someone that can give you support and advice. You do not need to buy anything right away, but don’t get into analysis paralysis. Of course, if you see something that is perfect, don’t be afraid to get it. It might not be there in a week.
  2. Wear your hair the way you want to have it during treatment.
    This way you can show the hair loss professional what you want to look like. You can change this if you like. Nothing says that you have to wear your hair the same way, and many have found that they can take advantage of trying something new. But its good to have a starting point. Also, and this is important, you might have a style or colour that does not translate well into a wig. Be prepared to compromise (a bit).
  3. Try stuff on.
    When you think about it, what you are doing is shopping. It’s for something that you never really wanted, but if you think of it as shopping it’s a much more enjoyable experience. Try stuff on. Get back to your roots.
  4. Check with your insurance.
    If you have coverage, find out how much. Usually it is not enough to get a really good wig, but it helps. Also, a medical wig is tax deductible. See if you would be in line for some money to come back to you. You can claim whatever isn’t covered by insurance. But you need a prescription (from your doctor, oncologist, anyone that can write script) and the insurance company will want all originals of the receipts and prescriptions. The CRA will make do with photocopies.
  5. Get it styled.
    Any salon that you go to should style the wig for you. We insist on this and it is always included in the price of the wig. The style is part of the salon’s responsibility. You are buying a look, not a few ounces of hair.
    Continental Hair will not style anything that is from another salon or purchased on line. There are reasons but that is for another blog post. The basic bit of advice for this is that you always cut it leaving it 1 cm too long (at least). Especially in the bangs. Length cannot be added to the bangs. And the wig should ALWAYS be cut on your head. Colour and perms etc don’t need to be, but any cutting needs to be done with you wearing it.
  6. Does it pass “The Barstool Test?”
    If a bar stool is missing a leg, it’s not able to do its job. It needs all three. Just like a wig needs to have three things so it can do its job.

    1. Have a style you like
    2. Be comfortable.
    3. Be secure.

There are limits to these, of course. Wigs are essentially hats with hair. But it should be a look you are satisfied with, it shouldn’t be ratcheting into your skull, and it shouldn’t chase the bus when it drives by you when you are on the sidewalk.

Remember, the reason for a wig is to maintain your privacy while you are on this journey. Its nobody’s business what you are going through unless you want them to know. And one of the best things I can remember about my six months of chemo were the times when I myself was able, for short periods at a time, forget what I was going through and could enjoy moments with my family and friends. Those times were like oases in that desert of a year.

If you have any questions or comments I would appreciate hearing from you. Take care.

Michael Suba
President
Continental Hair Ltd
Toronto
michael@continentalhair.com

Author Info

Michael Suba

Owner and President of Continental Hair.

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Sunnybrook Hospital Salon