Women fighting cancer get “back to normal” with help from Strands of Strength
A cancer diagnosis changes everything. Even everyday activities like going to work can feel strange. That’s especially true for women who have lost their hair due to cancer treatment.
“I’m a substitute teacher,” says Jody Sloan, 47, who is fighting a recurrence of breast cancer. “I don’t want to explain to kids why I don’t have any hair.” Adds Veronica Wampole, 44, diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016, “I don’t want people to feel sorry for me. I want to look as natural and normal as possible.”
Wampole and Sloan are just two of the many women who have received wigs through Nassif Community Cancer Center partner Strands of Strength. Founded in 2011 by a breast cancer survivor, this nonprofit organization provides wigs free of charge to cancer patients who otherwise could not afford them.
“If a woman is going to have chemotherapy that will lead to hair loss, we talk to her before treatment begins and explain her options,” says Nancy Yeisley, psychosocial services coordinator at Nassif Community Cancer Center. “If she wants a wig but can’t afford it, we give her a voucher from Strands of Strength. She can use the voucher at one of our local participating salons and receive a wig uniquely made for her.”
“Strands of Strength was a huge blessing,” recalls Sloan. “Without the voucher, I probably would have been just a hat and scarf person. But having the wig has helped so much, especially with my children.” Sloan is the mother of five, ranging from teenage triplets to sons age 7 and 11. Each child has handled Sloan’s illness differently. For some, the thought of Mom losing her hair was especially traumatic. But when Sloan tried her wig for the first time, her daughters exclaimed, “Mom, that looks just like you!”
“I explained after the strong medicine is done, my hair would grow back,” says Sloan. “But until then, ‘looking like me’ helped reassure my kids.”
Wampole says her wig gives her peace of mind. “I’ve been wearing it for six months now and it’s become a part of me.” She likes when co-workers compliment her hair, not realizing it’s a wig. “People can’t tell you’re going through chemo just by looking at you.”
Sloan agrees. “Not all eyes are on me. It feels good to know some things in your life can stay the same.”