However, when the loss of eyelashes and eyebrows were added to the mix, things changed. The high dose chemo that preceded my stem cell transplant has left me with a cluster of three upper lashes on my left eye and two clumps of two lashes on my right eye. I have zero bottom lashes and not one eyebrow hair. This bothered me much more than losing my hair did as I felt it stripped away the last piece of surface femininity that I had. I've always played up my lashes, especially while bald, as it was an obvious way to show that I was still a woman and still somewhat healthy. Having no hair anywhere makes me feel like I am a very sick patient and I can't bear the pitying, confused or horrified looks I receive from strangers.
So, I decided to go wig shopping to bring back a little fun and style to my life. My mom eagerly accompanied me as she's been waiting for the day when I would cave in and give it a try as she knew how desperately tired I'd become of being bald and of looking like a cancer patient ... especially now that I am no longer in patient mode.
My main reason in pursuing a wig was to have it to wear when I go back to work in a couple of weeks. As my hair was growing back last time around I wore a scarf on my head to work every day. It certainly got old after a while. I was always fussing with it and it was always hard to match outfits. I couldn't wear any patterns and none of my fun, funky jewelry or accessories as the scarf always took top priority. I realize how petty that sounds, but it's different when you want to desperately to feel normal and not have anyone question your abilities.
Plus, the scarf was a pretty dead giveaway that I was a cancer patient. Now that I'm done with so much more treatment I want to put it all behind me, and with a wig at least I won't look like a patient any longer and hopefully that will translate to quicker healing on other fronts. Obviously those that know me at work will know it's a wig and that doesn't concern me in the slightest. The tough thing was always meeting people for the first time and knowing that they're wondering why I was wearing a scarf, struggling with whether to say something or not ... that gets very old.
So there we were at Nationwide Wig Imports in West Hartford. I've driven the road it is on many times before and never noticed that the place existed. We walked in to be greeted by a slew of blue eyeshadowed red lipsticked mannequin heads donning wigs of every color, length and style peering out at us from shelves upon shelves.
'"What have I gotten myself into?" I thought.
Then out came the owner who immediately made me feel at ease and suddenly we just got started. I would point to something that caught my eye and she placed it on my head as I sat in the styling chair facing myself in the mirror. Some I quickly wrote off with disgusted faces. Some I hemmed and hawed on. And then there were the ones that absolutely shocked me. They made me feel so pretty and they looked so incredibly real – after the initial shock set in.
My mom, the owner and I discussed the merits of each until I narrowed down the choices. We were there for a solid three hours or so ... I've never really been a quick decision maker. You should see me in the cereal aisle.
I went in with the plan of getting a short pixie cut so that when my hair did grow in it wouldn't be such a harsh transition from wig to natural. I came out with a long, layered wig reaching past my shoulders with sweeping bangs. I decided to throw practicality to the wind and go with what made me feel pretty, maybe even sexy. These are things that I haven't felt in a long time. When I put that long wig on it almost brought me to tears. I didn't realize how much I missed having long hair to play with and didn't realize how much of a difference a wig can make in my self esteem. With it on, my looks matched how I felt on the inside.
Another woman came into the store and remarked how great it looked on me. Then when learning of my wig aversions the owner told me how she has so many clients that are traveling businesswomen who find it easier to wear a wig than to worry about styling their hair every morning. When I realized that there are many more wigged women in the world than I would have thought, I was sold.
I like to think that it looks like the gorgeous hair of Audrina from MTV's The Hills, a guilty TV pleasure of mine. I figured that it will be years before I ever have long hair of my own again, so why not have fun with it now when I can choose any style that I want? It'll take some getting used to that's for sure ... and some stretching to boot. Right now it leaves me with uncomfortable forehead invitations, which doesn't make for long wig-wearing outings. But it does the trick. Added bonus, it was completely covered by insurance so why not?
I completely took Craig off guard with it. He didn't know I had ended up getting one and when I came down the stairs he said:
"Oh my God. You look like you're 17!" as that's the last time I had my natural dark hair and it cascaded to that length. He likes it and likes that it makes me feel confident, but says that he certainly prefers me au natural. I suppose I should be flattered by this.
It's only made it out in public twice now. I wore it out to dinner with my family for Craig's birthday. The shocked looks were priceless. One uncle didn't even recognize me and the big joke of the night was not to tell Karin about the hot date Craig brought out. Then I tried it out on some of our friends who were equally shocked and impressed with how it looked.
I have no plans to wear it at home or on a normal basis. Just work and special occasions when I feel like getting a little gussied up. It'll take a while to get used to, but right now it's a fun novelty. I'm sure I'll be ripping it off as soon as I reach my car to drive home from work every day, but the excitement about being able to brush it and wear a low ponytail again outweighs that. It's funny the things that you miss ... .