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Health Aware: Wig Boutique warms heads and hearts of cancer patients

<p>LaDelle Hall, of Bolingbrook, a patient at the Edward Cancer Center, gets assistance with fitting and styling her wig from volunteer Jenny Eccarius, a resident of Plainfield, at the American Cancer Society&Otilde;s Wig Boutique, located at the Edward Cancer Center in Plainfield. | Courtesy of Edward Hospital</p>

LaDelle Hall, of Bolingbrook, a patient at the Edward Cancer Center, gets assistance with fitting and styling her wig from volunteer Jenny Eccarius, a resident of Plainfield, at the American Cancer SocietyÕs Wig Boutique, located at the Edward Cancer Center in Plainfield. | Courtesy of Edward Hospital

As temperatures dropped in the fall, Bolingbrook resident LaDelle Hall realized that the almost-bald look she’d been sporting for several weeks wasn’t going to work for her year round. A friend had shaved a neat outline into the super-short hair, but the style left LaDelle cold, literally.

She decided it was time to visit the American Cancer Society’s Wig Boutique at the Edward Cancer Center in Plainfield.

She had heard about the free wig service when she received chemotherapy for bone cancer at the Edward Cancer Center in Naperville in the spring of 2013. Her hair started to fall out a couple of months later, but she waited to go to the boutique until November, when her hair was just starting to grow back.

“I’m African American, and I was concerned that I might have trouble finding the right wig,” she says. “But the boutique had a variety of choices for me, and the volunteer made me feel very comfortable.

“I’m happy with the wig I picked. Wearing it makes me feel even better about myself than I did before. It motivates me to put on some makeup, and I think I look healthier. And, I get compliments from friends and family.”

The ACS Wig Boutique program was created to lessen the impact of hair loss, a side effect of chemotherapy that’s as devastating to some patients as their diagnosis or the treatment itself, according to Debbie Fager, account representative at the American Cancer Society’s Oakbrook Terrace office. In 2013, the Plainfield location, which is one of 80 ACS boutiques in Illinois, provided 118 wigs to patients.

“Our goal is to make sure that every cancer patient in our area who can’t afford a wig can get one,” Fager says. “People also come to the boutique because they want to look for a wig where they trust they’ll get the support they need.”

The boutiques feature a variety of high-quality wigs in many styles and colors. Trained volunteers guide the patient in choosing the right wig and seeing that it fits properly. Many of these volunteers are cancer survivors themselves, according to Fager.

Patients also receive information on additional support services available at the hospital.

“We have support groups and programs to help with anxiety and stress, such as yoga and meditation,” says Deborah Hartman, Edward Cancer Center social worker. “We try to touch on all angles of support that the patient might need, and all of these programs are free.”

The Cancer Center is also a site for the ACS Look Good, Feel Better workshop, in which cosmetologists teach women beauty techniques to combat the appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment.

“With a wig you’re not reminded of being sick every time you look in the mirror, or answering constant questions about whether you’re in treatment,” Hartman says. “For many, the wig restores a sense of normalcy.”

If you are a cancer patient in need of a wig, or want to volunteer at the Wig Boutique in Plainfield or another location, call the American Cancer Society at 800-227-2345.

For more information about the Wig Boutique at the Edward Cancer Center on the Edward Plainfield Campus, 24600 W. 127th St., and Edward’s Cancer Support Services, visit www.edward.org/cancersupport or call 630-646-6054.

Health Aware is a weekly column courtesy of Edward Hospital.

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