By the nature of its side effects, cancer treatment can make a private battle a very public affair. For a woman with cancer, having a bald head, pale skin or a missing breast can make her feel like she's being targeted by a bright spotlight and a banner that says 'Cancer patient.'
But now more than ever, there are resources for women that will put the spotlight back on their work, their accomplishments and their life—and change that banner to simply read 'Woman.'
Second Act Cancer Boutique on Chicago's north side offers wigs and post-surgery bras and prostheses. Owner Pattie Cagney Sheehan is a certified mastectomy fitter and works with women from the time they are diagnosed to well into survivorship. Second Act offers breast forms and bras to help women who have had a mastectomy, more limited breast conserving surgery or reconstruction.
TLC or Tender Loving Care is a not-for-profit website and catalog of the American Cancer Society that helps women cope during and after cancer treatment by providing wigs and other hair loss products (plus how-to information), as well as mastectomy products.
Girl on the Go provides private or in-home wig consultations for women with cancer, with locations in 12 states, including Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, North and South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.
Breast cancer survivor Sheril Cohen started the business after her own struggles with hair loss that were matched only by the frustrating process of getting a wig.
"Wig shopping was awful," Cohen shares on her website. "[The attendant] tried to sell me this wig. I thought it was a cute cut, but I thought it made me older and unattractive. I cried. I felt sexy with my long hair. With this wig on I felt like a suburban fortysomething-year-old soccer mom. I was successful, single, a thirtysomething NYC woman. I wanted to retain me—not become someone I did not recognize."
Now Cohen proudly sells wigs of all kinds—synthetic, hybrid, human hair—to women all over the country, providing, as one of her clients says, privacy.
"I felt so like myself in my wig," said Ellen, a client. "No one knew. People who knew I had been diagnosed but did not know much else used to come up to me at events and ask when I was going to start chemo or if I had chosen a doctor yet. I did not have to tell anyone anything I did not want to tell them."
As women in chemotherapy treatment discover, hair loss isn't limited to their locks. It means no eyebrows, no eyelashes and, as Cohen points out, one bright spot—no shaving.
Women can visit a lash studio to get back that feminine flutter of the lashes, and maybe even amp up their look with a few sexy, extra-long lash extensions.
The mobile salon of Chicago Lashes will come to your home in Arlington Heights and Palatine to properly fit you with eyelash extensions; and Seva located inside the Walmart in Niles offers eyelash extensions, among other services.
There are also resources online for women who have had surgery during treatment. KA Mastectomy Bras and Apparel, started by survivor Kimberly Ashmand, features pretty and practical bras tailored to the unique needs of survivors, as well as some with a little lace and sparkle to help women feel sexy again.
Adopting a new look during treatment is about more than simply feeling good for the moment—it can be another weapon in a woman's arsenal against cancer, giving her a deep well of positivity to sustain her.
The American Cancer Society has a Wig Boutique offered at the Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights. The boutique offers new wigs and scarves to women with breast cancer. For more information contact or to schedule an appointment call 800-227-2345.
The Look Good Feel Better program teaches beauty techniques to cancer patients to help them manage the appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment. Monthly classes are avaialble at locations in Arlington Heights, Park Ridge, Palatine, Morton Grove and Skokie. For more information on the next programs contact 800-782-7716.
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