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."
The American Cancer Society's Look Good Feel Better program provides many tools for survivors of breast cancer. Their website has how-to techniques and guides, plus information on where to get additional help.
The following healthcare facilities are part of that program in Milwaukee County:
- Columbia Saint Mary’s Hospital, 2350 N. Lake Drive, Milwaukee
- Reiman Center for Cancer Care, 7410 W. Rawson Ave., Franklin
- Aurora West Allis Medical Center, 8901 W. Lincoln Ave., West Allis
- Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare-St. Francis Hospital, 3267 S. 16th St., Milwaukee
- Saint Joseph’s Hospital Sherman Cancer Center, 5015 W. Burleigh St., Milwaukee
- Aurora Saint Luke’s South Shore, 5900 S. Lake Drive., Cudahy
- Froedtert Hospital Clinical Cancer Center, 9200 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee
- Aurora Sinai Samaritan Meical Center, 945 N. 12th St., Milwaukee (contact Shirley Ash-Edwards at (414) 219-6457)
For more information, unless otherwise noted, contact the ACS Patient Service Center at (866) 460-6550.
Additional resources for cancer patients and survivors: After Breast Cancer Diagnosis, 6737 W. Washington St., Suite 3265, West Allis, (414) 918-9222; Loan & Gift Closet, UWM-House of Peace Community Nursing Center, 1702 W. Walnut St., Milwaukee.
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.
Wigs and wig fittings are available at Small Stones Wellness Center/Clinical Cancer Center at Froedtert Hospital, 9200 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, (414) 805-0998, and Robert Laurence Hair Studios, Inc., 4060 N. Oakland Ave., Milwaukee, (414) 961-7000.
Permanent cosmetics are available from Lynn Duncan Permanent Cosmetics, 201 N. Mayfair Road, Wheaton Franciscan Medical Center, Wauwatosa, (262) 470-0077.
There 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.
Knueppel Healthcare Services, 1444 S. 113th St., West Allis, has prostheses and clothing for women who have had breast surgery. They can also be reached at (414) 258-2800.
TELL US: We want to know what matters most to you, whether it's lashes, lipstick or lingerie. Share in the comments section below what aspects of a makeover makes you feel the most beautiful.