Donated wigs can help cancer patients with healing
Its benefits may not be clinically proven in the fight against cancer, but just try telling Heidi Kriger the wig she wore for nearly seven months did nothing for her.
Kriger, the finance director for the town of Hopkinton, was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago and lost her hair while undergoing chemotherapy treatments.
Wearing a wig, she said yesterday, was a critical part of her daily routine, allowing her to look and feel as normal as possible, despite her illness.
"I had a woman who worked with me, who knew I was having chemotherapy, and she came up to me and she said, 'At least you didn't lose your hair."' Kriger said.
That feeling of normalcy is one Kriger and MetroWest Medical Center officials want to make sure other patients have.
On Sunday, April 27, the hospital and American Cancer Society will sponsor an event that invites people to have their hair cut for use in producing wigs for other cancer patients.
The event, part of the Pantene Beautiful Lengths program, will take place at SalonAlberto in Framingham. Hair to be donated must be at least 8 inches long, but cannot be bleached, permanently colored or chemically treated.
After the hair is collected it is processed into wigs, said Matt Blom, a community executive for cancer control at the American Cancer Society. It can take as many as six or eight donations to create a single wig, he said.
Once the wigs are made they are distributed to American Cancer Society wig banks, where they are made available, free of charge.
For patients like Kriger, a wig can have a huge impact on daily life.
"When I first found out I had breast cancer ... I was hoping not to need chemotherapy," she said.
After her initial diagnosis, she recalled going to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston for a second opinion and being confronted with a waiting room full of women who had lost their hair.
"I thought, I can't look like that, that's not going to be me," she said.
The idea of wearing a wig came to her after attending a program called Look Good ... Feel Better. The MetroWest Medical Center program is aimed at helping women undergoing cancer treatment deal with appearance-related side effects of radiation and chemotherapy.
"The woman next to me had a wig on, and I had no idea," Kriger said. "I thought, 'If she can do this, I can do this!"'
Kriger bought a wig, several hats and bandanas, and began cutting her hair short in preparation for losing it. By the time it happened, more than two weeks after beginning chemotherapy, she was ready for it.
Still, she believes using a wig to help keep her appearance up was a huge help during treatment.
"Hair is just so much more important to women than it is to most men," she said. "A positive attitude is a huge part of (treatment). You have to think positive, and it really helped me out."
For more information on the Beautiful Lengths program, or to schedule an appointment to make a donation, call 800-400-3627.
Peter Reuell can be reached at 508-626-4428, or at email@example.com.
MetroWest Daily News