Paying it Forward
Breast cancer survivor Nancy Wilms only had one chemotherapy treatment. But, nine days later her hair fell out in handfuls. "Losing your hair is traumatic," she said. "Nobody knew up until I lost my hair that I had cancer. I felt like I had lost control of my condition because it was public." Nancy went to a salon to have her head shaved to remove the wisps of hair that were left. That too, left her feeling very vulnerable. "I had to go to a salon I was not familiar with and it was done in front of people I didn't know. There was no privacy," she said.
The next stop was the wig room at Mercy Medical Center. New cancer patient navigator Donna Rogers and a friend went with Nancy to find an appropriate wig. They were all disappointed in what they found. The wigs were in plastic bags and unorganized. There was only a small mirror. Large plastic bags held a jumble of scarves and hats. An uncovered window in the door limited privacy?again. When Nancy walked into the wig room, she was exhausted from chemo and wearing a scarf. It was not the supportive environment she needed to help her get through this difficult time. "I was in tears. I just wanted to get a wig and get out of there."
"Everybody's cancer story is different," Nancy said. "You have to grieve it and experience it your own way." Still, she observed, "If some of the steps along the way can be improved, it will be a better journey. I want to make a difference?to help someone else going through it." Already a Mercy Medical Center volunteer, Nancy's new project is to improve what she can in the wig room for now and support Mercy Health Foundation's fundraising efforts that will make it possible to transform the wig room into a welcoming refuge. "It should be as good as walking into your own salon," Nancy said.