It’s one of the most common side effects of cancer treatment, but hair loss is no longer as distressing as it once was for women undergoing chemotherapy at Forster Private Hospital.
For the last three years, the Great Lakes Hospice has provided wigs, free of charge, to patients undergoing treatment at the hospital’s oncology unit.
Charmaine Barraclough, who coordinates the service, said sometimes people underestimate how important hair is to a woman’s sense of self.
“Hair is extremely personal for a woman, it’s how you feel like yourself,” Ms Barraclough told the Great Lakes Advocate.
“For some it’s their crown and glory, and they can be robbed of their confidence and dignity without it.
“Wigs can get really expensive. It’s great we can provide this service to the community.”
The oncology unit contacts the hospice on behalf of interested patients.
Ms Barraclough then conducts consultations, using swatches and brochures to match a wig to the patient’s original hair style and colour.
When the wig arrives, Ms Barraclough assists with the fitting and follows up with the patient within a few weeks.
“It’s a very emotional experience, they feel human again, and as though they can go out and face the world,” she said.
Ms Barraclough said she had been able to help women who didn’t feel confident enough to go about their daily lives.
“It’s amazing to see these women who are not feeling like themselves, be transformed,” she said.
“They put [the wig] on and they have a smile and sometimes tears, because of how much better they look and feel.”
Kim Gillet, clinical nurse specialist at Forster Private Hospital, said receiving a wig can really boost a patients’ spirit.
“It’s fantastic support, we’re really lucky to have this service without it costing anything to the patient,” Ms Gillet said.
The Great Lakes Hospice wig service gave out 17 wigs in 2015 and has already helped four women in 2016.