Sunday, January 6, 2013

Picking Out a Cranial Prosthesis


It turns out that the insurance lingo for a wig is a cranial prosthesis.  Prior to submitting an insurance claim for a wig, I need to get a prescription from my oncologist for a “Cranial prosthesis due to chemotherapy induced alopecia.”  In other words, a wig because one goes bald from the chemotherapy. 

Brigid and I went to LuLu’s Wiggin’ Out to look for a wig last week.  The name of the shop gave me pause…”LuLu’s”…that’s not far from my name, since some people call me “Lu.”  I was hoping that would be a good sign. But the “wiggin’ out” part is what I should have paid more attention to. It’s a small shop in a far suburb that was a hybrid wig shop/costume shop.  The styling chair was spray painted hot pink and sat in the middle of the shop in front of a hot pink wicker mirror.  They have very nice, quality-looking wigs, but also have the rainbow colored clown wig and Orphan Annie wig.  The young woman who helped me was great…conservatively and neatly dressed.  She introduced me to the young woman in the shop who cuts and styles the wigs.  This woman was pierced and tattooed. I really hate to stereotype folks, but I had a hard time picturing her cutting my wig into anything but a Mohawk or with severe spikes.  So…I walked out without placing an order.

Next stop, Jerome Krause, a so-called “high-end wig shop” in a north shore suburb, with Brigid and my mom.  Walking in, it looked like a doctor’s office.  There were separate styling rooms that were neutrally decorated.  The staff was neatly and professionally dressed…and kind of looked like me. Their inventory was huge, so that I could pick out one on the spot, rather than having to order one in the color of my choice.  The cost of the wigs were ~$20-25 more, but this place will custom fit the wig to my head.  The way it works is that I put a deposit down on a wig, which they hold for me.  Then when my hair starts to fall out, I go back, they cut my hair close to my head, and fit the wig to my hairless head. 

I wondered why hair falls out with chemo.  I now understand that chemotherapeutic agents slow or stop the growth of rapidly growing cells, i.e. cancer cells.  Unfortunately, the agents don’t distinguish between “good” cells and “bad” cells.  Since hair bulb cells grow and divide quickly, they are particularly vulnerable.  What I didn’t think about is hair on other parts of my body besides what’s on my head….eye brows, lashes, the fine hairs on my arms, etc.  I understand that some people find that their clothes feel funny on them after they lose their body hair.  

I’ve been told different things about when I should expect my hair to start falling out….7-10 days after chemo….2-3 weeks after chemo…I’ve even learned that a very small percent of chemotherapy patients don’t lose their hair.  I looked up that number and it’s 1%.  I have been told that my “hair will hurt” several days before it actually starts falling out. More specifically, the roots will tingle at first and then may ache.   My scalp started to tingle a day or two ago. 

I pick up my wig this coming Saturday.  Stay tuned for pictures....


Barb Biesecker said...

Dear Luna,
The blog and news of your diagnosis came to me an hour ago from Christy. Needless to say I am shocked and blown away by your generosity of spirit in writing about your experience as it unfolds. I can't believe that you are addressing some of the pragmatic questions flying through my head in your own written thoughts. You can achieve a level of connection and intimacy that pre-Internet days was only available to ones closest people. A colleague friend is not going to ask you how someone can have stage 4 lung cancer and feel fine. Now I know how from you. This must all feel so surreal and yet your practical self knows and accepts that this is a frightening reality you would love to escape.
I will think of you each day during this journey--sending you warm thoughts and good wishes for these damn chemicals to do their job and leave your healthy cells alone. Your diagnosis has struck me down Luna. It was only days ago we were talking on the streets of Boston and I was thinking how much I wished I looked as young, healthy and fit as you do. How life sends us unexpected challenges and sends us on unwelcome journeys... May you bask in the love of your husband and kids and your dearest friends and colleagues. Hang in there and milk what you can from each day. Thanks for sharing your story. Love, Barb Biesecker

Luna O. said...

Barb, Thanks for reading and thank you for your supportive thoughts above. It was wonderful to run into you on that Boston street and I loved catching up. Love, Luna

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