Harristine White-Long was diagnosed with cervical cancer at the age of 28. Now, 40 years later, she’s still dealing with what she calls one of the most challenging parts of the disease – hair loss.
“Hair is a woman’s glory,” she explains. “I had long beautiful, black hair that ran down my back. You don’t know to miss it until you don’t have it anymore.”
Harristine originally tried to cover the loss with a wig, but says it never felt right. Later, she tried growing her hair back, but it came in thinner than before. So once again, she started thinking about wearing a wig.
“I didn’t really know what to get, and I didn’t know what to do,” she says. “I needed someone to help guide me through the process and be able to test out the wigs.”
Luckily, Harristine knew someone who worked for Bon Secours St. Francis Health System. They told her about a great program, called “Wigged Out Wednesday”, that could offer just that.
“Harristine’s concern is one of the most common things I would hear from cancer patients,” says Dionne Pringle, a financial navigator at Bon Secours St. Francis Cancer Center and founder of “Wigged Out Wednesday”. “They’re already dealing with a lot of expensive medical care, and wigs aren’t cheap. Many just can’t afford them.”
Realizing the need, Dionne reached out to Sheila Williams with the Williams Barber Training School. Even though Sheila was unable to donate wigs, she did know an organization capable of helping – the Chapman Foundation. From there, the three organizations partnered to launch “Wigged Out Wednesday” in November 2018.
Each organization brings their own skills and resources to help make this program successful. The Chapman Foundation donates the wigs. The Williams Barber Training School helps women style their wigs, making them look as natural as possible. Bon Secours hosts this monthly event and gets the word out to eligible individuals in the area.
“We’ve had people who have heard about the program that drove as far as 120 miles out of their way to attend one of our monthly events,” says Dionne.
In addition to wigs, Bon Secours provides volunteers who help women pick out scarves and show them different wrapping techniques.
“It’s a beautiful thing to offer at a time when people really need it,” says cancer patient Judy Ledvinka.
The 78-year-old is currently in remission. She decided to check out the “Wigged Out Wednesday” event after losing her hair as a result of chemotherapy and radiation treatments at the Bon Secours St. Francis Cancer Center.
“Oncology wasn’t even a word in my vocabulary. I never dreamed I would need to be a patient at the cancer center,” says Judy, who moved just down the road from the facility not long after it opened. “It’s convenient. It helps to have such accessible treatment. Everyone at Bon Secours is wonderful and very encouraging, from the people signing you in to the nurses.”
Harristine agrees, it’s the people that make all the difference.
“I didn’t really know what to get, but I came in and described what I was looking for. The lady knew just what I had in mind,” she says with a smile.
Both Judy and Harristine left their visit with a new hairdo, some big smiles and a little extra boost of confidence.
Wigged Out Wednesday is held the second Wednesday of every month from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. in the Education Classroom at the St. Francis Cancer Center.