For patients getting chemotherapy for cancer, the loss of their hair is often a shocking experience. It doesn’t happen to everyone, but for women who lose their hair, the change in appearance brings about fears of not having a normal social life.

Although wigs are available, they often need to be styled for the cancer patient. This special service has been offered for years at Virgil’s Beauty College on Ninth Street.

Managing Instructor Martha Pope said students help patients with wigs by styling their wig for a natural and flattering appearance. She remembers how patients have reacted.

“They have said, ‘It looks just like my own hair!’ and ‘Definitely, this makes me feel better,’” Pope said. “And ‘Now I’ll fit in.’”

Judy Metcalf, an instructor and floor manager at Virgil’s, said she has been impressed with the change in outlook for women on chemotherapy who got their wigs styled.

“They’re just so pleased,” she said. “It’s like you handed them a million dollars. They smile and walk out of here with a twinkle in their eyes, bless their hearts.”

Pope said that although balding is a natural process for many men, they too can become upset if they are on chemotherapy and experience sudden hair loss.

“My brother was 34 when he had cancer, and it seemed like he was more concerned with losing his hair than he was about having cancer,” Pope said.

And it’s not just the patients who are getting something from the styling process.

“I’ve been doing wigs since 1964,” Pope said. “We’ve had patients on and off, and I tell the students they are going to have customers who need this service some day.”

Depending on the individual situation, there may be small fee or no charge.

Peggy Clairday, 65, who was diagnosed in 1994 with chronic leukemia, knows what kind of shock women go through if they’re already dealing with cancer then suddenly lose their hair. She goes to regular meetings of a cancer support group at Muskogee Regional Medical Center.

“Some of the women on chemotherapy did lose their hair, and it was devastating for them,” she said. “I think it’s one of the greatest things there is for them; to get a wig that feels comfortable and looks good. Every woman should be able to do this. Then they will be able to go back out socially again.”

Clairday said the support group helps members with hair loss find a wig, usually one that has been donated.

The American Cancer Society has long recognized the link between emotional well being and giving patients a way to improve their appearance. They offer a program called “Look Good ... Feel Better.”

To find out more, call (800) 395-LOOK or contact American Cancer Society at 4110 S. 100th East Ave., Grant Building Suite 101, Tulsa, OK 74146 or 743-6767.

Reach Keith Purtell at 684-2925 or

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