A salon-style wig room at the newly built Northwest Wisconsin Cancer Center of Memorial Medical Center in Ashland, Wis., offers cancer patients a boost of self-confidence.
"Chemotherapy can be very hard on our patients. Many of them feel such a sense of loss when their hair falls out," said Terri Kramolis, cancer center administrator. "Before we built the cancer center, we had donations of wigs and scarves and hats, but they were all just kept in a simple box and then brought to patients to sort through."
The $12 million facility located on Ashland's medical campus at 1615 Maple Lane, a collaboration between Memorial Medical Center and Essentia Health, offers a wig room inside that is designed to resemble a salon, complete with a styling area and swivel chair. It has beautiful glass and wood cabinets that showcase each wig on a professional mannequin. The wigs come in all different colors, styles and lengths and each is treated with special care.
"We have a cosmetologist that takes each wig and washes and sets it," Kramolis said. "Then our patients can pick out whichever one they want and the cosmetologist styles and cuts the wig to fit them perfectly."
Kramolis remembers one woman who came in recently and chose a wig to resemble her current hairstyle so that no one would know she was going through treatment, and that the hair on her head wasn't hers.
"It's important for patients who have cancer to not lose their dignity, identity or privacy. Losing your hair can not only be very traumatic, but also something people do notice right away," she said. "I'm happy we were able to offer her the option of keeping her treatment private."
Every wig is donated to the cancer center, and each is free to any cancer patient.
Besides the dozens of wigs in the room, generous volunteers have also knit shawls for patients to wear when receiving infusions and quilts that they can take home.
"Cancer is a disease that can strip so much from a person. If we can help in just one simple way, by providing a beautifully styled wig, or a shawl, or a blanket, it's one more way, I feel, we're here with them during this journey," Kramolis said.