Strands of Courage ‐ Improving healing for others
Only nine days passed before Nancy Wilms’ hair started to fall out in her hands.
"Nobody knew I had cancer until I lost my hair," she says. "I felt like I had lost control of my condition because it was suddenly so public."
Diagnosed in May 2014, Wilms will tell you that cancer doesn’t care if you’re ready to cope or not. She knows this because she only had one chemotherapy treatment and had to confront the destruction of the disease in the form of hair loss almost immediately.
Some chemotherapy drugs used to kill cancer cells can cause damage to hair follicles, which makes hair fall out.
"I had come to terms with the diagnosis and was ready to fight, but I wasn’t prepared to deal with what I would lose in the process," she says, reaching up to graze her new pixie style.
Donna Rogers, cancer nurse navigator at Mercy Medical Center (MMC), and a friend of Wilms accompanied her to the wig room at the hospital. To their discovery, it was not a pleasing or positive environment. Wigs, scarves and hats were stored untidily in plastic bags. Privacy was limited and there was only a small mirror.
In October 2015, Wilms completed treatment at Michael D. Wachtel Cancer Center within Mercy, but the emotional experience with hair loss has stuck with her.
Having been a volunteer at MMC for five years, she now uses some of that time to work with Rogers to transform the wig room into a welcoming refuge and support Mercy Health Foundation’s fundraising efforts to make it possible.
"Coming into this room should be as good as walking into your own salon," Wilms says. "I want to help someone else going through it."
To learn how you can help, visit www.mmcgift.org.
Published November 2015