Oct.1st, 2010 was undoubtedly the worst day of my life. I was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer at the age of 33. I had found a lump in right breast the week prior and promptly went to see my primary care doctor who did a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy. The two weeks following my diagnosis were a blur with multiple doctor visits, additional scans and decisions. Two week after my diagnosis date I started my treatment journey which included 6 months of chemotherapy, surgery and 7 weeks of daily radiation. When I started chemo I was told my hair would most likely start to fall out in about 2 weeks after the first treatment. I wasn’t sure if I was going to wake-up one morning and my hair would all be on my pillow or how the hair loss would unfold. I am a planner and I knew I needed to have a plan in place for when my hair did start to fall out. I reached out to my friend and hairdresser Shelly who I had known for a long time. I met Shelly probably 8 years earlier when she walked into my chiropractic clinic and asked if anyone wanted to trade services. She worked in the hair salon beside my office and we started to help one another. I would work on all her backaches and pains from her physically demanding job and she would cut, color and blow-dry my hair. Shelly moved salons a few times and I always followed her because of our friendship and she always did an amazing job to make my hair look fantastic. I always got compliments on my hair thanks to Shelly.
When I started chemo I reached out to Shelly so I could put my hair loss plan in place. About 10 days into treatment my hair started to come out in clumps. I had a lot of thick, long blonde hair and my brush was pulling out more and more strands as I used it. I decided it was too distressing to see the clumps in my brush and so I called Shelly to ask her if she would shave my head. She was very thoughtful and had me come down to her salon on a Saturday afternoon after her last client had left. She was mindful that I would probably want to do it with no one around. I brought my girlfriend Beth with me for additional support and Shelly shaved my head. It was so good to go through the awful experience with someone I knew and trusted. I had brought a wool cap to wear home and Shelly carefully placed it on my newly bald head. Since Shelly’s main business is doing hair extensions she told me she had a connection with the second largest wig company in the US which was located in Vista, CA (north San Diego). She spoke to one of her sales reps there and they agreed to let her bring me down to their corporate offices to get a wig. The company does not usually allow the public to come in and buy wigs but they made an exception because of Shelly’s relationship with them.
Two days after Shelly shaved my head I drove to her house and we set off in her car with Logan her baby in the back seat to the wig company named Jon Renau. I remember Shelly gave me some bland crackers in the car because I was nauseous from the chemo. I realized if I continually had something in my stomach then the nausea was not so bad. We arrived and found ourselves in an industrial area of many businesses. The wig company looked like a big airplane hangar type warehouse. When we walked in we were greeted by Shelly’s sales rep connection. I then started to look around and I noticed the wig company logo looked very familiar and it dawned on me I had seen it before. In conjunction to being a chiropractor I am also very avid squash player and I teach lessons at one of the local clubs in San Diego. I realized one of the squash club’s members had always been very charitable and had recently sponsored a junior tournament that I had run. We had t-shirts printed for the tournament and placed the Jon Renau logo on the shirt as a sponsor. The member’s name was John Reynolds and I suddenly realized he was the owner of Jon Renau. I asked if John was in the office that day and as luck would have it he was! He came down to greet us and then took us up to his office. He treated us like royalty and had his VP of Marketing come to help me. We all sat around a round table and Shelly described what type of wig we were looking for that would most closely resemble my hairstyle. John and his VP would call down to the warehouse and someone would come up and bring a wig. I tried a few wigs on, there were several calls to the warehouse and various wigs were shuttled back and forth for me. We finally found the perfect wig called “Pralines and Cream” which looked just like my hair (almost better). It was such a good experience considering the situation and their kindness will always be remembered. We all ended up having a good time, Shelly’s cute son Logan was a huge hit with everyone, I got a wig and even Shelly took him a long haired black wig she planned to wear for Halloween.
Over the next 10 months I completed chemo and surgery. The lump in my breast had started off at 5.5 cm and chemo shrank it down to 1cm. I had a lumpectomy in April and started radiation in June. I finished radiation in mid-July and was so happy to be done but all the treatments left me tired and worn out. In conjunction with losing my hair I had also lost my eyebrows and eyelashes so I hardly looked and felt like myself. My hair had started to grow back but it was a weird texture and a gross color with large areas of grey. I was scared my original thick, long blonde hair was gone for good. I called Shelly and she had me come down to her salon. She reassured me that often after chemo hair does initially grow back differently. That day she colored my hair so it was all a light brown color. It looked so much better then before and I was happy that I even had some hair growth for her to color. It was really a great visual first step to get my life back to “normal”. I took a picture and sent it to my friends and family. Shelly was again super thoughtful and had found a hair product that helped to stimulate hair growth. I used it religiously and a few months later my hair was probably about 2 inches long. It had grown in super curly with tight ringlets which I had never had before. The short hair was different and easy to take care of but in the back of my mind I did miss for my original hair. At 2 inches Shelly was able to start adding my original colored highlights to my hair and she blow-dried it and straightened it wrestling a bit with the stubborn curls. When I looked in the mirror I saw my old self with the hair, color, layers and style I had always loved. Shelly’s touch was magic. Over the next several months Shelly continued to highlight and cut it expertly as it grew. Chemo gave me this gift of curly hair which I still have today if I don’t blow-dry it straight. I went back to working on Shelly as a patient and she helped return my hair to its original look. I went through many tough challenges and ups and downs during my full year of treatment but my hair signified to me what I was going through and how far I had come. Words cannot express how thankful I am to Shelly for getting me through this tough process. She is so talented with dealing with all types of hair and just knowing I had her there to help me made some of the challenges over the year must easier to deal with.