Women cancer survivors, what to do for your hair.

Project Back to Life: Volume 2: Terri 





Salon LG is proud to announce such a loving woman for this month’s Back to Life project. The candidate, Terri, shares her incredible and enlightening story with us below. Terri, in return for complimentary extensions and services from Salon LG, teaches us a lesson on finding the most important first love- the love for self.

Terri’s quest for beauty was something those around her noticed from the very start.

“My Italian Grandmother nicknamed me ‘Coquetta’. In Italian the loose translation is: ‘a woman who is very concerned with looking just right’. I was always playing with my hair, trying new makeup and making sure my outfits looked just right.”


Even as early as age 6, Terri suffered severe self-consciousness. From begging for a nose job to unnecessary diets, Terri’s main overwhelming concern seemed to be her looks. This self-concern eventually led to an unhealthy form of self-control.

Terri states, “I began to starve myself and dropped to 80 lbs by my 17th birthday.   No one knew what anorexia was at that time.  Everyone praised me for obtaining the Twiggy look.”
After high school, Terri’s weight was more normal, due to her end of dance competitions and a healthy, new romantic relationship. It was at this stage in her life that Terri had headed for the sunny shores of California, or as Terri puts, “the land of golden tans and perfect bodies.”

During her mid-twenties, Terri spent hours at the beach, on a quest for that golden tan. She also started experimenting with vegetarianism and veganism. “My weight again dropped below 100 pounds. I felt strong, in control and on top of the world. My hair thinned but hey, I had the tanned perfect body. I remember something I said to myself many times- I would rather die than be fat”, she chillingly recalls.


It was here that she met a man she fell in love with, and with his support, was able to love herself a little bit more.  With his help, she was able to eventually gain enough weight to have a successful pregnancy. Terri and her husband welcomed a wonderful son named Steven into the world.

This, however, unfortunately, would not be the end of Terri’s battle for self-acceptance.
Terri and her husband encountered marital trouble. Terri and her husband divorced when their child was five. The stress of divorce, full-time work, and being a single mother took its toll. Terri spiraled back into her old self-destructive habit of starvation.  In addition, Terri began using tanning booths on occasion to keep her beloved, hard-earned tan year-round.
Being the strong woman Terri is, she was able to overcome the stress and fight the destructive behavior. She steadily regained control over her life. “Fast forward to July of 2011.  I am healthy, strong and fit. I no longer obsess about eating. I am free of those demons and even volunteer at an eating disorder unit to help other women who are coping [with the same disease I struggled with].”

Things were looking up! Terri also landed her dream job, working as a Pilates Instructor at the well-known Rancho La Puerta Resort in Mexico.  It was around this time that Terri developed a raised spot on the sclera of her eye.

Terri remembers, “I thought it was conjunctivitis (pink eye) but it did not go away. I went from doctor to doctor and tried various drops. None of them worked. The spot grew, making it hard for me to see. Finally in August 2011 an ophthalmologist suspected cancer. He said it was a rare occurrence, but it most likely from sun exposure.  I never wore sunglasses.  I could never find a pair that looked good on me.  Plus my eyes were my best feature.  Why cover them up?”

It was here that she met a man she fell in love with, and with his support, was able to love herself a little bit more.  With his help, she was able to eventually gain enough weight to have a successful pregnancy. Terri and her husband welcomed a wonderful son named Steven into the world.
This, however, unfortunately, would not be the end of Terri’s battle for self-acceptance.
Terri and her husband encountered marital trouble. Terri and her husband divorced when their child was five. The stress of divorce, full-time work, and being a single mother took its toll. Terri spiraled back into her old self-destructive habit of starvation.  In addition, Terri began using tanning booths on occasion to keep her beloved, hard-earned tan year-round.
Being the strong woman Terri is, she was able to overcome the stress and fight the destructive behavior. She steadily regained control over her life. “Fast forward to July of 2011.  I am healthy, strong and fit. I no longer obsess about eating. I am free of those demons and even volunteer at an eating disorder unit to help other women who are coping [with the same disease I struggled with].”

Things were looking up! Terri also landed her dream job, working as a Pilates Instructor at the well-known Rancho La Puerta Resort in Mexico.  It was around this time that Terri developed a raised spot on the sclera of her eye.

Terri remembers, “I thought it was conjunctivitis (pink eye) but it did not go away. I went from doctor to doctor and tried various drops. None of them worked. The spot grew, making it hard for me to see. Finally in August 2011 an ophthalmologist suspected cancer. He said it was a rare occurrence, but it most likely from sun exposure.  I never wore sunglasses.  I could never find a pair that looked good on me.  Plus my eyes were my best feature.  Why cover them up?”

In September 2011 Terri underwent surgery to remove the cancerous spot. Although the recovery was a challenge for Terri, the surgery went well with no side effects, cosmetic or otherwise. Terri thought this was the end, but it was, in fact, just the beginning. Something else would surface just four months later.
“In January of 2012 I discovered a little spot on my lower lip. I thought it was a cold sore and treated it as such.  It did not heal, bled from time to time and started getting larger.  I went to the dermatologist and the biopsy came back positive.  Squamous Cell Carcinoma– the same type as on my eye.  Cause: sun exposure. Treatment: surgery to remove it. I was now really concerned that my lip would not look right.”
To Terri’s surprise, the surgery went well, the scar was small and barely visible. She did not connect the eye cancer with the lip cancer, but she did start taking more preventative measures, such as wearing sunscreen and hats when in the sun, and opting for self-tanner in lieu of tanning beds or laying out for hours in the sun.

Terri’s struggle In June of 2012 the spot reappeared.  This time it grew very quickly.  Terri’s dermatologist said that her entire bottom lip would have to be removed to ensure complete cancer removal.  Terri’s response: “NO WAY!!  My entire lip removed?  I would rather die! “

In every effort to save the looks she took so much pride and effort in, she tried alternatives, holistic preparations, macrobiotic diets, even a topical chemotherapy cream. The bump grew until it covered two-thirds of her entire lower lip.  She had to stop working because it became so “unsightly”. It became incredibly painful and hard for her eat. At this point, there was no way Terri could avoid the doctor’s unsightly order. Chemo was not a possibility for this type of cancer, nor was radiation.
Terri tells us, “I found a plastic surgeon in La Jolla who had a lot of experience with lip reconstruction.  He told me that while I would never look exactly the same again, he thought I would be happy with the final outcome.  I trusted him and with the support of my current husband, family and friends I underwent the surgery in January of 2013.

My entire lower lip and a spot on my chin was removed, full-thickness.  I was partially reconstructed and spent one month in the hospital being tube fed.  I could not speak or eat.  When I got out and the bandages were removed there was no denying that I was permanently disfigured.  I tried creative bandaging but my facial structure had changed.  I fought hard to regain the weight I’d lost and reclaim the muscles I’d lost during the hospitalization.   My husband was at my side at every appointment and continues to love me even with the disfigurement.  However the stress took its toll.  I’ve aged dramatically and my hair started falling out.”

Terri, still concerned with her looks, was desperate for something to feel better.  Makeup didn’t help.  She desperately craved the femininity she once so strongly possessed. She didn’t like the idea of wigs, either.

Terri excitedly recalls, “It was then that I heard about Shelly Cook at Salon LG.  I sent her an email, explaining my situation. She was so very compassionate and welcoming.  She invited me to come to the Salon LG so she could meet me and determine if I was a good candidate for extensions.  She color-matched my hair and explained that all of [these services] would take place, at no charge!!! I am in awe of the kindness and generosity of Shelly and Salon LG. The whole process was amazing.  And now I have hair!  Beautiful hair! I feel so much more feminine and have started wearing makeup again.”

Terri with her new tape-in extensions
“The psychological aspect of this process of getting new hair had been healing at a deep level. My husband loves it. Not just because I look more like when he first met me but because I’m happier.
Now I am living with some hope.  Even though the cancer has spread to my lymph nodes I am more brave and hopeful.
I am with deep thankfulness and gratitude for Salon LG’s generous gift!”
-Terri van de Sande

We are so thankful to have Terri’s sunny personality in our lives. She is the perfect example of the impact a little change and empowerment can have, beyond just the physical aspect. Terri’s story also lends a greater perspective of how cancer affects more than just the person diagnosed- it affects everyone around them as well.  We admire Terri’s discovery of self-love, and the strength of her positivity.  We are proud to be here to fight cancer with her!