By the nature of its side effects, cancer treatment can make a private battle a very public affair. For a woman with cancer, having a bald head or pale skin can make her feel like she's being targeted by a bright spotlight and a banner that says, "Cancer patient."
But now more than ever, there are resources for women that will put the spotlight back on their work, their accomplishments and their life—and change that banner to simply read, "Woman."
Though Cleveland Heights resident Cynnaria Caver has never battled cancer, her hair started thinning when she was barely a teenager. She became an expert at styling her hair to camouflage the bad spots and ease her insecurity.
The experience inspired her to take her knack for taming strands to the professional level — she went to cosmetology school and started working in a hair salon.
She was struck by how many women had hair-loss problems of their own, and how exposed they felt going to crowded salons that provided little privacy. Eventually she decided to start her own business where she could help such women in a less public setting.
She owns located in University Heights, and she is one of the American Cancer Society's area “wig banks,” where she gives women with cancer wigs and a new style, free of charge.
But she helped women long before she became an official wig bank.
When Terry, who asked that Patch not use her last name, first walked into Caver’s salon, she was bald from cancer treatments and wasn’t sure how to style her own wigs. After she got her new locks, Terry said she felt empowered, uplifted, optimistic.
“I forgot that I was a patient of cancer,” Terry said. "I felt like just a regular customer. It made me feel as though I was a part of her family rather than just someone she was servicing.”
Molly McDermott, health initiatives representative for the local American Cancer Society chapter, dropped off human-hair wigs when Caver's salon became official last year.
“She’s been paying it forward way before she became an American Cancer Society wig bank,” McDermott said. “I’ve had calls come in and people say, ‘Oh she’s a wig bank now?’ and they tell stories. They say she’s great, God bless her. I get a lot of calls like that. She’s a rare find, and we’re very lucky we connected with her."
The Gathering Place, a cancer support center in Beachwood, also offers a range of services for cancer patients and their families. The HairPeace Wig Salon distributes free, synthetic wigs, a cap liner and stand to women who have lost their hair due to cancer treatments.
The organization also provides a variety of skin care, eyebrow, nail and other and classes that educate people about the changes that occur from chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. A list of programs is available here.
Do you know of other resources for women in the area? Please tell us in the comments below.