37. Wish You Were Hair

The Wigs Clinic, or rather Wish You Were Hair, is in Clinic 2, just along from the Fracture Clinic and opposite the Sleep Unit. We were surrounded by people with their arm or leg in a plaster cast. Having got to the waiting room in a rather giggly mood, we were the most lively and bouncy of the bunch. I felt a bit of a fraud, as everyone else looked like a proper patient.

Then I remembered that I was probably the most genuine patient of the lot. You just can't tell. I'd done the make-up thing and made sure I wore something vaguely glamorous to go with the wig.

The Wigs Clinic was more Store Cupboard than Salon. By the time all seven of us had squeezed into the tiny consulting room, it was standing room only, what with myself, my two daughters, Bear, Pig, Owl, my stylish and sensitive friend, Wig Lady and Wig Lady's Assistant. Perhaps it should have been named Neither Hair Nor There Nor Chair, but I suppose that wouldn't fit onto the blue NHS sign.

I looked around for a door into the Wig Show Room, but it transpired that I was holding the show room in my hands.

"Here you are," said Wig Lady without much (in fact, without any) introduction, handing me a glossy magazine and sitting business-like at her computer, as if ready to type in my wig-of-choice within the next five minutes. "You choose your style first. Then we see if it fits you. Then you choose your colour."

She gestured broadly to the stack of boxes on the table behind me, topped by a card with dangly strands of hair in different shades.

"If it's here, you can take it straight home. Otherwise you can collect it on the 10th of September." (Oh no. Not the 10th of September. My hair is falling out as we speak.)

"Oh, right," I said, rather alarmed at the Vogue-style photographs of young women with long blonde hair. They didn't seem to do grey, or wrinkles, or worries. They didn't seem to do me. "OK then."

I started to giggle again, showing my daughters the possibilities opened up to me by wigs with names like Amaze and Enhance and Celebration.

The girls were rather keen on Pixie, because that's the name of our cat. Hahaha.

Fortunately, my stylish and sensitive friend could see the panic beneath my laughter and knew that I needed neither Captivate nor Everlasting.

(Please. Not Everlasting. Perhaps I should try on Calm? Or Believe?)

"Let's look for the shorter ones," she said gently. "How about this one?" It was Desire.

As soon as Desire was on my head, both my laughter and the underlying panic exploded.

"This is ridiculous!" I said. "I can't wear that. I can NOT wear a wig."

Desire? Pehaps not.

As I sat there in front of the mirror, tutting, the Wig Lady's assistant wordlessly combed and combed until I resembled someone presentable. Problem was, Desire was someone else, not me.

My stylish and sensitive friend tried to put it into sensitive words: "Perhaps this one is a bit too... well... I don't mean this badly... but young looking. How about something even shorter? And more like your own  hair colour?"

I agreed. Most of these wigs, it seemed, are made to make you look like a better version of yourself. As if you are trying too hard. I don't want a better version of myself. I certainly don't want Venture.

Cancer treatment is enough of a venture in itself, without my hair adding to it.

The Wig Lady's assistant quietly put Desire away and produced Denise, found in the catalogue by my stylish and sensitive friend.

Denise. OK then, I'll have this one.
Ah, well, Denise.

Perhaps it was the undesirability of Desire that made me receptive to anything vaguely suitable. As the Wig Lady's Assistant started her wordless combing again, I began to feel that this might, just might, look like me. The more she combed, the more my six-strong team of supporters agreed.

"It looks good, mum," my older daughter said. "You look like you."

So, to my surprise, I was done and dusted in less than half an hour, with a wig that happened to be available in my very own colour, so I could simply take it home. It was almost disappointing.

In fact I could see the disappointment in Bear's eyes. He had looked forward to trying on an interesting range of wigs. He had even dressed for the occasion, choosing his best jumper to match his anticipated new hair-do.

"Ehhmmm...." I asked on his behalf, "might it be possible for Bear to see what he looks like in a wig? He was really hoping..."

"I don't think so," Wig Lady said kindly but sternly. "His head is too big."

Oh dear. Too much Brain Fluff. My younger daughter looked crestfallen. Her bear had talked about trying on wigs for days. We'd just have to do lots of wig wearing at home, using the dressing-up box. (We did. See pictures at the end of this post.)

"Not even perching on top?" I persisted. "No? How about Owl, perhaps?"

I started to explain that Owl had gone through all my cancer excursions with me, being photographed along the way. By the time I had finished, the quiet Wig Lady's Assistant had produced a lovely long-haired wig, matching Bear's own fur, and put it on his head. Now that's what I call patient-centred care. It made all the difference to our day.

(Afterwards, as we sat in the hospital canteen talking about the difference between Wig Lady and Wig Lady's Assistant, my younger daughter observed: "I think Wig Lady enjoyed it." "What makes you think that?" I asked. My younger daughter answered, "She smiled at Bear."

Good for Bear, transforming Wig Lady's experience. And just for the record: you cannot fool a child.)

So here I am, still with my own thinning hair. I've parked Denise with Matilda, our resident mannequin (don't ask, it's a long story) - but I might actually borrow it off her from time to time.

Matilda wearing my wig
"Do I pay for this?" I asked Wig Lady.

"No," she said. "It's part of your treatment." Amazing.

"I thought of another one," my stylish and sensitive friend said as we left Wish You Were Hair and headed for the canteen.

"Wigwam. We Put The Wam Into Your Wig."

I had to rush to the ladies. I couldn't even blame the cancer for the disastrous effects of sudden mirth. It was a case of pelvic floor failure.

I've got Denise. Bear, it seems, has got Flirty. Owl has definitely got Cover Girl.
(I am not making these up. There really are NHS wigs with such names.)

Looks like Bear, Pig and Owl have been to Wigwam... 

...and yes, Pig is wearing mine. It clearly has Rock Star potential.