Laura S. is a 2012 grant recipient who is paying it forward through her organization, Fight with Moxy, which raises awareness for ovarian cancer.
This is the story of a wig. A wig named Shanna. And she actually prefers to be referred to simply as “hair,” thank you very much. But let me start at the beginning…
I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the age of 30. One minute I was concerned only with my one year old daughter and the job I just started, and the next I was talking about chemotherapy and ripping out reproductive organs. It was a lot to handle. Once the shock of that c-word wore off though, most of the decisions I had to make were fairly easy. Yes, hysterectomy. Rip it all out. Yes to ports. Yes, start the six sessions of chemo as soon as possible. Yes, I want genetic counseling. The piece of the ordeal that caused me the most anxiety and trauma, however, was the hair. I did not want to lose my hair. I could not come to terms with being bald.
I’m well aware that whining about hair in comparison to infertility, early menopause, oh, and those rapidly multiplying cells threatening my life is pretty vain. Sue me. I’m driven by vanity. I wanted pretty hair. I didn’t want to look like a chemo patient, regardless if I was one or not. So the hair was a big freaking deal and the thing I spent the most time agonizing over. I went wig shopping before I even started chemo. I made plans for how I was going to cut and dye my real hair the same style of my wig so that no one would notice the transition from actual hair to fake hair. And I found a wig I loved and felt pretty in. I believe the catalog referred to the style I wanted as ‘the Angelina.’ I named it Shanna, because it felt very valley girl, weekend fun, ditzy but hot – like I imagined all Shannas to be. And I insisted on naming her, because in my vain anxiety I couldn’t even stomach the word “wig.” I referred to it instead as “hair” or “sweet weave,” or by its Christian name – Shanna.
Turns out sexy wigs cost a lot of money. And it also turns out that insurance companies don’t want to pay for them. When I found out what Shanna would cost me, I was pretty devastated. My husband and I were by no means poor, but we lived paycheck to paycheck, struggling to keep up with the high interest mortgage payments, student loans, cost of daycare and now the staggering medical bills that were piling up. I felt like buying Shanna meant I was going to miss paying a bill, or have to live on Aldi spaghetti for the next three months. I felt guilty for wanting the hair. So I went looking for a solution.
I searched online for charities and organizations that supported cancer victims like me. Yes, I know the term is “survivor,” but at the time I felt like a victim still. Cancer was screwing me out of long, luxurious hair, among other more substantial things. While I was looking for someone that would pay for my wig, or connect me with other people who were struggling with the same fears and anxiety I was (i.e. baldness), I ran across The SAMFund.
At first I didn’t give applying for a SAMFund grant more than just a passing thought, because I felt like there were young survivors who had it much worse than I did, who deserved the money more than me, who would use it for something more than hair. So I tabled my research into the organization.
It so happens that once I got over myself and came to terms with the hair woes, I actually did have to confront some of the other loss and subsequent financial impacts incurred with my cancer. I was drowning in medical debt. I was struggling with the fact I couldn’t have more children, and the cost of adoption seemed unattainable for me. So I went online again and came back to The SAMFund. It seemed more appropriate to ask for help now that I had realized all the downstream financial effects of my disease, and how hopeless those problems were making me feel. I applied for a grant to help pay down my medical bills, and to my thrill, I got one! The SAMFund paid one of my outstanding hospital charges, and in the process reminded me that my situation wasn’t hopeless. I’m thankful for that.
Hindsight is certainly 20/20, and while I sit here being flippant about hair, I can look back and see that I survived cancer not because I’m tough as nails and a fighter, but because of the support I received from caring people and organizations. Friends, family and even strangers sent cards and prayers for me. Medical professionals showed me I wasn’t just a number; they took genuine stake in my treatment and well-being. Organizations like The SAMFund were finding ways to reach out and help people like me struggling with cancer – providing community, education, money, and ultimately hope. I’m so grateful for the support I received, and now that I’m out of my own self-absorbed cancer bubble, I want to give back and help support survivors and the organizations working so hard for them. I want to make sure that any girl fighting her cancer battle isn’t stressing over whether or not she can afford a wig, and feeling stupid that she’s looking online for someone who will help with the cost.
In the end, The SAMFund did NOT buy me Shanna. But don’t worry, I did go buy her myself. And I’m glad I did.
My husband and I started our own effort to help support those organizations taking care of survivors. We call it MOXY, and while we’re still fairly new to the whole fundraising sector, we’ve had some success raising money and attention for a local ovarian cancer non-profit with a prom event and a few golf outings. Eventually I’d like to follow the example of SAMFund, and make MOXY an organization that offers grants for the purchase of wigs. I mean, hair. Damn it, every cancer girl deserves a Shanna!