Hair loss is an expected part of any cancer diagnosis, but the Catawba County Wig Bank was created to help patients find a way to reclaim some of what they’ve lost during their treatment.
“For a woman to lose her hair or lose a breast it’s very emotional and a lot of times when they come here, they’re down. They feel like they’re never going to look normal again,” Wig Bank volunteer Peggy Messick said. “It’s amazing how with a limited selection of wigs, we can usually find something that will help them.”
The Catawba County Wig Bank is a cancer service center that provides new and gently used wigs, head coverings as well as breast prostheses and mastectomy bras to cancer patients for free. The Wig Bank also promotes support groups and special programs for cancer patients and survivors.
Messick suggests staying positive but realistic about what cancer treatment will put a person through.
“If they wait until their hair really starts coming out, a lot of the time there’s some denial there, they feel uncomfortable going to a place where there’ll be a lot of people,” Messick said. “This is a quieter place and our stuff is free.”
The Wig Bank averages 120 visits a year and is managed by the Catawba County Breast Cancer Coalition. Funding comes from two major fundraisers. One is done by the Members Credit Union and the other is from the Maiden Cheerleaders at the Maiden Recreation Center. All the work is done by volunteers.
The Wig Bank gets many of its wigs through the American Cancer Society magazines.
Messick stresses the Wig Bank is ready to help anyone fighting any form of cancer.
“Even though close to 50 percent of our clients are breast cancer patients, the other 50 percent cover many other types of cancer, and we want women to know that,” Messick said.
The volunteers at the Wig Bank have only one objective and it’s to help every person who walks through the door no matter what county they live in or where they’re getting treatment.
“Unfortunately, hair loss is a big reminder that you’re sick,” Messick said. “Sometimes the chemotherapy will remind you but sometimes you’ll have good days that you could almost forget about it until you look in the mirror and realize you have no hair.”
Glenda Verbos is both a cancer survivor and one of the volunteers at the Wig Bank since 2009.
“Sometimes you’ll have a day when you think, nothing’s going right and then somebody will come in and you understand what they’re going through and you help them and they’re so appreciative and that’s what makes a difference for me,” Verbos said. “It just makes my day, knowing I’ve done something to make theirs better.”
Sharon Sipe has been a volunteer for three years and shares the same passion to make a difference with the other volunteers.
“I felt like if I had the time when I retired, I was going to do something like this,” Sipe said. “You can’t describe how it feels when someone comes in here and they’re having the worst day of their life and you can help them feel special.”
Verbos admits every now and then someone will come in who they can’t please.