Breast Cancer Awareness Month may be coming to a close, but women being treated for this disease and other cancers still have to endure the side effects of chemotherapy. One of the hardest side effects for patients to endure is losing their hair.
Wigs can be hot, uncomfortable and often look unnatural. So bride-to-be Liebe Miller decided to find a solution that gave her confidence not only when she'd walk down the aisle, but every day of her cancer journey.
Miller heard the words she dreaded from a doctor three years ago.
"She came in and said, 'You have breast cancer.' I almost fell off the chair," recalls Miller.
At the time, it was less than stage one, but Miller opted for an aggressive approach: a double mastectomy and reconstruction.
"About a year later, putting on deodorant hurt under my arm. Same side," says Miller.
To be proactive, she went to her doctor for a pet scan, and last Thanksgiving, Miller learned she had breast cancer again and this time would need chemotherapy.
"I didn't want to look any different than I did the day before," says Miller.
To help with hair loss, she visited Tom Magliaro at TM Hair.
"Of course we're focused on making sure they look 100% natural, but what we're doing is helping to provide them with something that helps them feel normal and have peace of mind," says Magliaro.
He and TM Hair's Leah Hamilton recommended a custom hair system made of real hair that Miller could wear without taking off for weeks at a time. It's a hair piece that's like a thin clear membrane where human hair is hand-sewn into the base. Then, the system is taped onto the scalp.
"It has movement. When the wind blows, it will blow it," says Hamilton.
She continues, "It's also a lot lighter, much more breathable."
Miller, who didn't want to feel or look like a patient, never looked at her bald head.
"I actually didn't look for four or five months. Every time I came in, I turned around, they took the unit off, they did what they needed to do with it, and put it back on. I swam with it. I showered with it. It wasn't a wig," says Miller
And it was what she wore when she walked down the aisle.
"It was definitely me. You couldn't tell in pictures," remembers Miller of how she looked on her big day.
Now, after finishing eight rounds chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and one perfect wedding, she's working on growing back her hair.
"I'm not a survivor. I hate that word. I'm a thriver," says Miller.
A chemotherapy hair package costs $1,760 but includes all service and maintenance, like washing and tailoring the hair system for the duration of cancer treatment.
Some insurance companies cover all or part of this, and TM Hair gives tips and verbiage when talking to your insurance company.
For chemotherapy patients who want to jumpstart their hair growth, there is also a laser light therapy that can help.
"It's completely safe and what it really does is increase the blood flow in the scalp with increases the cell metabolism, so in a natural way, it jump starts the growth process," says Hamilton.
The therapy in-house costs $195 a month, but some patients like Miller choose a portable hat version of the therapy that's for purchase. This costs $1,195.
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Special hair system gives breast cancer patient confidence