Wigs At the Doctor's Office by, Rhea Parsons
One of the places people feel vulnerable is in the hospital. They feel awful, they’re being poked and prodded, tested and treated, and may be physically exposed to crowds of doctors, nurses and technicians. They might have to wear a hospital gown that pretty much no one can figure out how it goes - open to the front or open to the back? Tie the strings? It doesn’t matter, whatever they do, their tush is on display.
Wearing a wig brings up all new worries and vulnerabilities: do you need to tell anyone, will you have to take it off, in front of people??? When I began wearing wigs over 20 years ago, I was embarrassed and ashamed of my hair loss. There were the initial dermatology appointments and scalp injections, when there was a search for a diagnosis and hope of regrowth, but long past that, knowing this was permanent, wearing a wig to any medical appointment caused me anxiety.
People suffer from hair loss for a multitude of medical reasons but they share a common dilemma about how to handle wearing wigs for appointments, procedures and even surgeries. I always had a “don’t ask, don’t tell” type of strategy. If the nurse or doctor didn’t mention it, neither did I. But I’d sit there and worry - could they tell, are they going to touch my head, and uh oh, they’re moving the hair off my forehead to take my temperature. Most of the anxiety was about “what if?”
Most of the time, no one said a word. But some procedures are different. I remember my first CT Scan with a wig. The technician asked if I had any metal on me. I said no. I wasn’t even thinking about the metal in the wig. I was busted and had to remove it. Most of the time, they would give me a surgical cap, but I couldn’t count on that so I started carrying a bandana with me. It always felt strange to put my clothes and my hair into the little lockers.
Over the years, I’ve learned what I can “get away with” in these situations. No wigs during CT Scans or MRIs. It’s okay to wear a wig when x-rays are taken. I’ve worn wigs during extended hospitalizations, procedures, anesthesia and surgeries. But it was still an unspoken worry, the elephant in the room, the “can they tell” and “will they make me take it off” being a bigger concern than whatever medical problem I was there for. Seriously, I’m having surgery and I’m worried everyone gathered around the operating table will know and point and talk about my wig? Sounds silly, doesn’t it, but it’s real.
Today was different.
Over the past year, I’ve learned to stop blaming myself for a medical condition and punishing myself over something I didn’t do. I’ve learned there is no more reason to be ashamed of my hair loss than there is of my other medical conditions. During this year, I learned to stop focusing on my hair loss and embrace it. Now wearing wigs is fun, not a horrible burden. And I tell anyone and everyone.
Today I had to go to the doctor to have some biopsies done concerning my autoimmune diseases. I had the doctor, the nurse and a nurse in training in the room with me. Three women, young and attractive, and me with my tush hanging out of the gown. While she was doing the biopsy, the doctor asked if I ever had issues with hair loss. I replied, “Yes, I lost all my hair when I first got sick and it never grew back.” Then I smiled, flipped the curls of my Estetica Mackenzie and asked, “does that mean you couldn’t tell?” She honestly said she was debating. As she asked more questions about the type of loss, I interrupted and said, “Do you want to see? I can take this off.” The doctor was more uncomfortable than I was. She said, “if you don’t mind…” to which I replied, “I stopped being embarrassed awhile ago.” And in front of these three young women, I took off my wig and then my wig cap and sat there exposed for examination.
And I didn’t die.
When she said I could put it back on, I quickly slipped on the cap and put the wig on, adjusting it without a mirror in that way that’s become habit to most of us. I hoped I was setting a good example for the nurses and I was proud of myself. I was also really pleased they couldn’t tell. Good job, Estetica Designs!!
It’s interesting that we can go to medical appointments and expose parts of our bodies but we are more embarrassed to remove our hair than our clothes. Being sick is not our fault nor our choice. We have no reason to feel embarrassed over a medical condition. Today was good. For the first time in 20+ years, I didn’t think about a surgical cap or a bandana or my patchy bald head. I concentrated on my health and being at ease with my hair loss is part of that. The only thing I had to worry about was keeping the gown over my tush.