Greenwood beauty store helps cancer patients cope

Karla Albers relaxes at home.
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Kris Kirschner/Eyewitness News

Greenwood - Whether we curl it, dye it, braid it or shave it, our hair is an extension of who we are. For women, especially, it reflects our personality, our mood and our self-image.

That's why many cancer patients who lose their hair often feel they've lost a part of themselves.

In her Whiteland home, cancer patient Karla Albers finds comfort in a quilt and a book of quotes.

"When I lost my hair, my eyelashes, my eyebrows, I thought as if I was being erased," she said. "It's right to mourn the loss of our hair as any other significant loss."

This is her third bout with a disease that started as breast cancer, which she discovered 15 years ago while trying to nurse her newborn son. But until a few weeks ago, she never experienced the loss that comes with chemotherapy.

"I've always had thick hair, always had long hair," said Albers. "It's bad enough when you lose your breast and go through chemo and other things and how it changes. You have one more thing that's more visible."

Like many women going through cancer, she found a new outlook by getting back her "old" look.

A beautician for nearly 50 years, Fran Barnett knows a little something about making women look good. But lately, her approach to style is a little more personal.

"It's a hard thing to go through, and they just want to feel normal," she said. "I call it my ministry."

Her small Greenwood shop is named for her philosophy: Wigs We Care.

"I have to take care of these ladies," said Barnett.

On the walls are wigs and hats of every style and color, offering choices to women who may feel they have none.

"Women being women, we all want to look good and feel good," she said.

While they are in the business of making people look good, the majority of people who come to Wigs We Care have some sort of medical issue. In fact 99 percent of their clientele have a medical need, many of them dealing with cancer.

"To have to get a wig, you know, lose their hair is devastating in any case," said Barnett. "I shave their heads free, fit their wigs for 'em and everything."

It's that head-on approach to cancer that clients appreciate.

"You just felt very comfortable when you come in here," said Albers.

"We try to make it fun and I think most of them leave happy," said Barnett, who also teaches her clients how to arrange a scarf turban-style.

For Karla Albers, who held a "hair party" for her lost locks, it was a way to feel whole again.

"Having the hair, feeling good about yourself is a big part of being a woman," she said.

It's not a cure, but it does offer comfort and even confidence.

"The fear of hair loss is truly worse than the hair being gone," Albers said.

When it comes to cancer, that's half the battle.

Wigs We Care, which is located on North Madison Avenue in Greenwood, is a big supporter of the Komen Race for the Cure. The only reason Fran Barnett says she won't be at the race personally is because she'll be at work.

The Race for the Cure is Saturday, April 17th. They're hoping for more than 40,000 participants again this year.

Also, this Saturday night on WTHR-TV, a special at 7:30 pm. "Race for the Cure: Bringing Hope to Millions - hear stories from breast cancer survivors, learn about breakthrough research in central Indiana, and get tips that could save lives.