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Wig room at Kelowna cancer lodge helping patients deal with hair loss

Click to play video: 'Cancer patients who lose all their hair while undergoing chemotherapy can access wigs at the Southern Interior Rotary Lodge in Kelowna' Cancer patients who lose all their hair while undergoing chemotherapy can access wigs at the Southern Interior Rotary Lodge in Kelowna
Chemotherapy can cause hair loss. To help combat that emotional toll, the Canadian Cancer Society has a special program that provides wigs. Klaudia van Emmerik with part 2 of a 4-part series on the cancer lodge in Kelowna and the services it offers – Mar 18, 2020

When Cathy Inskip lost her hair following chemotherapy, she was upset.

“For me, it was very traumatic,” an emotional Inskip told Global News. “I know I obsessed about it.”

Last June, the 66-year-old Kamloops woman was diagnosed with an aggressive and rare form of lymphoma.

READ MORE: Home away from home: Kelowna lodge provides accommodation to 1,300 cancer patients every year

She began chemotherapy and said the hair loss was almost immediate.

“For a woman, it’s very scary,” she said. “You go through your hair, your hands were just covered in hair . . . it’s shocking.”

Inskip is now undergoing radiation in Kelowna and is staying at the Southern Interior Rotary Lodge.

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One of the programs offered at the lodge, which is operated by the Canadian Cancer Society, is a wig room, where patients can get fitted for a wig.

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After trying on several wigs, Inskip walked out with a new look.

“It makes you feel more personable, more, you know, like the rest of the girls, like yourself,” she said.

Patients can keep wig the as long as needed.

The wigs are then returned, cleaned and available for the next patient.

Jaye Read has volunteered in the wig room for about seven years.

“It’s a very positive energy in this room and it’s very rewarding,” Read said.

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Read said it’s remarkable witnessing the moods of patients transform from when they walk in to the time they walk out with their new wigs.

“It’s one less thing they have to feel less conscious about, that their morale is boosted and they feel somewhat normal,” Read said.

“I can’t believe how much the wig room has to offer.”

And it’s not just the wig room that’s supporting cancer patients — the lodge also has a breast prosthesis room for cancer patients who have undergone a mastectomy.

“Some people have coverage, private coverage so they can go elsewhere. But a lot of people are not in a position to pay for the prosthesis,” Read said.

“People are so thankful because of having a natural, comfortable look.”

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The breast prosthesis and wig rooms support 200 to 250 patients every year.

The programs don’t just benefit patients staying at the lodge, but anyone throughout the community going through cancer care.

While it is a free service, the Canadian Cancer Society relies on the community to keep the programs running.

“Obviously we will quite graciously accept donations from everybody in the community. That’s a way to support us, but also by volunteering,” said lodge manager Philip Jansen.

“It’s a volunteer-run program, so we need a lot of volunteers to keep this program running, and the more volunteers we have, the more we can open up.”

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The wig and breast prosthesis rooms have been operating for 22 years since the lodge was built.

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