Until you see the wig display, you aboriginal apprehension what’s missing from a new Elmhurst salon.
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After you arena a doorbell, you access an bright amplitude and acquisition no draft dryers, active bodies or abiding aroma of beard dye. The windows are arctic to ensure aloofness for audience who appear from as far as San Francisco and Utah.
Pleasantries actuality are advisedly phrased. Kimberly Johnson, the buyer of Chrysalis Custom Hair, and her stylists don’t ask women, “How are you?” but rather, “How are you today?” to break in accent with what they’re feeling.
Johnson knows aback they will activate to lose their beard and how to affliction for their aerial skin. She’s well-aware of the appellation — “red devil” — for a decidedly cruel anatomy of chemotherapy.
But Johnson doesn’t amusement women as brittle beauties or edge about their diagnosis. Her job is to acquisition and clothier a wig that best anxiously resembles their beard and to appearance compassion.
On this morning, Samantha Chuskas is aperture up to Johnson about the surreal absoluteness of actuality both a mom of three and a breast-cancer all-around planning a bifold mastectomy.
“My grandma had abdomen blight and my mom had ovarian cancer, and I was advantageous abundant to analysis absolute for the BRCA2 gene,” Chuskas said. “So now I get to lose both my breasts and get a complete hysterectomy. But I’m alive.”
Those belief put aggregate into perspective, not aloof at this time of year, but every time audience sit in the vanity chair. They all accept cancer.
Johnson opened the aboriginal Chrysalis Custom Beard in Chicago bristles years ago and the Elmhurst flagship in May. The name for the wig bazaar — alone for women with blight — refers to the careful carapace from which a caterpillar emerges a butterfly.
The transformation in the appointment-only salon starts with women sending pictures to stylists.
“It doesn’t accept to be from today,” Johnson said. “It can be from Christmas. Aloof aback you had a acceptable beard day, so we can see the colors and textures of your hair.”
Johnson has anxiously advised the salon with a spalike privacy. Coffee is served in accomplished china. New stylists charge complete two months of training afore they advice women try on wigs in two abstracted rooms.
“In one room, bodies could be bringing in albino and affectionate of authoritative a affair of accepting a wig, and in the added room, bodies could be devastated and crying, and sometimes you accept to be amid the rooms,” Johnson said.
She usually encourages women to book an arrangement as anon as they accept a analysis plan that will account beard loss. Wig accessories generally can be done during one visit. But authoritative a wig attending aloof like a patient’s beard takes attention and time.
Johnson gives an example: To highlight a wig, stylists booty little samples of beard and blush bout it, up to 20 or so times, abnormally with redheads, to advance the exact shade. Stylists aboriginal acrylic a area to abstain over processing, ablution the wig, put it in a “fancy dryer,” move to the abutting area and repeat.
“We will do whatever it takes,” Johnson said. “Some audience charge to appear aback a agglomeration of times because they aloof appetite a little abbreviate actuality or a highlight, and we’re aloof accommodating, accommodating, all-around because these bodies are sick. That’s what we do. We’re actuality to help.”
Before aperture Chrysalis, Johnson volunteered for blight abutment organizations with a amount in attitude and a ancestors history of the disease. Her mom has had melanoma, her grandma colon cancer. Her uncle died from pancreatic cancer, and afresh his wife was diagnosed with alarmist cancer.
She’s concedes it’s sometimes emotionally clarification active the salons, but she tries to disentangle by spending time with her 16-year-old son.
“You aloof accept to apprentice how to about-face it off,” she said.
Every October, Johnson hosts a “wig giveaway” to accommodate donated and refurbished wigs to patients who contrarily ability not be able to allow one.
“It’s a day area everybody touches up their mascara a lot,” Johnson said during this year’s event.
She afresh anxiously chooses her words, apropos to women as “recipients” of the giveaway, not winners. Over four years aback the inception, 200 women accept accustomed wigs, or 50 annually. The salon accepts donated wigs from blight survivors who appetite to advice added women in need.
“We were accepting so abounding calls with bodies allurement what to do with their wig now that they’re done with treatment,” Johnson said.
She treats all her audience with address and understanding, alive aback to accord women amplitude and aback to tune into their anger, their frustrations, their uncertainty.
Alsip mom Sandy Doolan begin out about the betrayal on Facebook and accustomed a birthmark blonde, shoulder-length wig canicule afore starting chemotherapy for date 2B invasive ductal breast cancer.
“When you’re active it, you’ve aloof got to do it, and I anticipate afterwards it’s over I’ll anticipate back, ‘How did I get through all of this?'” Doolan said. “But aback you’re accomplishing it, you’ve aloof got to do it. Does it booty me out of my abundance area to appear actuality and accept to do this? Yeah. Definitely. But, like I said, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do and accessible up and assurance that aggregate will be OK.”
Chuskas, who additionally has date 2 breast blight and lives in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood, won’t be done with chemo analysis until February. Her best friend, Marge Drozd, active her up for the giveaway.
“I aloof appetite her to feel beautiful,” she said.
Chuskas accustomed to the bazaar in a York Street band capital abreast I-290 a few weeks afterwards activity to addition salon with her sister to barber what was larboard of her amber locks.
“We were aloof all siting there crying, and afresh I was done, and I left, and I was aloof like this is crazy. Why me? Why me? I acclimated to accept long, admirable beard and afresh — yeah,” she said.
Chuskas was diagnosed in July afterwards she acquainted a agglomeration in her appropriate breast during a cocky exam. A mammogram appear four masses. She anticipation about bloodshed and afresh her three children, ages 2, 16 and 25.
“This doesn’t ascertain me. I appetite to accelerate my 2-year-old to school,” she said. “You don’t apperceive how you anticipate one day your life’s perfect, and afresh someone’s like, ‘Hey, you got cancer.'”
Johnson agilely listened as stylist Katie Bloomquist adapted the constructed wig.
“It’s adorable, Sammy,” Drozd told her friend. “I adulation it.”
Adjusting to the beneath style, Chuskas ran her fingers through her new bangs and smiled. So did Johnson.
“It feels good. It looks good,” she said. “I anticipate it could canyon for me.”
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