Written by Crystal Ward Kent
When we look in the mirror, we are used to seeing a certain face. When illness changes that face, it can be demoralizing. How we look influences our state of mind. Feeling good about oneself inspires confidence and helps us face the day ahead, but when illness causes change, confidence can plummet. Women undergoing cancer treatment may lose their hair and the impact of that loss can be depressing. However, stylists such as Julie Pruett of A Beautiful You by Julie in Londonderry, New Hampshire, are helping these women regain their confidence and sense of self.
Pruett has 24 years experience as a hair stylist and is certified in the wig, or alternative hair, industry. She feels that this is her true calling and finds it “tremendously fulfilling,” to work with women undergoing treatment. “I go on a journey with the client during their treatment,” she says. “When they come in, they are often very low, not only because they are undergoing treatment and battling cancer, but because of the hair loss. There was a poll about this, and 95 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer said that the thing they dreaded most was losing their hair. Hair is such a part of who we are, and it shapes whom we are used to seeing in the mirror.
“I find it so rewarding to be able to work with a client and help them recapture a bit of who they are by aiding them in selecting alternative hair,” she continues. “If you feel good about how you look and feel like yourself again, you feel like you can do anything—including fight this disease.”
Although Pruett loves her work, she admits that it is a journey of highs and lows. The highs are seeing her clients transform and smile and get that confidence back, and the lows are when she loses a client to the disease. “The losses are the hardest part,” she says. “I form a personal relationship with these women and I feel the loss when one of them doesn’t make it. I never forget them.”
Pruett wants to see the stigma that sometimes surrounds wearing a wig removed. “I’m thrilled when I see celebrities out there openly admitting that they wear wigs and hair extensions just because of how it can change their looks,” she says. “When more women are accepting of wigs as simply alternative hair, then it motivates those women who need wigs to go and get one and not feel embarrassed. There should be nothing but acceptance about this. I also want to continue to educate people about alternative hair—today’s wigs are very realistic; they can be cut, colored, curled and customized to the individual. Any woman getting one should rest assured that she will look good.”
Pruett also makes sure that all of her clients are treated with respect and kindness during the wig selection and fitting process. “We want them to feel that they can trust us, that we understand,” she says. “We make this a positive experience. It’s all about transformation and renewal. We know that what they are going through is hard, but we can provide some sense of normalcy.”
“When you have cancer, it’s a vulnerable time,” says Pruett. “You need to be surrounded by caring people who are there for you, and that’s something we provide. If we can do one small thing by making these women feel beautiful and good about themselves, then we are honored to help them. I’m incredibly gratified by what I do; I know it’s the work I was meant to do.”