Most of Simone’s life has been directly impacted by cancer. During Simone’s teenage years, her mother bravely fought multiple myeloma cancer for 10 years and sadly, her mother passed away at 45 years of age. Her mother was one of five children and all but one has succumbed to cancer – breast cancer, ovarian cancer and prostate cancer.
Both of Simone’s parents were hairdressers and had a hair salon in Mosman on Sydney’s lower North Shore for over 35 years. She remembers her mother was very fashionable and was from the era when ladies wore hats and gloves with matching handbags. Her mother believed that you present yourself in the way that you want to be perceived.
In 2012, Simone was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy where both breasts are removed as part of the treatment. This was followed by further operations and reconstruction on her breasts. In addition to ending her unhappy marriage and the shock and devastation of her own cancer diagnosis, her much-loved aunt, who was like a mother to Simone, was dying of breast cancer. It was the most difficult year of Simone’s life.
Her only son Max was six years old when Simone was first diagnosed with cancer. As a single parent she put on a brave face and tried to hide her diagnosis from her son, at the same time she was struggling to complete the simple things like hanging out the washing, reaching shelves and carrying the shopping. Juggling the everyday challenges of life, which used to be so simple and easy for Simone, became difficult and overwhelming. “I had to take care just giving my little boy a hug,” said Simone.
Simone raised Max all on her own and wanted to be a present parent. She chose jobs that were during school hours so she could be available for school pick up, parent activities, reading class, as well as driving him to gymnastics competitions and training.
In 2021, following a positive bowel cancer screening test, Simone had a colonoscopy which diagnosed she had bowel cancer. During an operation to remove a section of her bowel, a stoma or opening in Simone’s stomach was created to remove bodily waste.
In 2022, Simone was diagnosed with liver cancer and had an operation to remove part of her liver and gall bladder, only to learn that cancer was also in her lungs. Simone is now fighting cancer for the fourth time.
Each cancer treatment has been different, but this is the first time Simone has experienced hair loss by the impact of chemotherapy used to destroy cancer cells. “The treatment has been challenging. Chemo is going through my whole body, and it’s affected my skin, nails and hair,” said Simone. “I had naturally long curly hair, and I couldn’t cope when my hair started thinning.”
Simone heard about the Wig Library through Senior Clinical Psychologist; Carolyn Howard at the Northern Sydney Cancer Centre (NSCC). Based at Royal North Shore Hospital, NSCC is a leading provider of advanced cancer treatments and support services for patients, families and carers including CanSupport.
“The Wig Library has over 300 wigs available to loan,” said Caelum Davis, CanSupport Manager. “We ensure that no expenses are incurred for a patient who is most likely facing the financial burden of cancer treatment.”
The cost of a real wig is $3,000 which is not achievable for many cancer patients. But to learn the wigs are provided on loan gave Simone a great feeling of relief. Not only did she not have an additional financial expense, but she could also immediately access a wig to cover her rapidly thinning hair.
As the daughter of two hairdressing parents, Simone said that walking into the Wig Library was just like being in a hair salon. She was ready for the challenge of trying on many wigs but as luck would have it, the first one she put on was perfect and nothing else came close.
She had become rather attached to her new hairstyle and she was unsettled knowing that she had to return it someday. She approached Caelum who organised for her to make a small donation to purchase the wig which had now become so much of a part of her.
Wearing the wig gives Simone a great sense of confidence. Every day the scars on her body and her colostomy bag remind her that she is fighting cancer. But her war wounds are covered by her clothes, her wig, her fabulous smile and her incredible positive attitude towards her diagnosis. “Cancer is not me. It does not define me as a person and that’s why the wig gives me independence and control. With cancer you have no control but one thing I can control is how I look. If I look good, I feel good and I always dress for success for each treatment,” said Simone.
Simone says that she receives many compliments from total strangers saying that her hair looks fabulous and shiny and asks her what products she uses, that it empowers her with self-worth and a big smile. She styles her look with a chic hairband which also adds to the imagery and her natural tufts of hair blend perfectly with the wig.
Simone is blessed to have a loving son and a network of family and friends for support. She continues to receive cancer treatment every fortnight for the unforeseeable future. “I am determined to keep on fighting like a warrior and beat this hideous disease once again,” said Simone.
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