Friends of UW Health Wig Salon Helps Patients Feel Confident Again

Television host Nancy Zieman shares her challenges to feel normal when undergoing cancer treatment.


Finding the right wig to wear while undergoing treatment for cancer wasn't about vanity for Nancy Zieman. Losing her hair was an outward sign things were not normal that made her feel vulnerable.


Nancy is a national celebrity and treasure to the millions of people who know her as the host of Sewing With Nancy, the longest-running sewing series in the history of North American television that airs on 89 percent of public television stations across the United States.


She's worn her signature blond pixie for as long as she's been on television, and it was important to Nancy to continue to look like herself. "I have to walk with three legs," she says referring to the cane she uses for support. "And you just don't want to have all these physical changes all at once. I don't want cancer to define me. [Wearing a wig] helped me feel more confident that I could do my job and that people wouldn't feel sorry for me."


Finding the perfect wig was a bit like the story of The Three Bears, and it took Nancy a couple of tries to find the one that was "just right."


Her first visit was to a commercial wig salon recommended by a friend, but their inventory of blond wigs was low. "Picture a chihuahua with the fountain hair - I was just drowning in hair! And my husband, who is not necessarily a person who notices these things, went to his smart phone and pulled up the Sewing With Nancy website and said - 'this is what she looks like.'"


Nancy finally found "herself" at the Friends of UW Health Wig Salon at the UW Carbone Cancer Center. The salon provides free wigs and styling to patients at two locations in Madison - University Hospital and the clinic at 1 South Park.


"The stylist looked at me and said, 'You have a small face!' And so she put my back to the mirror and put these wigs on, and when she turned me around, I almost started to cry happy tears." Nancy's hairdresser styled the wig, thinning the bangs a little, and she resumed her work on air without anyone knowing the difference.


"It was such a relief. It was one thing that didn't have to change. I knew there would be physical changes, but this was one thing I could cross off my list."


Nancy says the compassionate care provided by the stylist is just one of many treatments that has made a difference to her recovery. She affectionately refers to her wig as "Raquel" after the brand of wigs created by actress Raquel Welch that the salon carries. She admits wearing a wig isn't for everyone (they can be hot and itchy), but she says it's worth trying one on just to see if it fits your personality.


"I am finished with treatment (hooray), my hair is growing (double hooray), and I'm back to a full and productive life. Not only am I grateful to the UW Carbone Cancer Center's Wig Salon, but also to the medical staff at the UW Carbone Cancer Center-remarkable individuals."


Make a Difference for Other Patients


The wigs and styling at the Friends of UW Health Wig Salon are entirely free with funding from the Friends of UW Health. The Wig Salon serves more than 400 patients each year. For more details, call (608) 265-0090.

To make a donation to support the wigs program, visit Friends of UW Health.


More About the Wig Salon


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Date Published: 01/20/2017

News tag(s):  cancercancer patientAdvances

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