Rocking The "New Normal"


Rocking The "New Normal"

June 3, 2021 | by Frances Barnes

There’s no real way to describe what it’s like to be told you have cancer. From the moment the words leave the Oncologist’s lips to when it reaches your ears, time feels like it slows down and stands still. Cancer? It’s cancer? What started as another appointment on my to-do list for the day, that would have been followed by lunch with a girlfriend, ended up as one of the most impactful moments of my life.


Ask any woman over 40 and she will tell you she knows someone who has been touched by breast cancer. As prevalent as it is, no one—including me—ever thinks they will be part of the growing number of women who are diagnosed. Cancer reminds you that you are not invincible. Cancer invites you into its world whether you are ready or not…and trust me, no one ever is.


Luckily, the tumor was small at eight mm and radiation was the first step in my journey to being cancer-free. While the path was straightforward, the reality was that I would have to start traveling two hours from Medicine Hat to Lethbridge to have a lumpectomy and treatment. Having an amazing Oncologist did help to ease my concerns, I knew that I could rely on “my guy” for anything I needed.


Being well-cared for made certain things much easier in the process. So, when I started to lose my eyebrows and eyelashes after my fourth chemotherapy session, I knew I could trust my care team when they recommended Look Good Feel Better workshops. I attended both the skincare and haircare workshop and found both to be very informative. But I felt a real connection to the volunteer leading the Wigs & Hair Alternatives workshop, Michelle, because she was a cancer survivor and spoke very honestly about her experience. I felt at ease. She made me feel welcomed and safe, and that my experience was valid—all of which is not very easy to do when you have cancer during a global pandemic.


When Michelle encouraged me to rock my wig and express myself, I thought, “I am ABSOLUTELY going to rock my wig”! I had to shop around a bit to find a wig fitter with that same attitude but I thought “if I’m going to do this, I want to really feel good doing it”.  


To my surprise, the woman at the shop helping me was Michelle! She remembered me from the workshop because I had asked so many questions! I had such a blast with her, and it really felt like an extension of the same positive, upbeat, and supportive energy from the online workshops. I felt like I really lucked out to walk-in and see her. She was the last person I expected to see, but it was a delight to be helped by someone who really cares for my wellbeing. 


While cancer may remind you that you are not invincible, and you might not be happy to be in this new foreign world, I was lucky to not feel like I was doing this all alone. I was welcomed into a community of people who really care. As small as it might sound, being told you can rock a wig if you choose to impacted me positively. It helped me to remember that I am not alone, that there are people by my side, that I can get through this, and that I am still here despite a cancer diagnosis.