After cancer

The Aladdin’s cave at the top of Harrods

Anyone who has cancer knows the puffed-up blobby feeling you get as a side effect from drugs. You look in the mirror, and all you can see is a lumpy face and blotchy skin.

And if you need a wig, NOTHING looks good. You end up in a cupboard, trying to see what different wigs look like on you in a tiny mirror. Or worse, the nurse shows you a small selection, tells you to choose, but won’t allow you to try one on. So you give up in despair.

Unless you are lucky enough like me to be let loose in Urban Retreat, at the top of Harrods !

And this photo shows you the end result of my visit to Aladdin’s cave when I visited. Normally I hate my photo – I have lost all idea of glamour whilst undergoing treatment, but I was so delighted with the end result that I went round the corner with my new wig and had Siyrah at Daniel Sandler give me a professional make-up, all ready for a party that evening.

Then when I arrived at the party everyone said how well I looked !

Urban Retreat knows how to treat us

I met the girls from Urban Retreat at the Kensington and Chelsea LINk Wellbeing Event, and Pamela Roberts persuaded me to come to Harrods and see what they could do for me. I was feeling decidedly non-glamorous, so thought I would try on a few wigs and then make my escape.

Two hours later I floated out, and could actually enjoy looking at myself in the mirror.

Talking about their wig boutique, Pamela says, “from the beginning we have tried to provide the most innovative techniques, progressive therapies, excellent customer service, and worlds’ finest salon brands”, at the same time as offering a sympathetic and helpful attitude to those of us who are less than perfect.

She told me that they are gradually increasing what they can offer at Urban Retreat, from a MinX manicure, a luxurious Crème de La Mer Ultimate Experience, a Daniel Sandler evening makeup, and a ‘new kid on the block’, Antonia Burrell skincare.

After experience working in the industry, Vikki started her own wig business. She wanted to ensure that at the core of her business was a nurturing environment, where clients who had lost or were losing their hair for medical reasons, could feel at ease and positive about changes in their life.

At the same time she was intent on dragging wigs from their dusty, old-fashioned image into their rightful place at the forefront of glamour.

Talking over hair problems, I find that different NHS areas have different rules about funding wigs. Annabelle and Pamela say some will allow a voucher for £60 which can go towards the cost of a wig. Others won’t allow patients to top up the cost – you have to find a wig that sells for £60 (I have seen these and no wonder they lie are never worn) and that’s it. It doesn’t surprise me many fellow patients never bother to take their wig out of the box.

If you can actually get your GP to apply to Macmillan on your behalf, you have to go through the GP to get the voucher – but Macmillan say you aren’t allowed to apply yourself. So with many GPs your application waits at the bottom of the pile and you wait and you wait. With GPs dependent on a patheric QOF allocation of funds to pay for ‘handling’ cancer patients, it’s not surprising that we are pushed to the back of the queue when our letters go out.

So being an action-kid, I get on to Macmillan, and have suggested that we all work together to get the Dept. Health/NHS to give guide-lines for wigs that are the same across the country, and patient-friendly. And surely it should be the patient who applies for the wig ?

Cost

Annabelle spent ages fitting me with different designs, then we finally settled on a gamin style that really made me feel super glamorous. The one I chose was one of the more expensive, selling at £198, but they ranged in price from £100 to £200.

Make-up

A glamorous wig deserved proper make-up, so I skipped around the Retreat, looking for someone to give me a make-over to go with my glamorous hair, and Syrah of Daniel Sandler made me feel and look fantastic. I had been using old-fashioned blue eye shadow, but she showed me how a combination of beige and brown was more up-to-date, and opened up my eyes so you could see them.

A very light touch with foundation and blusher, lots of gorgeous mascara (which she was careful not to get near my eyes) and finally a reallyglamorous reddish lipstick – and I was laughing I was so pleased. A friend was getting married, and I discovered Syrah also goes out to do special make-ups, so am going to suggest that she asks for her to do her make-up for her wedding day.

Skincare

Then I was introduced to Antonia Burrell. She has just developed her own, very small skincare line, and was there amongst all the ‘big boys’ as Urban Retreat knew she had something to offer

Antonia showed me a product that seemed tailor-made for problem skin : the worlds first 100% natural, emulsifying Cleansing Oil! Refreshing, luxurious and water-soluble, this glorious fresh, zesty oil cleanser transforms into a consistency of a milk. Infused with Cypress and Petitgrain, it heals, brightens and purifies the skin while calming and soothing irritation. Natural glow also respects the natural pH of the skin and does not strip or dry out the skin after cleansing, and helps protect skin from free-radical damage, which also causes accelerated skin ageing, and gives you the deepest, most luxurious cleanse yet. I bought a bottle home, and am so glad I did as it is turning into a Hero Product.

Macmillan Information

Macmillan say they are going to revise this information on wigs this year – and about time !

They say you may qualify for free wigs or fabric supports if :

your weekly income is low enough (see details of the Low Income Scheme)Wigs and fabric supports in Wales and Scotland are free for everyone.

The HM Revenue and Customs National Advice Service can tell you how to claim back VAT on wigs and other items related to your treatment.

You will need to tell the person who fits your wig or fabric support that you can get it free. You will need to show proof that you qualify, for example, the letter showing which benefits you receive.

So there is plenty there to get sorted out ! So everone can get a wig if they need it. It shouldn’t depend on factors such as where you live.

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