The Cat on My Head: A Chemo Patient Searches for the Right Head Fashion

Am I a wig person or a scarf person? A chemo patient’s search for a fashion solution yields unexpected results

by Jenny Allen
wig chemotherapy headscarf
Photograph: Illustrated by Juliette Borda

I always say, “Do it again, Ruth! Do the inspiring people!” We crack each other up with our stories.

Then, two years later, Ruth has a recurrence of her cancer, and this time she dies of it. Eden, my editor, who didn’t know at the graduation that she had cancer, dies, too.

All this makes throwing away the wig seem cocky. Who am I to say that I’m done with being sick, that I might not have some occasion when I’ll need it again? Then one day I read a magazine article on decluttering your closet and how you must ask yourself, realistically, if you are ever again going to wear that old bridesmaid’s dress or those culottes, and how if you aren’t, you must get rid of them.

And I think, Realistically? Realistically, I might need those chemo drugs again, I might lose my hair again, but I would never, ever wear that stupid wig again. Better to wear the stupid scarves and have people look as if they’re about to cry. Better to let the other women walking around with no hair see that I’m one of them.

And I threw it away.


Essayist and performer JENNY ALLEN is author of the play I Got Sick Then I Got Better.

Related: How Breast Cancer Changed Me


Don’t miss out on MORE great articles like this one. Click here to sign up for our weekly newsletter!

Share Your Thoughts!


Jill 09.26.2012

I was a ballcap person - specifically, a ballcap with "Chemo Sucks" written on it. I also purchased a $900 wig that insurance reimbursed me for - and never wore. I donated my wig to a local agency that gives them to young cancer patients that can't afford wigs themselves. The American Cancer Society can put you in touch with an agency in your area. Please donate your unused or gently used wigs, because other women may very well be "wig people".

Post new comment

Click to add a comment