Kristen Garlans, a Farmington attorney, had been through a rough six months when she found out she had non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Her boss had died and she thus lost her job. Her roommate and friend had died. And her aunt had died.
So she was surprised to learn that the misery and fatigue she felt were not just emotional but caused by malicious cells poisoning her body.
“I thought I had a blot clot but I had some tests and the ER doctor was pretty sure it was cancer,” Garlans recalled. “I called my parents at 2 in the morning and said ‘you guys have to come down here.’ As soon as you hear ‘cancer,’ everything turns into this big blur.”
But she was relieved to have a diagnosis and started chemotherapy to get on with getting well.
It wasn’t long – just after her first treatment – that her hair began to fall out and she decided to have a friend shave it off.
“I was dealing with it and then my hair falling out was like ‘yeah, I really am sick,’” she said. On top of that, her dog didn’t even recognize her.
She did an internet search for salons in Connecticut that made wigs for cancer patients and discovered the only one was David Salon a few miles from her home.
Garlans talked to Madeline and David Olivo, who own David Salon in Unionville. David works with lots of clients with medical conditions but had only done one wig for a cancer patient. He told Garlans he would find her one over the weekend.
And he did, finding a supplier who gives deep discounts off human hair wigs for people with medical conditions. While human hair wigs look better than artificial, David said they can cost about $300 – out of most people’s price range.
Garlans was amazed at the kindness she received at David’s. Madeline arranged for her to come in early before other customers so she wouldn’t have to show off her newly bald head. David found a wig he thought would suit her face shape, then cut layers into it, gave it a keratin treatment and styled it, then showed Garlans how to use it.
He told her he would only charge cancer patients for the cost of the wig – the time he spent was donated.
Finally, on her way out, David gave Garlans a bag of all the products she could need, a special brush and curling and straightening irons.
“What we’re about is making people feel good about themselves,” David said. “That’s ultimately what we’re in it for… It goes further than any drug.”
Helping cancer patients is just one of the many ways David Salon gives back. The store routinely holds toy and food drives, donates money to charities and participates in the Unionville Festival.
“We’re cutting hair; we’re not involved in making a difference every day,” Madeline said. “So when we have the opportunity, we always reach out to the community and donate our time. This is one of the things we can offer to make a difference.”
Having the wig has made a huge difference to Garlans.
“It gives me back some of the confidence, so when I look in the mirror I don’t feel like a cancer patient, when I go to the store I don’t feel like people are staring at me, which little kids in particular do,” she said.
“When you don’t have hair it’s kind of like a beacon that you’re sick. When you have hair, you can kind of pretend everything’s normal. That’s why it was so difficult to shave off my hair – it was my first indicator that I have cancer.”
Coming to grips with the cancer and facing her next treatment, Garlans said having the option of having hair again is “one little thing that makes it so much better.”
To learn more about Kristen Garlans and follow her story, go here.
To learn more about David Salon, click here.