Hair today, gone tomorrow

Adriana and her mother
Adriana Lombardo had plans: to attend high school graduation, to spend a post-grad trip in Spain and to start school at George Brown College in September.

A cancer diagnosis in early December derailed those plans. On December 1, 2014, the high school senior was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

 "It was earth shattering, to say the least," remembers Adriana's mother, Emily Lombardo.

Adriana is not alone. In 2014, it was estimated that 22 Canadians were diagnosed with cancer every hour.

"My first worry was school," says Adriana. "I wanted to write my exams and graduate with my friends.

"My next big thing was hair – was I going to lose it during treatment?"

Within two weeks of starting chemotherapy, Adriana started to lose strands of her hair. When it started to fall out in chunks, Adriana had it cut into a pixie cut. But that didn't stop the strands from falling.
Eventually, she made the hard decision to shave it off.

"I had no control of the cancer," she explains. "But I did have control over my hair."

The Wig Salon

Having been born with a full head of hair, Adriana was scared to lose it. But at the Wig Salon on the third floor of the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, she found peace.

"Laurie (wig specialist at the salon) makes you feel so calm," she says. "At the salon, I wasn't a cancer patient. I was a woman who wanted a new hair-do."

The salon carries hats, wigs, scarves and accessories for patients. Laurie Tucker, wig specialist, books time with patients to find the perfect wig or accessory to feel them feel comfortable during treatment.

There, patients can also attend Look Good, Feel Better workshops – free two-hour sessions available to women with any type of cancer receiving any type of treatment.

During these sessions, volunteers take the patients through the steps of the workshops, teaching them about skin care; sun protection; face make-up; eyes and eyebrows; lips; hand and nail care (including feet); and wigs and head coverings while they go through treatment. Though the workshops are cosmetic in nature, they give women an opportunity to meet each other and connect.

"I've always loved make-up," Adriana explains. "The workshop showed me that I can still be feminine during this portion of my life."

A minor hurdle

Adriana now embraces her shaved head.

"It's just hair, it'll grow back," she says.

That optimistic attitude continues to inspire her family and those around her, says Emily.

 "The diagnosis is a road block in Adriana's life," she says. "We're all feeding off of her strength."

When her friends worry for her, Adriana comforts them: "It's just cancer, I'm going to be fine."

And another one of her concerns has faded: Adriana will graduate from high school this spring alongside her friends.

"My plans aren't cancelled, they just have to be adjusted," she says. "This cancer chose the wrong body to fight with."