Courtesy of Roswell Park Cancer Talk Blog

When Kristyn Thiel first stepped into the 11 Day Power Play Cancer Resource Center, she had no idea what to expect regarding her treatment for triple-negative breast cancer at the age of 39. Kristyn traveled to Buffalo to live with her aunts to receive treatment at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Kristyn lost her long, straight, light brown hair to chemotherapy more quickly than she had expected. After cutting her hair shorter, she had her head shaved, something she had previously done to raise money for cancer. She says, “But this time it was so different. I would look in the mirror and not recognize myself. I also couldn’t wear contacts because of the chemotherapy treatment I was on, had gained weight, and felt so different.”

It is common to feel apprehension, sadness, or loss of privacy before, during, and after chemotherapy-related alopecia. Studies show hair loss is often the most common and distressing adverse effect of chemotherapy for men and women. Roswell Park’s Elevate Salon professional stylists understand the loss, and help patients navigate this time in their lives by offering pretreatment haircuts, head shaves, personalized wig styling, trimming, shaping, and more. “I felt so safe, and everyone was so kind at the salon,” says Kristyn. The first time I selected a wig, I felt beautiful in a way I hadn’t felt in a really long time.”

Thanks to generous donations to the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation, patients who experience hair loss due to cancer treatment are able to receive one complimentary wig and one complimentary head covering. They can also purchase additional styles. Kristyn tried a bit of everything — a baseball cap with hair, a headband with hair, an everyday style wig, a long wig, short wig, and even a bright pink wig. “I could be someone else in the different styles I chose, and had fun,” says Kristyn, surprised that something as simple as a wig helped her through such a difficult time. “It was important to find ways to feel beautiful along the way,” she says.

Elevate Salon is an uplifting environment and respite located on the first floor of the Scott Bieler Clinical Sciences Center that helps patients feel comfortable and understood. Last year, Roswell Park’s Wig and Head Covering program, supported by Quality-of-Life grant funding, provided nearly 2,200 wigs and head coverings and more than 1,200 stylist and consultation appointments to vulnerable patients undergoing treatment. Patients also receive Elevate Salon tours and visits to educate them about what to expect, how to properly care for their wigs, and how to take care of their scalp care during treatment.

The salon is supported by The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation, Sabres Alumni, Michael and Kirsten Lawley and the Lawley family, and Bunkie Hawk.

Visit to learn more about Elevate Salon and its extensive services, read more patient stories, and request an appointment. You can also call 1-800-767-9355.