Stare-stopping wigs

Two weeks ago Kimberly Stotmore found herself accosted for her shaved head. A man grabbed Stotmore as she walked to her car in the parking lot of Santa Ana College and accused the mother of two of being a skinhead.

Stotmore, also an 18-year nurse, tried to explain that her lack of hair was merely the result of chemo treatments she recently completed while combating breast cancer.

“He didn’t believe I had cancer, he didn’t want to believe me,” Stotmore said. Though she left the situation physically unharmed, the altercation emotionally scarred her, she said.

“I guess I was just naive to the fact that something like that would actually happen,” Stotmore said, adding that the event fills her with uncertainty every time she steps on campus.

Stotmore was taken aback when Constance Walsh, owner of Wiggin’ Out in Newport Beach offered to give her a $1,500 wig free of charge.

“It’s amazing how much better it feels to have hair on my head,” Stotmore said, glimpsing at herself in a mirror with long brunet locks resting on her shoulders.

Stotmore’s entire body seemed to open up with the new hairpiece. The smile on her face grew as she ran her fingers through the hair.

“Once you’ve been in the treatment for a while, everyone on chemo starts to look the same,” Stotmore said. “And then you put on a wig that doesn’t even look like real hair it brings you down.”

Stotmore was diagnosed with breast cancer just after her birthday in February. Also a competition body builder and fitness model, and working on a graduate degree to become a nurse practitioner, the news blew her away.

“I remember thinking around my birthday, 37, this is going to be my year,’” Stotmore said. “Then about a month later I found out I had cancer.”

Surviving a double mastectomy, chemo treatments, and the ensuing infections following chemo should have been enough for a single mother to take. But it was the treatment received from her peers though that really razed Stotmore.

“I get a lot of stares everyday,” Stotmore said. “It’s amazing how I’ve learned the cruelty of adults, just the ignorance of people.

“A lot of crazy things have happened since I’ve been bald. I would get stares at school. At first I didn’t know what to think. I don’t have tattoos all over my head.”

Since May, Stotmore and her mother have driven down from Anaheim to Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach for her treatments. They kept noticing the small shop across the street called Wiggin’ Out as they pulled out onto Newport Boulevard after each visit to the medical center.

One day, the pair stopped into the boutique wig salon finding owner Walsh, and the answer to Stotmore’s dilemma.

Walsh incorporated techniques from her father (a doctor) and her mother (a hand-made wig designer) to create custom wigs made from a person’s own hair.

Before the women go in for their first chemo treatments, the Wiggin’ Out staff cuts off their hair just about an inch away from the scalp and apply quarter-inch sections to a Styrofoam head. Each section is numbered on the foam head before getting hand-tied to French lace, lining the wig.

Each wig takes six to eight weeks to complete. And once each customer grows their hair out after their treatments have finished, the shop bonds the hair from the wig to the re-growth like extensions.

Many, like Stotmore, find out about the process after having already chopped and discarded their locks.

“I get so many women who go to their doctors crying because they weren’t told about my shop,” Walsh said.

But Stotmore’s sister-in-law offered to donate her hair for the bonding once Stotmore’s hair grows out about an inch.

“When they get their hair on I see their inner self come alive again,” Walsh said. “It’s hard enough to go through cancer and all the processes of that. Why not look hot while you’re going through chemo?”


KELLY STRODL may be reached at (714) 966-4623 or at kelly.strodl@latimes.com.

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