Waning Pelage

Many religions, cultures, and creatures take pride in the pelage upon their heads. National news covered the account of Amish who had been shamed by hair cuttings. Men in China during the Qing dynasty were required to keep a long braided ponytail. It was considered treason if they did not have their hair long and they would be punished by execution. Of course, we all associate the pride of a lion with his mane.

A Rare Disorder

Kristi Schmitt Burr, resident of Claridon Township in Ohio, has a rare genetic disorder called Nevoid Basal Cell Carcinoma Syndrome (NBCCS). One of the many facets to this condition is the inability to suppress cancerous cells. Radiation for these cells is not a welcomed treatment option. For people with NBCCS, radiation exacerbates the problem. Kristi and others with NBCCS have experienced a life full of disfiguring surgeries to keep prolific tumors at bay. That is why the NBCCS community celebrated the very first FDA approved drug geared specifically for inhibiting advanced basal cell carcinomas, vismodegib. One of the side effects of vismodegib is hair loss.

Like other cancer fighters, Kristi has not dodged the consequence of her treatments. Her pelage has been waning. She already wears the scars of having NBCCS. Now, compounding upon her brave face is the thinning of her thick German mane.

Hair does more than just keep us warm in the winter. Styling it gives us opportunity to express our personality. It identifies our family history. How we care for it from day to day says something about our mood. We have a deep connection to this element upon our heads, more than we may realize, until it begins to disappear.

Wigs on WheelsConfronted with the loss of her hair, Kristi decided to get a wig or two . . . or three. She called Dee Curry, owner of Wigs on Wheels based in Akron, Ohio. Dee brought a duffle bag of haircuts and colors to Kristi’s office in Burton, Ohio. In the quiet, private place of Kristi’s choosing, she began the emotional step of trying on wigs. Once the initial reluctance of removing the hat (that had been Kristi’s covering) had been conquered, the fun session of playing dress up commenced. Dee carried an array of possibilities in her pack. There was a wig for every occasion and character. Along with Dee’s various products, she delivered helpful information.

Synthetic vs. Real Hair

Dee recommends synthetic wigs rather than human hair wigs. Of the people she has sold real hair wigs to, the longest anyone has kept it for is four months. Dee stated that natural hair wigs are difficult to take care of and require the same maintenance as the hair on one’s head; including frequent washing, brushing and styling. Synthetic wigs last one to one and a half years. Dee recommends washing a synthetic wig with shampoo in the sink about every three weeks and letting it air dry. Synthetic wigs are already styled and do not require additional styling. Never expose a synthetic wig to heat! This includes standing over a hot stove or oven. Watch for the cost of wigs. Dee suggested that a monofilament wig should not cost more than $300.

Wigs on WheelsSome people may experience difficulty or discomfort when wearing a wig. Dee informed Kristi that it is helpful to wear a nylon cap between her scalp and the wig. By fastening the wig to the nylon cap, the wig stays anchored in place to prevent shifting. The nylon cap also keeps the wig from pulling on one’s skin and remaining hair.

A common mistake for wig wearers is wearing the wig low on their forehead, like a winter hat. To make it appear more realistic, one should wear a wig higher on the forehead and near the natural hairline.

Do It Yourself

If a wig is simply outside of your budget, but you would like to keep your head warm, Dee taught Kristi the step by step process for turning the trunk of a t-shirt into a chic turban. To see how Dee Curry from Wigs on Wheels puts a t-shirt turban on, watch the video below. Or you can go to YouTube.com and search for “t-shirt turban by Wigs on Wheels”.


Kristi wears one of her wigs on a daily basis. She was able to find a wig very similar to her natural hair color and style. People who have not seen her for a while do not even realize that she is wearing one. The wig has given Kristi the ability to maintain some normalcy, at least in the public’s eye. That normalcy has reduced the stress of explaining herself every time she is bumps into an old acquaintance or a new friend. Though her pelage has waned, Kristi’s pride, character, and comfort has not.

Jenny Hershberger
Author: Jenny Hershberger

Jenny Hershberger was born and raised in Geauga County, Ohio. Since graduating from Marietta College she has worked as a free-lance photographer and graphic designer. Recently Jenny has become a published author, writing “Single and Content, a Journey from Despair to Delight”. She has traveled extensively throughout the USA and to several foreign countries.