Shanese and I spoke on November 13, 2020. For the better part of two weeks now, I have felt somewhat unqualified with regards to how to fully share the Good News about Shanese Spaulding’s and Sharon Smith’s new business, Carolina Hair Loss & Prosthetics. I think I finally put my finger on it…..you’ll have to read to the end to see if you agree.
For three years, Shanese Spaulding worked as an analyst at Gibson Cancer Center in Lumberton where she would assist Sharon Smith in fitting patients for wigs. Spaulding said that “watching [Smith] put smiles on people’s faces” motivated her to register for Smith’s hair care school (Smith Natural Hair Academy). The two began talking about their ideas and visions for a business, and (as they say) the “rest is history”. Carolina Hair Loss & Prosthetics opened in June 2020. From making custom medical wigs to offering mastectomy bras and breast forms, as well as offering lymphedema products, Spaulding and Smith strive to make their customers feel “beautiful again, whole again”.
In talking with Spaulding, I was amazed at how involved wig making actually is–a person’s head shape, allergies, and other factors are key in determining if a person is eligible for a synthetic or human hair wig. And wigs can be quite costly, ranging in price from $500 to $3,000. In addition to helping customers who are experiencing cancer treatment related hair loss, Spaulding and Smith also help people who are suffering with alopecia or who are burn victims.
What’s the Good News?
This edition of Good News from a Good Neighbor has been the most difficult for me to write because I don’t feel like I can fully capture how important Carolina Hair Loss & Prosthetics can be to our community. Thankfully, to this point in my life, no one in my family has been diagnosed with cancer. Thus, I don’t have a direct personal story to tell. Plus, I’m not a woman, which is to say that while I might look a lot different without hair, most of society isn’t taken aback by a man with no hair. But a woman with no hair is a different story. And yet, I would tell you that I have an extremely high level of empathy for people with hair loss in the midst of cancer treatments. It’s got to be hard enough to be diagnosed with cancer. Then, you feel miserable with treatments, and then your hair falls out. And people can say they’re ok with no hair as long as the treatment works. I can appreciate that sentiment–certainly your overall physical health is more important than hair. But still….it’s your hair. You’ve lived a life where the only reason it has changed to this point is because you wanted a different color, a different length, or a different style. And good grief….if you’re a woman with no hair….well EVERYONE will look at you differently.
So you don’t feel like yourself, and you certainly don’t look like yourself. Maybe a wig will help you feel better about your appearance. Except many health insurance policies (including Medicare/Medicaid) do not pay for hair loss services. I don’t have an exact reason for that, but my assumption would be that a wig is not considered “medically necessary”. Given the fact that wigs can be expensive, many people are unable to afford this ability to feel “normal”.
That brings us to the good news: In the process of opening Carolina Hair Loss & Prosthetics, Spaulding and Smith established a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization called “Make a Wig Foundation” with a goal of helping people regardless of their financial means. So far, Spaulding and Smith have helped 50 people with wigs. Some of that is due to the early donations made to the foundation. However, there have been quite a few wigs that have been completed not because of money, but because of a simple desire to watch a person’s entire demeanor change simply because of hair.
When Spaulding told me about her customers, she told me that “it makes [me] proud to see them cry tears of joy”. I have thought about that statement quite a bit over the past 10+ days. I think it has finally occurred to me that Carolina Hair Loss & Prosthetics isn’t selling a product. Sure, they have products that people can see and touch. But the more I reflect on their business, the more I think the product is simply a means to an end. The reality is that Spaulding and Smith are providing people an opportunity for a sense of normalcy; they are in the business of helping people “fit in” with the rest of society. As Spaulding says about her new career, the sense of personal satisfaction is felt most when a person says, “I feel like a woman again”.
And as we begin to see the end of 2020–a brutal year by most accounts–the term “Good News” isn’t nearly a strong enough term to use when we are talking about someone simply feeling normal again, and simply feeling like themselves again.
**If you would like to donate to the MAKE A WIG FOUNDATION please contact Shanese Spaulding at 910-887-2015. Carolina Hair Loss & Prosthetics is located at 1903 N. Pine Street in Lumberton