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Loretta Stangler, a cancer patient at Carroll Hospital Center in Westminster, recently purchased a wig at The Wig Shoppe in the Wellness Center.
Loretta Stangler, a cancer patient at Carroll Hospital Center in Westminster, recently purchased a wig at The Wig Shoppe in the Wellness Center. (DAVE MUNCH/STAFF PHOTO / Carroll County Times)

When Loretta Spangler was diagnosed in June with stage I breast cancer, she was told time and time again it was inevitable that she would lose her hair from chemotherapy.

But the Westminster resident said her "practical" temperament played a part in preventing her from succumbing to distress and fear.

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"I'm not going to waste time being upset, I'm going to do something about it," Spangler said. "I wasn't scared or frightened; this was what I needed to do."

Almost three weeks after her first chemotherapy treatment, the doctor's warning proved true.

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"I decided to have my head buzzed because [my hair] was literally falling out in handfuls every time I touched my head, whether brushing it, washing it, or running my hands through it," she said.

When she was first told of her eventual hair loss, Spangler visited The Wig Shoppe, a holistic boutique that specializes in wigs located in the Wellness Center at Carroll Hospital. She decided to purchase a wig so she would have it when she needed it, she said.

"My attitude was if this is what I needed to do I want to have a little adventure," Spangler said.

She chose a synthetic wig with a touch of auburn, a marked change from her normal color of dark brown.

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"When my normal hair grows back maybe I'll put some auburn in it," Spangler said. "Plus it makes my hazel eyes look greener."

Spangler is one of many women who have visited The Wig Shoppe since it opened a year ago, said Nancy Petrella, an employee of the boutique. Surprisingly, not all the women who have purchased a wig were battling cancer, Petrella said.

"I'm trying to do more so women realize that you don't need to have cancer to have a wig," she said. "It could be thinning hair, its for anyone."

For Petrella, her choice to work for the boutique was motivated by personal reasons. As a retired nurse, she worked closely with cancer patients during her career. Her family has a history of cancer — both her mother and grandmother have died from the disease, her sister is a nine-year cancer survivor and her husband is fighting leukemia. And Petrella has worn wigs for years due to a medical condition that has caused a severe thinning of her hair.

"There is no doubt this is my calling," she said. "I've lived it and lost a few and it's always been very close to my heart. [Hair loss] can be traumatic for women, so that combined with my medical background, I understand how that feels. For me, I'm coming at it from both angles, the wellness and the disease, but this is also about beauty."

Spangler chose to undergo a double mastectomy to hopefully eliminate any chance of her cancer reappearing in the future. Though she has handled her fight with cancer with a outlook that may astound some, she has learned that battles of this magnitude do not need to be fought alone, she said.

"You don't have to deal with this on your own," Spangler said. "There are those who care for others in the community and the Wig Shoppe is one place to go to get help for this particular thing."

But it has been more than her practical approach to cancer and her personal relationships that have enabled her to digest her diagnosis with such seeming ease, she said.

This is not Spangler's first run-in with a life-changing event. In 2000, her husband died from a heart attack and she was left to raise her three children on her own. Coupled with this experience is a strong faith that sustained her while raising her children and which Spangler primarily credits for her positive outlook, she said.

"Things never turned out as horrible as I thought they would and my faith enabled me to deal with this with a lot more confidence and optimism," Spangler said.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article misspelled the last name of Loretta Spangler. The article has been corrected.

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