GOSHEN — Sifting through his wife's belongings after she died in August, Max Eisenhour came across dozens of wigs that she had bought over the years.
Not having any use for them, Eisenhour donated around 50 wigs and hair care supplies to the American Cancer Society in hope of lifting the spirits of women going through treatment for cancer.
“I had prostate cancer, and I knew it was expensive for folks, and it just seemed natural I guess,” Eisenhour said, explaining why he chose to donate the wigs. “My sister-in-law had cancer. She had three rounds of chemo before she finally gave it up, and she lost all of her hair and had to wear hair pieces too.”
Eisenhour said his wife of almost 60 years, Lola, was a generous person. She was born in the Ukraine and grew up during World War II, he said. She lived in Austria before moving to the United States, where she worked in restaurants and manufacturing jobs.
“She grew up so poor, so when she got a chance to buy stuff, she would buy it by the dozen,” Eisenhour recalled.
Josh Kellems, who works for the American Cancer Society as a liaison with local cancer centers, said the 50 wigs Eisenhour donated will be distributed among wig banks in northern Indiana, including two in Elkhart County. A few may even be used for the organization's Look Good Feel Better classes that teach women how to boost their self esteem while undergoing cancer treatment.
The American Cancer Society provides free wigs and fittings at Tangles Hair Salon, 1844 W. Lincoln Ave. in Goshen, and Electric Pineapple, 102 N. Chaptoula St. in Bristol. Teresa Fenner, a stylist at Tangles, said she tries to make picking out a wig a fun and easy experience for the women that she meets.
“Sometimes it's a little scary, so they'll bring someone with them to help them, and I help them pick out a wig that they would like, one that looks like the person,” Fenner said.
Karen Alkema, a counselor at IU Health Goshen Center for Cancer Care, said having access to a wig dramatically impacts the self confidence of cancer patients who experience hair loss.
“They often feel like they look like a cancer patient and less like themselves,” she said. “It brings a sense of normalcy to their lives. It gives them an easy way to cope with one more change that they have to experience.”