For one Mass General Cancer Center patient, her cancer journey is a personal battle – one that she doesn’t want to announce to every person she encounters.

“I don’t want people knowing I have cancer,” the patient says. “But with no hair, it’s a hard secret to keep.”

Kathy Bazazi of Images Oncology Boutique.

The MGH LVC, the hospital’s volunteer-led auxiliary group, is dedicated to helping patients who have lost their hair due to cancer or other medical treatments through its Images Oncology Boutique, a shop specializing in prosthetics and wigs. The LVC funds the cost of the wigs for those in need thanks in part to staff, patients and visitors who shop at their six retail shops. Proceeds from every item support patient programs, including Share for Hair. In 2023, the LVC gifted nearly 100 wigs to oncology patients.

“For many women, hair is everything, “says Kathy Bazazi of Images Oncology Boutique. “It’s their femininity, it’s their security blanket. It’s part of their identity, and it’s devastating when its gone.”

Wigs typically cost anywhere from $400 to $1,200 and beyond. Bazazi says that leaves many who are underinsured, on a fixed income, or dealing with a loss of income while receiving treatment with an unfair choice: make a large purchase, or go without, letting the lack of hair announce a cancer diagnosis before a patient ever could. 

“I’ve been through so much tragedy,” the MGH patient says. “People pitied me. I didn’t want to add to that.”

The patient began cancer treatment on Dec. 1, 2023. Two days later, her husband became ill and ended up in the intensive care unit, where he died three weeks later. Be it from the chemo treatments or from stress, the patient says her hair began to fall out in chunks.

“I work for a non-profit, and I am on about a dozen meetings each week on Zoom,” she says. “The more my hair started falling out, the more I kept my camera off. I didn’t want people to see me. I didn’t want to give the impression I am weak, or for people to think I couldn’t do my job. I’ve been working toward a promotion, and I didn’t want to hurt my chances of getting it because people think I have too much to carry.”

The patient asked her oncology nurse about wigs and was referred to the MGH Images Boutique, located in the Yawkey building on the main campus.

“I had 45 minutes; I just went to check it out. Kathy greeted me from behind the counter and said she knew just the thing, and the first wig I tried on was perfect. Then I looked at the price!”

That’s where the Share for Hair Program came in.

“After everything I had gone through, to be that successful was fantastic,” the patient says. “The very next time I had a virtual meeting, I put on the wig and turned on the camera.”