Showing the Real Faces of Cancer

Oct 5, 2018 | Pink Woman

Heidi Fuller is now the picture of health, with a bright smile, a toned, strong body, and boundless energy. This wasn’t the case three years ago. In 2015 at age 37, Heidi found that she had Stage III uterine cancer. Her world was turned on its ear. She was upset, confused, and angry. She had to undergo a radical hysterectomy and chemotherapy treatments.

This was all quite a shock to Heidi. She’d been an independent woman, focused on her life, her career, and her family. Although she faced a myriad of circumstances and had questions about what her life would be like, the biggest question on her mind was “Will I lose my hair?” The answer was, “Yes.”

Learning that she’d lose her hair was the biggest blow to her psyche. She would no longer have her crowning glory — her beautiful blonde locks. She began looking into purchasing a wig, but her first shopping experience devastated her. She says that instead of feeling any type of compassion from the owners of the store, it was a rather cold and sterile experience.

After that, Heidi began to formulate the idea of opening her own boutique. She wanted to give women the love and compassion she had craved during her wig consultation. She wanted her place to be more than just a place where you can buy new hair — she wanted to help women battle what she calls their ‘cancer storms.’That was the beginning of Awakenings Boutique: Wigs, Healing, Recovery, Gifts.

The boutique has been open for more than a year. Not only does it service women with cancer, but also those who have alopecia and those who have experienced depression or anxiety and have literally torn their hair out with their bare hands. Heidi has been there for all of them, shaving their heads as their hair fell out, teaching them how to pick out the right wig, and how to care for it. She’s also lent her shoulders to cry on. She has the empathy because she’s been right where they are.

Heidi is aware that women often look online to research wigs and to see what it would be like to wear one. She also knows that the pictures are of beautiful, professional models. “Immediately they think, ‘I won’t be able to do this. I’m not a professional model. I’m going to look sick,’” Heidi says.

She began to think about how she could feature real women, women with cancer, in a photo shoot. By picturing them wearing the wigs, it would show other cancer patients what it’s really like. Thus, the Real Faces of Cancer was born. “These are customers I’ve followed through their cancer storms. I wanted women who are currently going through cancer treatment or who have just completed it,” Heidi says.