Hairstylist surprised by her friend’s wig-buying experience sets out to transform the process for other breast cancer survivors

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A hairdresser launched a charity to provide people with free, stylish wigs after seeing her friends’ “really horrible” wig-buying experience while dealing with breast cancer.

Salon owner and hairstylist Melissa Menga, 36, went to a specialty wig shop with her friend and mother of two, Leanne Priestley, 33, last fall following her double mastectomy after finding two lumps in her left breast.

But Melissa was surprised by the lack of options and the personal care provided, so she and a colleague at the salon near her home in Bury handcrafted a wig for her that she wears every day.

Melissa, single mother of Leon, 16, and Laila, 12, said: “The experience of getting Leanne a wig was really horrible.

“The space was a small warehouse on an industrial estate. The wigs cost thousands of pounds, but they were stacked in boxes.

“There was nothing special about it, nothing personal and I could see that Leanne was devastated.”

Leanne in the hospital

Leanne first confided in Melissa that she had found two lumps in her left breast in June 2021, when her children, six-year-old Roman and four-year-old Arabella, joined Laila at a children’s play center; both are friends since childhood.

Melissa said: “She mentioned that she had found these two lumps in her breast and I burst into tears.

“My emotions were pretty exaggerated, but I couldn’t help but imagine the worst.”

Leanne and her company managing partner, Brett, 32, were soon informed that he had stage three beast cancer that had spread to his lymph nodes.

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Although doctors recommended less drastic solutions and treatments, Leanne insisted on having a double mastectomy last August at North Manchester General Hospital to make sure the cancer was really gone.

Leanne with Brett, Roman and Arabella

In addition, he would have to undergo more surgeries to remove several lymph nodes.

In October, Leanne underwent six rounds of chemotherapy and was worried about losing her waist-length blonde hair.

So Melissa, who had been her hairdresser for several years, accompanied her childhood friend to buy a wig and resolve her concerns.

Leanne decided to wear her wig both inside and outside her home so her children wouldn’t be “freaked out” by her sudden change in appearance.

Leanne before her hair loss with her children Roman and Arabella

But she soon discovered that the wig shop had nothing in stock that was remotely similar to her own hair.

Melissa said: “Leanne wanted something as close to her own hair as possible.

“The lady who worked there was lovely, but she was also very clear that that would not be possible.”

Encouraged to try on short black hair, layered fringes, red wigs, and what she described as “old-fashioned,” Leanne was devastated by the lack of options on offer and implored Melissa, “Please help me.”

Leaving the store empty-handed, the stylist promised to make her friend a wig she would be happy with.

So, over the next few days, she and her employee, Gemma Bumdy, 28, worked day and night, spending 38 hours making her first wig, carefully dyed to match Leanne’s hair color and perfectly tailored to her. head.

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In November, just days after Leanne shaved her head because her hair was falling out, the wig was ready.

Leanne trying on her wig for the first time

Melissa said: “When Leanne came in for the final test, we were all in tears in the workshop.

“I just couldn’t believe how beautiful and natural the wig looked.

“I’ve always been passionate about making people feel good. But with this I felt like I had brought Leanne back to life.”

Leanne wore the wig every day and her children even believed her hair had grown back.

The experience inspired Melissa to make more women feel special during their time of need, which is why she launched the MyTouch charity this month, with Leanne as trustee.

The charity’s aim is to provide custom-made, handmade human hair wigs for anyone with a medical need, from those undergoing chemotherapy to people with alopecia.

Leanne’s wig before Melissa styled it

And Melissa has given up one day of work a week to volunteer for the charity, as well as starting to renovate the third floor of her salon, to make it a special place for wig customers.

Melissa hopes the space will be “like the room where you buy a wedding dress,” complete with plush rugs, relaxing spaces, wigs on display, good lighting, chandeliers and large mirrors.

She added: “I want everyone who walks in to feel like royalty while they’re here. It’s like a VIP room. really special. I don’t want it to feel cold and impersonal. They deserve to feel truly special.”

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She also hopes that some people will donate their hair to the good cause along with others providing funds so that the wigs can be free when needed.

Leanne, left, and Melissa, right, decorating the wig room.

A GoFundMe crowdfunding page has been set up for the charity which has already raised over £2,000 of its £2,500 goal.

Melissa, who is currently making a wig for a person with cancer who can no longer work, said: “She couldn’t afford the £3,000 to buy a wig so she used one from the NHS which was synthetic.

“She said being forced to wear that horrible thing was the worst part of her entire cancer experience.”

Leanne, from Haywood, Greater Manchester, echoes these sentiments, highlighting the positive impact having a natural-looking wig has had on her as she continues her cancer treatment.

Melissa in her living room

She said: “It sounds silly but, for me, losing my hair was worse than losing my breasts. As a woman, my hair really was my pride and joy.

“I am so proud of Melissa. She is one of those people who can do anything they put their mind to.

“I can’t overstate the impact the wig has had on me. I’m very open about my diagnosis, but just to know that no one on the street can ‘say’ I’m sick and wear a wig is priceless. “



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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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