Women who have undergone breast cancer treatments and reside locally say they had a difficult time finding post-treatment services within an hour’s drive of Paris.
Whether it is finding a quality wig, head scarf or even a support group, determining where to go and what to do can be difficult and frustrating.
Most often breast cancer patients must choose between driving to Dallas, Oklahoma City or another large city, or using online services and vouchers.
While online services are popular these days, the personal touch is oftentimes desired among women who are working through challenging — sometimes embarrassing — issues.
It is commonly known cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy start losing their hair around the 14th day of treatments. As a result, some women choose to wear a wig, some opt for scarves and others go without any head covering.
Patty Kyle of Paris opted for wigs and hats.
“I was told by several women to get a wig prior to chemo, while I feel good enough to get fitted for it,” she said.
Her hair loss started at day 16. Unable to find anything suitable locally, Kyle purchased her wigs from LaCrecia Barry, also known as “The Wig Lady.”
“I get customers from that area (Paris) a lot,” said Barry, owner and operator of LaCrecia Barry’s Wig Ministry in Texarkana.
She and her husband, Dean, started the ministry 13 years ago at his suggestion. Their mission is to assist women diagnosed with cancer by providing quality wigs at wholesale prices.
Barry’s Facebook page shows wigs of various styles and colors, as well as comments and testimonials from clients.
“I am losing my hair at a fast rate this week so wearing my new hair and love it. You are such a blessing to cancer patients,” one customer wrote.
Another person noted, “I’ve seen the results, and you make a difficult journey a little easier.”
That’s good news to the Barrys, who saw a need locally for such a service.
“We realized there was no one, nowhere in our area for women to get high-end, quality wigs,” LaCrecia Barry said, noting women had to travel to Dallas, Little Rock or beyond to find help.
Since opening her shop, she has assisted about 1,000 women. Most of them found out about the ministry through word of mouth. Some contacted her after seeing her cards at Texas Oncology in Paris.
No matter how they ended up at her shop, Barry works to ensure they walk away feeling confident about their appearance and understanding how to maintain it — no matter if their style is a pixie cut or long hair.
The Wig Ministry has grown since the doors opened more than a decade ago.
“We started with 34 (wigs),” Barry said.
Today she has 400 in stock, mostly Raquel Welch and Gabor. The brand she carries is HairUWear, with over 50 styles in various colors, she said. The most expensive wig at her shop is $250. In a regular store, that same wig would cost $500. The least expensive wig is $78.50 wholesale.
“It’s called The Winner,” she said, “It’s the most popular. It doesn’t require a lot of fixing.”
Barry contends she doesn’t operate the Wig Ministry to make money.
“I don’t make any profit whatsoever,” she said.
In fact, she noted, if you factor in advertising costs, the ministry costs her money.
“I only charge half of retail plus $3 to cover shipping costs to get it from the distributor. There is no sales tax,” she said.
All of the wigs are new. She does not carry seconds or discontinued items.
Visits take 1 to 2 hours and include fittings and instructions on styling, washing and taking care of the wig.
“Many times girls come in, and they are scared to death. They are losing their hair and wondering, ‘What kind of wig am I going to get?’” Barry said.
She suspects they visualize ending up with a Halloween wig — a look that comes from buying a cheap wig or one that is not styled correctly.
“You can get $30 to $40 wigs anywhere,” she said.
But Barry noted the higher-end, quality wigs look natural, adding “You don’t know it’s a wig.”
Once a woman finds the perfect wig, there is one more thing that happens before she leaves the shop.
“Everybody gets prayed for before they leave,” Barry said.
So what does Barry get out of the experience?
“The smiles that happen at the end are pricessless and a blessing to me every time,” she said.
For more information, visit LaCrecia Barry Wig Ministry on Facebook or call (903) 277-6116.
American Cancer Society Communications Director Joy Donovan Brandon, based in the Dallas-Fort Worth area – the closest branch to Lamar County, said the organization once offered wigs to cancer patients.
“We used to have wig rooms in the Dallas and Fort Worth offices. It was free, but we were limited to what we had (on hand). Now they get a voucher and get what they want,” Brandon said.
The Susan G. Komen Foundation provided Kyle with a voucher to apply toward the purchase of her first wig.
She recalled the voucher being worth $50 to $75.
“Wigs are expensive,” Kyle said.
Shelly Moffatt of Soper said she preferred head scarves to wigs when she lost her hair on day 17 while undergoing chemotherapy. The problem, she said, was being unable to find a place locally to get them.
While area stores carry neck scarves and larger ones, Moffatt said, they do not offer true head scarves. She bought hers in Oklahoma City.
Moffat also said the Oklahoma University Medical Center teams up with businesses that provide wigs, makeovers and other services.
Neither Kyle nor Moffatt were aware of local breast cancer support groups.
“There’s not a whole lot here,” Moffatt said.
Kyle was able to visit with another cancer survivor through the American Cancer Society’s Reach to Recovery program.
“We spoke a couple of times but weren’t ever able to meet,” she said, noting they eventually lost touch.
Instead of group sessions, the women relied primarly on their loved ones for emotional support.
In particular, Moffatt mentioned her husband, daughter and good friend, Tonya McClellan, as being especially supportive.
“My daughter was my rock,” she said. “Faith, family and friend.”
Kyle also received a lot of support from family and friends.
Both women said their faith in God especially helped see them through the hard times.
Moffatt, after being diagnosed 10 years ago, was able to get gas cards for travel to and from Oklahoma City, where she received medical care.
The cards could be used at Sinclair’s gas stations, she said, and they were provided by the American Cancer Society in Oklahoma.
ACS Community Development Manager April Leathers, who works for the Oklahoma branch, gave Moffatt the cards. But she said the organization no longer issues gas cards, although it offers other services.
“The American Cancer Society has a broad array of services, such as wigs, lodging, counseling etc., and anyone can use those services regardless of where they live, but those services are not always offered within the county or community the patient lives in,” Leathers said.
To learn more about the services offered by the American Cancer Society, visit online at cancer.org or call 1-800-227-2345.