After receiving a cancer diagnosis, a new patient’s first concerns are rarely picking out a wig in anticipation of hair loss. “I still can’t believe I have cancer,” were the words from Tenna White of Caldwell, Ohio.
Tenna began feeling sick in the fall of 2015 but attributed this to age, weight and lack of exercise. On Christmas Day, however, she found it difficult to keep her eyes open at work and knew that something was not right. After expressing her concerns at an urgent care visit for a suspected case of the flu, Tenna was sent by the nurse practitioner for blood work. Once Tenna realized that doctors were looking for cancer in her blood work, she says, “Everything exploded from there.”
Tenna was diagnosed with two diseases—lymphoma, and a rare, slowly developing type called von Willebrand disease, which is what caused her hometown doctors to send her to The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute for treatment.
Tenna transitioned to the role of a cancer patient quickly, and she remembers her care at The James being “outstanding” from the start. “They not only take care of you medically, they take care of you emotionally,” Tenna says, adding that the staff also took a special interest in taking care of her husband and anyone else who accompanied her. As someone who does not like being the center of attention and is used to caring for others, Tenna was humbled by the compassionate care of her doctor, Robert Baiocchi, MD, PhD, and his team.
During her first chemotherapy treatment at The James, one of Tenna’s nurses asked if she had a prescription for a wig yet. Having planned on simply going bald once her hair fell out, Tenna had not thought much about wigs, but after hearing about the wig program provided by Hope’s Boutique - a specialty shop catering to women with cancer - she was willing to give it a try.
The team from Hope’s Boutique came directly to Tenna’s room at The James with several types of wigs for her to try on. “They give you special treatment, like you’re at a spa,” Tenna remembers of the service. She was shocked by how real each wig looked, and she happily decided on the third one she tried on. The Hope’s team then taught her how to properly care for and style the wig, all in the comfort of her private room at the hospital.
But it was not only the convenience of the service that put Tenna at ease. “They made me feel human again… they didn’t treat me like a cancer patient.”
Tenna is on a six-month treatment plan at The James, during which she goes in every two weeks for a 5 ½ day chemotherapy session. Though her treatment is strenuous, she is grateful for the effort put forth by her team to make her feel “normal.” She continues to be an advocate for Hope’s Boutique and The James.