“WHEN I’ve got my wig on and my make-up on I feel like a cancer survivor. When I don’t I feel like a cancer victim.”
Gill Mason, aged 58, a retired school teacher from Greenhill, Sheffield, was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2009.
“It came out of the blue,” she said. “I had no family history of cancer.”
Gill had a lumpectomy two months later and then four lymph nodes removed.
Eighteen weeks of chemotherapy followed, then another operation to remove the rest of her lymph nodes.
“The chemo was OK – I was lucky because I wasn’t sick,” the former Newfield teacher said.
“But a fortnight in, my hair all fell out at once.
“It was very hard – I felt as though I had a lost a part of myself.”
Gill, who is married to Graham, 63, a former pharmaceutical salesman, was given an NHS wig.
“It wasn’t comfortable at all, and it really looked like a wig,” she said. “I didn’t feel it was me.”
Early in 2010 Gill started a 10-week bout of radiotherapy and then went onto a five-year course of drugs to control her oestrogen.
The drug, letrozole, stops her hair from growing back, so Gill decided she needed a long-term solution.
“I had heard about a hairdresser helping women who have lost their hair, but at that point we didn’t know Conrad Blandford’s name,” she said.
“My husband tracked him down and he set about getting me a better wig.”
Conrad, Gill and Graham looked through old photographs of Gill before she got ill, tried out different hair colours and sent off for samples.
When they were sure of what they wanted, Conrad ordered a custom-made wig, and then set about colouring, trimming and highlighting, to make it perfect for Gill.
She said: “The difference is amazing.”
She added: “Conrad is providing such a wonderful service. He makes such a difference to our lives.”