Paul Kommes and Gillian Corrigan are familiar with the toll cancer and its treatments can take.
“This is something that has affected a lot of our clients over the years,” says Kommes, co-owner of Fiorio hair salon on Bayview Avenue. “It hits home a little more when you see people you’ve got to know over many years go through it.”
It’s a traumatic experience and the hair loss can also be embarrassing.
“I’ve had the unfortunate circumstance of having to shave a lot of heads off as people go through cancer treatments and then helping them transition into wigs,” Kommes says. Staff will come in on days the salon is closed or take clients upstairs to a more private setting to ease their embarrassment.
“On the flip side, it’s amazing to see how people beat cancer and have them grow their hair back,” Kommes says
Their salon’s experiences made their response obvious when a client who volunteered at Sunnybrook Hospital told them about the hospital’s need to have wigs maintained for its cancer patients, co-owner Corrigan says.
“It was easy for us to agree to help out,” she says. “We know it has a big impact.”
Every week or so the salon receives from the hospital between one and two dozen wigs, made from human or synthetic hair.
Everyone on staff pitches in to wash the wigs with special materials provided by the hospital. They dry the wigs and then set them on foam head forms to reshape them before returning them to Sunnybrook to be worn by patients.
They never meet the hospital’s patients who wear the wigs but their experiences with their own clients helps them visualize the results.
And they have received some “really nice letters” from patients thanking them for their service, Corrigan says.
They were reluctant to get publicity for their work since the assistance they provide to cancer patients is reward enough, the Fiorio owners say.
But the hospital itself has been pressing to give them credit, perhaps to encourage others to volunteer services also.