In lieu of flowers, those who desire may make donations to Hair Matters in memory of Greg Willey.

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Let's Talk About Hair. Glorious silky Gray.

“Let's talk about hair. Glorious silky gray. Many a woman of advanced age and many just beginning to cover their gray - have stopped Greg in the street to admire his salt-and-pepper tresses. He loves that, of course.

When Greg learned that he would NOT lose his hair from the 2015 chemotherapy for his CLL disease (Leukemia) he vowed to grow his hair with the intention of donating it. The 2015 chemo ran from January 2015 through June 2015. There have been some awkward hair days along the way for sure, but when freshly washed and brushed out - oh my!

At some point, we learned that groups like Locks of Love won’t accept gray hair! Apparently, the challenges abound for those who take in tons of hair. We were told that gray hair might be coarse and not blend well with other hair, and that gray hair does not accept the hair dye in the same way as other hair. We were so shocked and disappointed!

Greg and I thought that with more research we would find someone who would accept Greg's donation. It began to really mean a lot to both of us. So, Greg decided he would continue to grow his hair out until we found someone to accept the donation, or when his CLL doctor reduced his blood work visits to every 6 months, whichever came first.

And so it grew all through 2016. He began to tire of the project as the hair got longer and was always in his face, caught under his arm while sleeping, stuck in his jacket... you know. Finally, one day he did not reject the offer of a hair tie (which he called his "scrunchie" but why correct the man?). And so, the ponytail became the new signature "Willey" look - sometimes even sans Giants hat! Still, at this point, Greg was ready to lose the ponytail - it was my love for his hair that was keeping the barber at bay.

Enter June 2017. Greg learns that his CLL has "transformed" and he must now undergo a much more vigorous chemotherapy than the 2015 experience. This time he will certainly lose his hair like so many other cancer warriors. The decision was made to go old-school and get the buzz cut as soon as he finished with the first cycle of the R-EPOCH chemotherapy.

It was our amazing friend Ruthann Van De Pitte who found our solution. When Ruthann sets her mind to something, she's going to make it happen! She discussed our donation dilemma and current hospital house arrest with her hair dresser at Ocean Waves in South Portland. They connected us with a wonderful stylist named Debby Porter who said she was "very interested" in helping us.

Debby has battled cancer and through her experience recognized that she was in a position to help people in a unique way. She started a non-profit called Hair Matters, and (among other things) she will perform hair and skin care services for cancer patients in home or hospital. She agreed to come to the hospital to cut Greg's hair and give him a much-needed shave. AND she promised Greg that she would find someone who would incorporate his locks into a wig that would make some woman (or man) feel wonderful. Debby does all this for donations to her Hair Matters organization. (I'll post more on that later.)

[Pictured above] Debby shows Greg his braided ponytail. She is wearing the yellow gown required due to his low immunity as substitute for her hairdresser's smock. It was weird to see the braid separated from Greg. I had hastily braided the ponytail for the first time ever on the day we first took Greg to the ER (5/30/17) because I knew the hair would be in the way of the examinations. We have had many lovely moments in the hospital while I brushed out his hair, washed it and rebraided it for the nurses to admire. I had to hold back a tear or two for how much that moment with Debby symbolized for us. We can't thank Ruthann or Debby enough for helping us have that special moment.

It was with great relief that we observed the "Willey" had a very excellent noggin. Not as pointy as we feared... no unfortunate bumps or dents. Just a good-looking egg.

If you look carefully, you can even see Greg smile for the camera.”

-Erin Willey



 

1.7 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer annually. There is currently no formal, nationwide network of salon professionals to help individuals through the often expensive and traumatic experience of rapid hair loss. Hair Matters is a donations-based, 501(c)(3) non-profit, Identity Restoration Movement designed to validate, protect, and revitalize participants’ sense of self and identity. We offer a unique blend of emotional support and professional salon services such as consultation, education, and referral in a non-medical setting to those affected by cancer treatment-related hair, skin, and nail changes.


 
 

What We Do.

From diagnosis through one year following final medical treatment, Hair Matters’ stylists, from a network of salons, will come alongside you to help in every stage from cutting hair short and clipper cutting during initial hair loss, to developing a plan that may include wearing headbands, hats, and/or wigs, etc. We will also help order, fit and customize wigs.  Additionally, we can continue providing support by reshaping, coloring and re-texturizing your hair as it grows back in.  While not strictly a “wig program” Hair Matters houses over 100 donated wigs that we can offer to interested clients at no cost. Our goal is to nurture and support you throughout your hair loss journey. 

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Why Hair Matters.

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Debby Porter,Founder and ceo

Debby Porter is the driving force behind Hair Matters. In 2012, at the age of forty-four, while working as a hair stylist, Debby was diagnosed with breast cancer. When she was told that she would lose her hair, she felt “lost”. Not knowing where to turn, she realized that many others probably felt the same way. Until this shock was settled for her, she found it very hard to process all that would come next. Hair Matters was born of this need.


Testimonials

“You absolutely rock! This part was absolutely one of the first moments when I wasn’t sure if I was going to get through it. And then you came along. The time we spent there was unbelievable. You were the first real connection that I made with one of my “sisters”. I will never be able to thank you for the difference you made.”
-Lisa F.
“I want to tell you how grateful I am for all you and (Deb Rich) did for me today. I can’t express how your kindness eased my fears and my husband’s (fears). Thank you so very much! I look forward to seeing you again. I will also be calling Helen Langley from SMHC to explain how awesome you were to me and that she should put Hair Matters first on their list. I will also call the Dempsey foundation to thank them for your name! Thank you again and again!”
-Karen N.
“I met with Debby today for the first time since being diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer...We talked for almost an hour and when I left my spirit was so uplifted! Her genuine care and concern for others shines throughout her...God Bless you, Debby!”
-Kathie S.P.