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Grant Winner: Deltra James

Deltra, 38, shared: "In addition to being a recipient of crappy stage 4 breast cancer, I'm also a single mama to five amazing girls who are the reason I've come as far as I have since getting a devastating diagnosis. With ease I could've given up but they've kept me going and motivate me to advocate as hard as I do so that outlooks get better in healthcare for women of color. I know the grant will be put to good use, from helping pay some bills to helping us have a bit of fun and memory making, which is always appreciated!"



Wigs weren’t new territory for me. When it came to cranial prosthetics, I was like Ariel and her treasure-filled grotto. You want lace fronts? I’ve got 20. But who cares, let’s get on with the story. Cancer was new territory and I was happy to add a wig to my collection, even if it was a consolation prize. I followed the cancer center’s volunteer as she led me to their complimentary wig boutique with the same anticipatory excitement of the golden ticket winners being led to Wonka’s chocolate room. The sign by the entry read “Reflections.”


When I stepped inside I immediately wanted to ask just who these wig options reflected.


It wasn’t me. Not a textured strand of hair in sight. Not a cut that looked meant for my age group; the “too young” for cancer age group.


Before I knew it I was politely pointing at a random wig - feigning interest - for her to pull off a mannequin's head to place upon mine.Too shiny, and the hairline wasn’t right.


Where were the oompa loompas to harmonize about this hairy situation?


I suddenly became aware of the time and my ride would be arriving soon.


I thanked the volunteer for showing me around and she asked if I’d like to take a wig or two with me. I chose one that had a color and cut I thought I could work with. She shoved another into my bag. “We have a lot of these, a couple boxes. You can try it on at home and give it to someone if you don’t like it.”


Once I got home and settled in I took the mystery wig out of the bag.


Grown up dress up time commenced! It was short and looked like someone had taken zig zag craft scissors to it. I was an 18 inch or longer girl, but thought what the heck, I’ll give it a whirl. Maybe I’d look like a 90’s R&B singer, à la Toni Braxton.


I squeezed the cap over my head and laughter erupted from my body as suddenly as an Californian earthquake. I didn’t look like I was going to sing my broken heart out in the rain. I looked like I was going to demand a refund.


I squinted and scoffed at myself in the mirror. I grabbed my phone; this look deserved photo documentation and a permanent spot on my Facebook timeline. I thought aloud about how I wouldn’t be caught dead in that wig. But I did end up giving it to someone else-- the part of me that couldn't advocate for myself.


Every wig lets its wearer take on a persona. There’s a time and place for fun and fancy free me and also for the me that has big “I want to speak to your manager” energy, particularly when it comes to speaking up about my body and care. I’m grateful for that Karen/opinionated granny wig, it's provided laughter and a lesson.

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