By Alicia Doyle

The Writer
Specializing in Good News
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Wig shop caters to cancer patients

Photos by Chuck Kirman / Star staff : Calabasas resident Karen Garren gets her head shaved, as a way to honor of her best friend, Marni Levine, who died of cancer. Garren said she hopes "to share this experience with other women who might be losing their hair and are nervous about shaving their heads."

Saturday, June 2, 2007
Ventura County Star

Rochelle Scott will never forget the day in 1997 after her stepmother had been diagnosed with cancer.

"She came home crying and humiliated by the poor choices of wigs and the lack of TLC she received from wig stores," recalled Scott of Westlake Village.

A wig wearer for more than 25 years with a background in client service, Scott sensed her mission was to introduce women to wigs in an uplifting, respectful way.

So she launched Godiva's Secret Wigs, a business with clients referred by oncologists, hospitals and clients throughout California.

Now, with 10 years in the wig business, Scott most recently opened two stores at The Oaks mall: Godiva's Secret Wigs and the adjacent Godiva's After Dark A Boutique for Romance.

Godiva's Secret specializes in hair extensions, wigs and other merchandise for those experiencing hair loss because of stress, genetics or medical challenges such as chemotherapy or radiation.

"Our specialty is working with all women, but our passion is helping women undergoing chemotherapy make their transition to wigs as uplifting and positive as possible," said Scott, who also has stores in Woodland Hills. "Most clients in this situation are extremely concerned with losing their hair. So oncologists send their patients directly to us for a boost of confidence and encouragement in our comfortable atmosphere."

Right next door, Godiva's After Dark offers adult products designed to help bring romance back into the lives of couples.

"I've worked with nurses of oncology and sex educators to carry unique products that can enhance and revitalize communication between loving adults, and the response has been fantastic," Scott said. "Our product line includes lingerie in all sizes, oils, games, wedding and birthday gifts and a few little naughty things, too."

A customer's tale

Michelle Cox of Simi Valley discovered Godiva's Secret Wigs through Kaiser Permanente, where she is undergoing chemotherapy.

"I needed a wig because I was losing my hair," said Cox, 28, a customer for about two months who purchased a long wig called Thin Candice, which increased her confidence and made her feel normal.

"The personal assistance I received in choosing my wig made me feel at ease and comfortable," Cox said. "It is a caring and warm environment for anyone going through chemotherapy."

Scott serves about 900 clients in the Conejo Valley; ages range from 35 to 65.

Typically, a client will love four out of the five wigs she's tried and, at reasonable prices from $99 to under $350 "our clients enjoy having a selection of styles and colors to choose from in their day-to-day lives," Scott said.

The realistic wigs and hair additions are made of high-quality synthetic fibers, which need no blow-drying or curling. That means the wearer can hand wash, condition, shake and hang her wig in the shower. In the morning, the wig or hairpiece is dry and ready to wear in the style it was purchased.

"We don't carry thousands of wigs; we only carry wigs that look real," Scott said, emphasizing that her wigs are feather light, open and airy to wear, so they don't inhibit hair growth.

"All wigs are available in over 35 beautiful color blends, so we're able to match about 97 percent of any client's hair color even wigs with roots, which are impossible to recognize."

All the difference'

Godiva's Secret was recommended to Denise Sandlow of Simi Valley by the oncology nurses at the Kaiser Woodland Hills Cancer Center. Recently diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, she has started chemotherapy.

"I knew my hair would be falling out, and, before it did, my sister and I went to Godiva's Secret to look at wigs," said Sandlow, 49. "We thought it would be better to go before I lost all my hair so we could match my hair color."

As a new customer, she is pleased with one wig in particular: a short, layered cut, "kind of a young Meg Ryan look and blond. I just love it."

She plans to go back for other head coverings such as scarves and hats.

"They also have hairpieces, like cute bangs, that are worn with the hats."

The merchandise is special, Sandlow added, because it is geared toward women who have suffered hair thinning or loss whether from chemotherapy or a variety of other reasons.

"Godiva's Secret has changed my life because even though I have lost my hair temporarily due to chemo, I can feel confident and pretty when I wear my wig," Sandlow said. "Having a place like Godiva's Secret to go to and talk to people who understand what you are going though and can offer helpful suggestions just makes all the difference in the world."

Godiva's Secret Wigs is at 2412 Thousand Oaks Blvd.; 4940-WIGS. Godiva's After Dark A Boutique for Romance is at 2410 Thousand Oaks Blvd.; 497-LUV7.

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