Strands of Dignity

Next Level wigs provides individuals with traumatic hair loss the opportunity to regain a crucial part of themselves

Written by Kyra Purvis  /  Photography by Grant L. Gursky

What does the hair on your head mean to you? Hairstyles often instill one’s identity and exude their personality. Now imagine looking in the mirror and seeing your hair slowly but very surely find its way into the palms of your hands. This feeling, indescribable to many, is one Victoria Marsh and Esther Stevenson know all too well.

At 13, Victoria was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of cancer that originated in her bones. After undergoing many treatments, Victoria eventually began to lose her hair as a side-effect. Just a sophomore in high school at the time, she was worried about the thought of not having her hair. Victoria was given a few random wigs in the hospital, but none seemed to be right. “Victoria never wanted to wear them,” said her mom, Karen. “They just didn’t fit her.”

Esther Stevenson is no stranger to the struggle of hair loss either. While grieving the passing of her husband from pancreatic cancer, she was diagnosed with advanced stage-3 ovarian cancer. Subsequent treatments resulted in Esther’s hair loss. “She wore a baseball cap when she walked outside,” her daughter, Kathy Marshall, said. “It was hard for her because she knew people were looking at her differently.”

The negative feelings these proud individuals had toward their appearances and their diseases would not dissipate on their own. Fortunately, there are two talented women in Berlin who are dedicated to restoring the confidence and self-worth of those suffering from traumatic hair loss.

Oh My Hair! (OMH) The Salon is an award-winning salon that provides services such as haircuts, colors, treatments and extensions. While excelling in traditional services, OMH is also the home of the Next Level wig services. Salon co-owner Michele Harrington and senior stylist Amanda Campbell proudly provide customers experiencing dramatic hair loss a customized wig at little to no cost.

“It’s truly an honor and a privilege for Amanda and me to be able to spend this quality time with the men, women and children who come to Next Level for help,” Michele said. “We’re really making a difference for them, and that’s so gratifying.”

Next Level is also certified by Wigs for Kids, a nonprofit hair donation organization that has been serving children suffering from hair loss throughout North America since 1981. The group provides complimentary wigs to children with cancer. To further the cause, the entire OMH staff donate their time to any client who cuts and donates their hair to Wigs for Kids.

Having custom-fit dozens of clients  with wigs, Michele and Amanda understood the emotions that Victoria and Esther were dealing with. The pair take tremendous pride in helping each individual reclaim a portion of their identity, and on this day, donated their time to do so for Victoria and Esther. 

“You could tell how much Victoria loved her new hair,” her mom said. “She posed and took selfies the whole ride home. It was amazing seeing the staff put their hearts in her wig. It was a priority to them.”

Kathy said change is noticeable in her mother, too, who “feels like herself again,” and goes out in public without a baseball cap.

Many clients, along with Esther and Victoria, find it hard to lose their hair at such a rapid pace. Michele and Amanda make it a priority to make that transition a little bit easier.

“It is so much more than just doing hair,” Michele said. “It’s about changing someone’s life.”

Oh My Hair! The Salon