The Valentine’s Day I’ll Never Forget
Shanna shares a tale of two clients, their personal journeys and how love and compassion connected them on one fateful Valentine’s Day.
This story began the week before Valentine’s Day 2020. I overheard Jeni, (our amazing salon director), calming someone on the phone. “It’s going to be ok,” she said, “If you can be here in the next hour and a half, Shanna can see you today.” Jeni told her to be careful driving and not to rush. It turns out the client was sobbing, desperate for help with her hair loss and was driving to Austin from an hour away.
When Sally arrived, I walked up to the front and introduced myself. She immediately started crying again so I took her right into our private consultation room to begin to understand how I could help. She was truly beside herself. Sally, like most of our clients, had been dealing with serious hair loss, which has been escalating in recent months. We began by talking about her journey and history. She explained she was devastated by the amount of hair she had lost. She described many sleepless nights spent on the internet searching for answers to ease her pain.
Unless you are experiencing this type of hair loss, it’s hard to understand that the most difficult part of the journey isn’t just the hair loss and the way you think you look, but the mental stress it puts on you. I talked to her a bit about how badly she was feeling and asked if she had ever seen a therapist. Sally indeed had seen a therapist, but she said she thought she was “done and had it together.” I smiled to myself. I’m someone who successfully manages bipolar disorder and has spent probably close to $100,000 on therapy in my lifetime and will never be “done.” ? I told her it isn’t about being done; it’s about being able to manage, especially when life gets tough. I urged her to reach out to her therapist again.
Finally, it was time for me to see if I could make sense of all the information Sally had shared and I brought out the micro camera. This allowed me to analyze her scalp and follicles at a microscopic level. In essence, I performed a mini trichology test to see what, if anything, could be done to improve her scalp health and get her hair healthy. I saw that Sally had been experiencing Telogen Effluvium, which is excess shedding. She told me that she has lost half of her hair in the last four or so months.
I also suspected that Sally had Androgenetic Alopecia starting. She had continued on and off crying throughout the appointment and while I was using the micro camera, she said, “Please tell me I don’t have Androgenic Alopecia!” Through her extensive research, she knew Androgenetic Alopecia is genetic and usually permanent. I told her I couldn’t diagnose anything because I’m not a doctor. Then, I reassured her that we would be here to support her. I wrapped up my evaluation and consultation, told her we needed to do a formal test to determine whether trichology would help or decide if she wants alternative hair.
After that consultation, I felt completely wiped out. While I do love when I can help people feel better about themselves, it is emotionally challenging to help people who are in such distress. I secretly hoped Sally would go back to her therapist and I wouldn’t see her again.
The next week I had a therapy appointment – every good hairdresser has a therapist!? (Brandee Smith at Fortify Counseling you rock!) At my appointment, I discussed my concerns about this client, anonymously of course, and how I felt unsure about working with her. Brandee said, “Shanna, one of your gifts is your ability to just be with people and help them feel safe and heard.” I told her I was worried about giving information she couldn’t handle. Brandee encouraged me to call her, tell her my concerns, and ask her to bring a support person if she wanted to schedule another appointment.
I did just that – called Sally and expressed my concerns. She was VERY grateful that I cared enough to call. No one in Sally’s life knows about her condition except her husband. We arranged another appointment and she said she’d ask her husband to join her.
So, February 14 was the day (Valentine’s Day 2020)! Sally’s husband indeed came with her. As I walked up to greet them, I could see Sally was visibly upset and wearing her sunglasses to hide her red eyes. Her husband looked very kind and worried about his wife. In our private consultation room, I knelt in front of her to talk and encouraged her to breathe as her husband rubbed her knees. I was able to give her good news and tell her she was not in an active phase of Telogen Effluvium and the miniaturization of the hair shaft that I was seeing was just beginning. I was confident trichology treatments would benefit her. I suggested she start with a home package, which is the least expensive option and the one I truly believed she needed. She was still crying, but less.
Sally then told me she wanted a topper, a hair piece that she could wear on the crown of her head. I looked at her and asked if she trusted me. Mind you, I’m still on my knees in front of her. She said she trusted me and I explained that she didn’t need a topper. I let her know that while it is her journey, what she thinks everyone sees with her hair is not actually what people see. I felt I was walking a fine line when I asked her to do trichology treatments for 3 months before wearing a topper. A topper can be worn responsibly and successfully for quite some time. But in this case, I didn’t want to stress her hair any further and the truth was she didn’t need to spend money on a topper. In the meantime, I suggested a colored spray for her scalp if she really felt she needed it.
I took both husband and wife to one of our Trichology treatment rooms, which is spa-like, quiet and dimly lit. Our spaces were created to focus on the customer experience. Our studio is all about taking care of our guests in the most relaxing way possible. Essential oils are in the air as is soft music. We offer wine, cocktails, nuts and chocolates – whatever we can do to destress a stressful experience, we’re all over it. I began to teach both of them how to do the in-home trichology treatments. While I was teaching, I could see her husband started to cry. I handed him the box of Kleenex and explained it happens here all the time. It’s so important to remember that our loved ones suffer alongside us and need support as well.
I talked to Sally and her husband about how she needed to practice self-care to reduce her stress and focus on healing. They have two small children that can quickly cause them to feel overwhelmed. Sally’s husband continued rubbing her knee as I told her she needed to take time for herself. He told me it was his fault and he need to be better. This man was soooo in love and hurting for his wife.
Sally decided to have a small glass of wine while I demonstrated the process of the trichology treatment protocol. As I used a Magic Scalp brush, massaging through the first step of her treatment, she commented how good it felt. I suggested that it might be nice to do the treatments together after they put the kids to bed. I joked and said MAYBE she would give her husband a scalp massage! It was a lovely coming together for both Sally and her husband.
Once we finished, everyone had renewed faith and was calm. I felt so blessed that I stayed present for this client. As we were finishing, I told them about my next appointment. My client has FFA, Frontal Fibrosing Alopecia, a condition where the hair line can move back to the middle of the head. I rarely discuss another client, but I was feeling so grateful for what was happening and felt they would benefit from knowing many other people are going through their own hair loss journeys.
I shared that Mary came to me a year ago. At that time, we discussed her options and she was very limited with what she could afford. She needed a bonded system and I was willing to discount it a great deal, but her cost would still be $1500. She loved the option and said she would get back to us.
I told Sally and her husband that a year later, Mary called to say she had been saving and was ready to move forward. Even though our prices had increased, without hesitation, I decided to honor the price we had given her and I was determined to teach her how to do the bonding herself and care for her system without needing salon visits.
I said my goodbyes to Sally and her husband and went into my consultation with Mary. This beautiful woman didn’t speak English comfortably so Lorena, my teammate who is bilingual, came in to translate. Mary has the sweetest eyes and a shy way about her.
While Lorena is chatting with Mary, Jeni called me out to show Sally which color spray she needed.
A Selfless Gift
And…I remember this like it was yesterday…and will never forget it… Sally and her husband told me they wanted to pay for Mary’s system. WHAT??? I started to cry. I asked if they would be willing to come in while I shared the news with Mary. They wanted to be anonymous.
I went back and told Mary what had just happened. She was shocked and immediately started crying… I was crying and Lorena was crying! I walked out for a moment and asked them to please meet her. I sincerely felt it would help all of them. Sally came in and Lorena introduced them to each other. They hugged and Sally told Mary through her tears how sorry she was for her suffering. Lorena and I were hugging and crying. Then Sally’s husband came in and in fluent Spanish, he talked to Mary. It was beautiful. As they left, he said, “Shanna, this is all happening because of you and you serving God’s purpose.” WOW! We hugged and they went on their way.
For a Beautiful Angel
As I designed Mary’s system, tears continued rolling down her cheeks. I stopped every so often to hug her. Lorena came in to talk to Mary. She told Lorena the reason it took her so long to save the money was because she sends every extra penny she can to her village in Honduras for education and clothing for the children living there. She said if she didn’t help give the children a better life, they would end up in the streets or in prisons. Lorena and I are practically hysterical at about this point.
Mary talked about how she never spends money on herself. This last year was especially difficult for her because she’s usually a very positive person, but her hair loss had really brought her down. It took a lot for her to save the $1500 and spend it on herself. I thought to myself, “Mary…now it’s your time!” Lorena and I got to tell her that not only was she getting one system from Sally and her husband, but we were also giving her a second system. She could send the $1500 she saved to the school in Honduras.
When I say that I have been blessed by God beyond belief I mean it! I believe you will find what you look for in life. If you look for the good in people and positivity in life, that’s what you will find. I have an incredible team and without God, them and every person who walks through our door, Refined Hair wouldn’t be what it is today.