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After Chemo, Woman Finds Hope With Hair Extensions

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(credit: CBS) Esme Murphy
Esme Murphy, a reporter and Sunday morning anchor for WCCO-TV, h...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — For many cancer patients, one of the toughest parts of battling the disease is hair loss. It’s especially painful for young single women. Becky Gesswein knows exactly what that is like.

Last May, Gesswein, 27, was diagnosed with breast cancer. After a double mastectomy, she donated 14 inches of her waist length chestnut hair to locks of love. Then, because of chemotherapy, she lost all the rest.

For the past seven months, Gesswein’s routine has been putting on her wig to cover what little hair has grown back. She said the wig is uncomfortable and makes her self-conscious.

“I always feel that people are staring,” said Gesswein.

The diagnosis came just weeks after her 58-year-old mother had finished her own treatment for breast cancer.

“It’s horrible when it’s your daughter. When it’s your child,” said her mother, Linda Thompson. “I wish I could have taken it away from her. I would have gone through hundreds of treatments, if she didn’t have to go through that.”

Thompson says one of the toughest parts of her own battle was the loss of her hair, which has since grown back.

“It’s pretty devastating,” she said. “You are already losing part of your ‘womanship’ so to speak and now you are losing your hair. And I just didn’t do well with it.”

Gesswein says losing her hair has been very hard.

“I want to feel good and beautiful,” she said. “There is just that one thing that is missing. You know, my hair is missing. It’s the one piece of the puzzle that I need to complete me.”

So, Gesswein has decided to try a beauty treatment made famous by celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Jessica Simpson and Gate Gosselin: hair extensions.

“I want to feel beautiful and pretty. I mean, what girl doesn’t?” said Gesswein.

Last week, Gesswein was wearing a wig when she came to John Richards salon in Minneapolis.

While John has done more than 3,000 sets of extensions, Gesswein — with her half inch to one inch long hair — will be one of his most challenging clients.

“Since she had the chemo, the whole head has to be done,” said Richards.

In a normal set of extensions, Richards would put on four rows or about three ounces of hair, but with Becky he will put in 20 rows or eight ounces of hair.

“It’s a total transformation. I am really excited. This is really going to change the way I look and I feel and it’s really going to be awesome,” said Gesswein.

First, Richards covered the mirrors in the salon so Becky couldn’t see the transformation. Then, Richards started by coloring the hair Gesswein has to a warm chestnut brown. He then began placing more than 300 strands on her hair.

Finally, after five hours Gesswein was ready to see here new hair for the first time. As she looked at her waist length chestnut brown hair, she began to tear up.

“This is awesome, this is so pretty,” she said.

Waiting just outside the salon was her mother.

“You look awesome. You look beautiful. I love it. I absolutely love it,” Thompson said to her daughter.

It was an amazing transformation, indeed, and it’s a before and after that Gesswein says will change her life.

“This is real. It’s going to be on my head for the next six months. I am so happy,” Gesswein said.

Gesswein’s new hair cost $1,025 and $600 of that was the cost of the hair alone.

The extensions will last six months, at that time John says her hair should be about four inches long and she can decide if she wants to keep the extensions or go natural

Gesswein said she wanted to share her story to raise awareness about breast cancer. She is now cancer-free.

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