After Chemo, Woman Finds Hope With Hair Extensions

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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.

More from Esme Murphy
  • TL

    Wow…pretty attractive woman either way.

    • Huggs to you

      Becky, Not only are you incredibly attractive and amazingly sexy. You are also a very positive and courageous woman. Hope someday our paths cross, your inspiration has changed my life forever. Single male in NW metro.

      • Huggs to you

        And John, thank you for giving this beautiful woman a feeling of dignity and pride. It took an amazing woman, not only to go through with this, but to also make it public. Thank you both!

        • Becky Gesswein

          Thanks for the hugs! I appreciate the comments (laughter ensued when I read your comment) and support.

  • Marie

    You need to do a story on Penguin Cold Caps, which will save hair during chemo treatments. I used them 6 years ago, and saved my hair during my chemo for my breast cancer. I have friends that had success with the caps, too.

  • Shane

    Good looking woman, I am glad she can restore her sense of being through this

  • james2

    You are beautiful either way. Remember Liz Taylor who bravely took a photo of herself during chemo.

    Be brave, be strong. a Survivor!

  • Betty B.

    I think her hair looked great short. Either way you go girl!

    • Becky Gesswein

      Thank you, Betty! I love my long hair. I donated 14″ of my real hair, pre-chemo, to locks of love. It’s an amazing feeling to have it all back!

      • Misty

        Hi Becky I’m a fellow breast cancer survior and would love to have my long hair back, I have a few questions to ask you if you wouldn’t mind..please email me at You LOOK AMAZING!

        Fight Like A Girl

  • Mickey

    Cute before, gorgeous after! Thanks for taking us along on the journey, Becky!

    • Becky Gesswein

      I’m so thrilled to have the opportunity to share my story. I was super nervous and am now thinking of a million things I should have said! :) It was my hope that people would be inspired and empowered to be beautiful in any way they want.

  • Sandy

    What a heartwarming story. It brought tears to my eyes.

  • Really

    What a beautiful and brave woman with short or long hair. Stay strong…its your true beauty.

    • Becky Gesswein

      Thank you so very much!

  • Molly

    Becky so proud of your strength and determination! You look beautiful! Sorrry I missed the showing tonight! :-)

  • Shelly

    Becky, you are so cute even with the short hair! Congrats on being cancer free!

  • Rescue Momma

    Maybe you could add information to the story about how someone could donate hair to do this. Locks of Love only does wigs.

  • Brenlie

    I thought you looked beautiful with and without hair! More importantly, congrats on being cancer-free. And you made a perfect choice by going to Jon Richard’s. He is not only very talented, but one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.

    • Becky Gesswein

      Jon is amazing in more ways than one. He is incredibly talented and has a heart of gold.

  • Judy

    IF only more of us women could look as beautiful as Becky with short hair. I like the new look, but, she definitely didnt need it to prove anything to anyone. Shes beautiful either way, short or long. Congratulations on being cancer free. Best wishes for a bright nd happy future.

    • Becky Gesswein

      Thank you, Judy! I appreciate your comments and support. All the friends, family, and strangers have been amazing!

  • Kevin

    Fight like a girl!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    Invisible Tape weft hair extensions, are a great product to look into if you are , post treatment, or have problem thinning hair.

  • Katie Brewer

    Wow, what a amazing story for you to share with the public, Becky!! You have always been a beautiful girl and for you to do this story, makes you that much more of a beautiful women! I cant imagine what you have all been through, but you are a very inspiring for any women who has to go through with this! Keep Strong! Your new hair looks AMAZING and most of all so happy to hear you are cancer free!!!!

  • Desiree

    Becky you are one of the most graceful beautiful people I know. The locks look amazing! I am so happy you are cancer free!

  • Chardaine LeBlanc

    What type of extensions did you get? My hair is just starting to come in i have about 2 and a 1/2 inches.

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