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Style Icon: Alison Hill

Written and styled by Tracy James; Photography by Chuck St. John

“Southern Praline” and “Buttered Biscuit” were among the blonde wig colors on display when Alison Hill visited Hoover’s Hair Options in the Summer of 2016. No woman expects to have to shop for a wig necessitated by hair loss, especially not at the age of 34. When Alison found a lump in her breast, because of her young age, she had never had a mammogram (a critical reminder during this Breast Cancer Awareness Month to perform self exams). After visits to her OB-GYN and then an oncologist, Alison was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer on April 25, 2016. What followed were 16 rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, and a double mastectomy. But through it all Alison remained resilient, in part by not allowing her changing appearance to undermine her confidence. 

The Southern Praline wig ultimately won out, and Alison learned to love the look. While baseball caps were a go-to on weekends and for treatment, for daily wear Alison preferred her wig. In both her role as an elementary school guidance counselor and as a mom to two young boys, she felt this consistency was important. She sometimes used bobby pins to style it, and even eventually took it back to Hair Options, where they cut it into a chic bob.

Friend Sara Amthor, a two-time cancer survivor (having battled both non-Hodgkins lymphoma and breast cancer), served as a helpful source of inspiration and information for Alison. “She brought me scarves and taught me how to tie them when I was without my hair, encouraged me to play up my make up, take risks with jewelry, and choose floral prints to amp up femininity,” she says. Instead of lamenting the pallor evident in her skin, Alison took advantage of the paleness by purchasing her first-ever tube red lipstick. “The associates at Sephora were amazing,” Alison reports. They helped her add to her beauty-tool arsenal products to hold on to her eyelashes and eyebrows as long as possible, then brow products for when they thinned. Now that her hair is returning and her wig loaned to a friend, she has learned which products to use to embrace her new, thicker and courser hair.       

Not only the kindness of friends, but also the generosity of strangers eased Alison through this time. When doctors finally gave her permission to get a manicure and pedicure, while at the nail salon she voiced excitement over getting to indulge in the self-care ritual. Upon attempting to pay for the services, she discovered that another patron who had overheard Alison had already paid the bill. In another instance, Alison was shopping for jewelry at Kendra Scott at The Summit. She selected a necklace and earrings with pink stones denoting breast cancer awareness, but decided she couldn’t buy both. She left with just the pendant necklace, only to later find the earrings in the bag, a gift from the store.This month Alison is celebrating the year anniversary of finishing chemo and will also take the final infusion of a medication that has been given every three weeks. But the inspirational t-shirts will not go in a drawer. Even as Alison takes an oral medicine every day for the next 10 years, she will “Choose Joy.” And the short hair and new makeup techniques? Alison is going to keep rocking those, too.    

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