‘This wig gives me freedom.’ Annual tennis tournament empowers breast cancer patients to feel their best during treatment

Melissa Varner
October 11, 2022
Carol Richburg reads picture books with her grandchildren. Richburg wears the wig given to her by Racquets for Recovery.
Carol Richburg with her husband and her grandchildren.

Carol Richburg doesn’t want to be treated differently at her annual girlfriends’ getaway later this month.

“I know I would be if they all knew,” she said. “They would watch out for every little step. ‘Are you okay? How’s it going?’ I don’t want that.”

Richburg isn’t ready to tell all her friends that she has triple-negative breast cancer. She was diagnosed in June 2022, after discovering a lump during a self-breast exam.

Before starting treatment at MUSC Hollings Cancer Center, Richburg met with nurse navigator Denise Kepecs. “Patients who are newly diagnosed with breast cancer may need to be treated by three, four or five different providers,” Kepecs explained. “My role is to make sure that they get to each of those different specialists at the right time and get the treatment in the order that it's needed.”

Kepecs also connects patients to available resources, like wigs for patients who lose their hair to chemotherapy. Money raised by Racquets for Recovery, an annual tennis tournament hosted by the Pine Forest Ladies Tennis Association, pays for wigs and rides for breast cancer patients who need help getting to and from medical appointments. The Survivors’ Fit Club was also created with funds from Racquets for Recovery.

After five rounds of chemotherapy, Richburg says her long silver hair started coming out by the handful. Richburg, a retired language arts teacher, and her husband, who is retired from the military, are on a fixed income. So, she was excited when Kepecs told her that Racquets for Recovery would gift her with $500 towards a wig, which can range in price from under $100 up to $3,000 depending on the style, type and designer.

Richburg says choosing her new curly silver wig gave her back a sense of control. Wearing it makes her feel beautiful and empowered. “Putting it on and looking in the mirror, I just started smiling,” she said. “Because it was exactly what I wanted.”

Carol Richburg with her sister Cathy Crump. Richburg wears the wig given to her by Racquets for Recovery. 
Carol Richburg with her sister Cathy Crump.
Carol Richburg poses wearing the wig given to her by Racquets for Recovery. 
Richburg feels beautiful in her new wig.

Richburg also picked out a Beaubeau head scarf, which is specially made for patients with hair loss. “It has material to keep it from sliding off. This was something I was also thankful for because there are days you don’t want to put on a wig. To be able to look great and not worry about it flying off took away some anxiety. It’s one less thing to worry about.”

She continued, “In addition to both marvelous gifts, I have enough money that I can obtain another wig, giving me two wigs that will allow me freedom and versatility to change up my style.”

With her new wig, Richburg is confident and looking forward to visiting Savannah, Georgia, with her girlfriends. When she’s ready, she will share her news. But for now, she’s grateful for the opportunity to relax, tour the city and enjoy a riverboat dinner cruise.

“This wig gives me the freedom to just go and relax and just be myself and have a wonderful time,” Richburg said. “Thank you very much for donating your time and money to making this possible. It’s life-changing because it gives you the confidence to know you are looking your best or the best you possibly can. My mother used to say, ‘When you look good, you feel good.’ I think there’s something to that. And when I put on my wig I really, really, really feel good.”