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Diane Austin shared with PEOPLE the inspiration behind her hair company, Coils To Locs, and opened up about her journey through cancer and motherhood.
Austin revealed a nervousness to share with her now 23-year-old daughter Paige her cancer diagnosis. At the time, Paige was almost 18 and preparing to start her freshman year of college. She feared the news would deter her daughter’s dreams.
“I was worried she was going to hear the word “cancer” and shut down. She was just starting college and about to turn 18. When I finally told her, her reaction wasn’t to burst into tears, even though I could see she was really struggling emotionally. The first thing she asked me was if I was okay,” Austin shared with the publication.
She added, “Once she started her first year of college, I started chemotherapy. I really wanted her to enjoy her college experience, so it was important for me to make sure that she knew I was going to be okay. I would keep her informed of all the positive things the doctor shared with me.”
In 2015, Austin underwent chemotherapy which resulted in complete hair loss. In the beginning, she attempted to wear makeup and style her hair as best as possible; however, it was a struggle.
She received a wig prescription from her doctor to go to any cancer center boutique to purchase a wig, but she found nothing when it came to Black natural hair wigs. This discovery led to the creation of Coils to Locs.
“The chemotherapy I had gone through had led to 100 percent hair loss, and I mean 100 percent. Every piece of hair from your body is gone, from your eyelashes to your eyebrows. I didn’t have to shave my legs anymore, so that was a plus,” Austin shared. “I was, at first, very angry about this. It was 2015, and I couldn’t understand why no one had wigs that looked like my natural hair. It felt so wrong to me.”
Austin continued, “When you’re sick, the last thing you want is for people to stare at you. You don’t want to explain why your hair looked one way one day and then a different way another day. I decided that I wanted to do something about it, so I called my sister Pamela Shaddock and asked if she would join me on this journey.”
Coils to Locs launched in 2019 as not just a wig shop but “a medical wig resource for women of color,” who have experienced hair loss due to cancer treatment or alopecia. According to the brand website, the company will soon expand to selling non-medical products for all women, regardless of hair type.
According to the company mission, Coils To Locs “addresses a healthcare disparity for cancer patients of color given the current lack of access to afro-textured wigs that are covered by health insurance through a medical prescription at cancer center hospitals.”
Patients and providers can reach out to the company to inquire about acquiring a wig or partnership through the website. The wigs are currently available at multiple hospital locations across the country, including Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Texas.
“When we launched our business in 2019, we were filling a need with products but also helping reinforce hair identity. Wigs aren’t just a vanity item. They can be a lifeline for people. We know that not every person who loses their hair for medical reasons wants a wig but for those that do, it’s a way to maintain a sense of self. You can look in the mirror and feel like you have some control over the way you look, which can affect how you feel,” Austin shared with PEOPLE.
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