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The Girl With Nine Wigs: A Memoir Hardcover – September 29, 2015
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“The author, now healthy, renders her tale with a poignant awareness of the joy that is possible even in the most dire circumstances. Readers will swiftly be drawn into this beautifully written story of a brave and quite fascinating young woman.” ―Publishers Weekly
“An extraordinary book from an extraordinary girl.” ―Marie Claire (Germany)
“[Sophie's diary] will give you goosebumps.” ―Elle Girl (Germany)
“The grandeur of this book does not rest only in the description of pain that Sophie suffered but also the courage with which she suffered it. What Sophie van der Stap has written is truly a masterpiece; she has managed to seize the lightness in the gravest of situations.” ―Der Spiegel (Germany)
About the Author
SOPHIE VAN DER STAP was 21 years old when she was diagnosed with cancer. The Girl with Nine Wigs is the memoir of a girl struggling to survive but even more to live, through her nine invented characters. The experience changed her life, and Sophie has worked as a writer ever since. She has published her first novel, And What If This Were Love, and is currently working on her second. She lives in Paris, France.
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Sophie van der Stap delivers a well-written, poignant, and inspiring personal journey with cancer, THE GIRL WITH NINE WIGS ---real words, tears, and pain she has faced. From friends gained, and those lost; family, friends, nurses, IV drips, doctors, blood transfusions, white coats, pills, tubes, scans, blood counts, and her own bald head.
Everyone is real; the wigs, the last hairs, her scars, her new personalities: Stella, Daisy, Sue, Blondie, Platina, Uma, Pam, Lydia and Bebe---all real. From humor, fear, wit, and a strong need to survive, with a little help from her nine new personalities. Sophie has been given a second chance, and starts living once again to tell her uplifting story of triumph. She will make you laugh, cry and smile!
Sophie, age twenty-one, a normal gal attending university. She has a loving family and does all the fun things girls do at this age. Then the symptoms begin. Tests. Needles. Hospitals. Doctors. Scans. Procedures. The heartbreaking news. Instead of going back to university the next Monday. The news is delivered. Cancer. The nightmare has been confirmed. All she hears is aggressive, advanced, rare, Rhabdomyosarcoma (a rare malignant tumor involving striated muscle tissue).
How could she have cancer? She could die. First her mom had cancer. Now her? She is afraid of what is to come. The diary entry begins starting in mid-January. She will get through this. What about her hair, her eyebrows, eyelashes. Chemotherapy. Hooked to an IV. The side effects. Fluid retention, nausea, vomiting. A nasty disease. A rare cancer. Her life?
Her older twenty-five year old sis has a role, her mom, and dad, are all there to help support her. She has one job. To survive chemo. To get better. She is depressed. Empty. Fifty-four weeks of chemo. By mid-February, next comes wig shopping. The previous year when her mom when through breast cancer, she was there helping her, get a wig and now, here she is. Her mom, sister, and Annabel, her friend. Be positive Sophie. The hairdos look stupid. A disaster. She wants to hide, to escape. Not just from the disease but from the reactions of everyone around her, confirming what she wants to forget. The neighbors. The pity. The family, friends, the crying. She has to give the wig thing a try; however, all she sees is a stranger.
Playing with headbands, hairspray, and trying to get rid of the itch of something on her head. She is numb with a perfect diet of fear, stress, and night sweats. Tumor fever. She is scared. Her real hair is falling out in clumps. It is time for the razor. She is bald. She will avoid mirrors. She hates her head.
• Daisy is a keeper. Long Blond curls. She is mischievous and playful. Perfect for sundresses. Barbie like. Romantic
• Sue: Short and spicy red. Edgy cut brings out her boldness. Strong and decisive. Headstrong. She makes an impression. Attention getter. Sassy
• Stella: Makes her understand what she is not. Her hair is always the same. It never moves. Rigid. Insecure
• Blondie: short sexy blonde bob. Real hair. Most expensive. Thoughtful. She makes her feel different. Independent. Blondes has more fun. They get the attention and free drinks.
A wig turns out to be much more than a bunch of hair. Each one does something for Sophie. They affect her sense of self. She soon finds when she puts on Daisy with the long curls, her Italian sandals become sexy stilettos, her jeans, a hip-hugging skirt, and her humble cleavage becomes a real showstopper. Everyone wants to know who is hiding behind the blonde ringlets.
All four ladies have something in common. In all four there is a little of her. A Sophie who grows by stealing a little inspiration from them all. A Sophie who can see the changes in herself by observing how these ladies tackle life. Together Daisy, Blondie, Sue and Stella are forming a new her.
She meets Jurriaan (Jur), a young man diagnosed with cancer when he was twenty-one. He is now twenty-six, full of energy. He tells her to break down the fear and illness day by day. Meditation. Writing. He has mantras. He has a girlfriend. He wants to be friends. There are three stages of her disease and she is in the middle. Her disease is rare. She has friends who want to help. All guys want to be her friend, and nothing more.
Everyone wants to pick her apart, from pathologists, anatomists, and oncologists. What is normally a children’s disease, her age is puzzling to the specialists. Blood transfusions, low red blood cell count, injections for white blood cells, and transfusions to boost her blood count. A weak immune system, bruises. Pale skin. A lack of energy.
Sophie learns she can change wigs to transform her mood, when she wants to leave her current life behind. Then there is her old faithful guardian, her IV, always beside her. Hospitals, death, diseases. Then she finds she needs another look that the four cannot provide.
Next we meet the new wigs and personalities:
• Platina: Electric white bob. Least expensive. Fun-loving. Made to impress. Freedom.
• Uma: Sensual. A perfect look to meet up with the boys. Jur likes her the best.
• Pam: The girl next door. Blonde streaks. Jennifer Aniston’s younger sister look. She likes Pam. Her 7th new look. She cannot wait to show Rob. Goes with her wardrobe
• Lydia: Given to her by Bebe, she wore back in the sixties. Warm Auburn.
• Bebé: Platinum-blond locks, exotic, sexy; a tribute to Bebe in Andalusia
Now she has nine characters to choose from – with endless options to pair with her wardrobe. A green top for Uma and Sue on her shopping list—to give their red locks a bit more oomph. Also on her list: a pink floral shirt to give Daisy a little extra sweetness, and a sexy black blouse to flaunt Bebe. When she goes into town she goes for sexy and sultry for obvious reasons. Bebe, Uma, and Palm have been the ones to see most of the restaurants, clubs, and parties. They are the only ladies who traveled with her to Barcelona.
She learns to seize the day, her breakfasts, her cups of tea, and the occasional glass of wine, her afternoons outside in the sun, or snuggled up inside when it rains. She seizes the evening sun and thunderstorms. The cancer makes her feel more loved. Every time she turns up with a new wig, it is high praise. Wearing the illness on the outside makes the situation easier for others, and for her. The wigs make it easy to switch worlds. Her wigs are becoming more of a solution rather than a problem.
On her strong days wearing a wig to match her mood, she appears healthy and on her low days, she hides out in her bed. She can hate the world, she can dislike others. Moan, call people names and life is no longer her friend, but her enemy. Dying is not an option. When she transforms herself into a femme fatale, she feels like one. When she does her makeup and puts on high heels and a wig, she feels stronger, bigger, and less afraid. Her wigs do not make her anonymous; they give her a chance to another, parallel life where caner does not exist.
She always associated cancer with old people and unhealthy lifestyles, but the past few years have shown her that nothing could be further from the truth. Look at her mom and all the celebrities who have dealt with it. Sometimes even underneath the clothes and wigs, and makeup she looks like a cancer patient. She has a bald head and scars. However she is used to the wigs and likes seeing them on her dresser as part of her. Then there are her dreams.
She reaches her twenty-second birthday and appreciates her day more realizing you are around to grow another year older than when you were healthy. Twenty-two and in a wheel chair at the hospital. Now she needs an MRI. Radiation. An operation is not an option. They have to hunt down the very last cancer cell. She feels like she is staring in a sci-fi movie. The men in white coats. The machines. She lives for the day she will be clean, clean, clean (better than a triple orgasm)! If she gets the good news, can she trust it?
When she gets asked to appear on live TV, she has no clue which wig to wear…who will come and sit with her between the hosts? Her wigs have become a media sensation! All she has to do is how people that you can live with cancer, that you can still laugh and enjoy yourself. That she still shops, wears fake eyelashes, dresses up, and goes on dates. That life with cancer does not have to be just an emaciated body, pain, and endless vomiting.
Wigs can be fun, not just for her, but for anyone with cancer. Is she a sensation…..emails from everyone with unknown names. When she receives an email from a cancer patient with cynical humor, she has to meet her. She goes to churches, to embrace the silence, the calm, and the fact she is always welcome, not matter what she says or does the previous day.
Chantal, age thirty-four, terminally ill, with breast cancer, enjoying life, making jokes, flirting, and shoe shopping. Sophie wants to feel her strength. She is her new hero. The doctors have given her two years. There is a lot that have had to give up, but a lot left. They have every second, minute, and hour of the day for their selves. They live for themselves and those they love. She can make jokes about cancer bitches (ends up at random parties and wakes up in the morning with a killer hangover). After all, a girl with cancer has to work harder for a bit of attention than a girl without. A life with a secret.
When the following year approaches she reflects on her new friend, her family, her love life, and her prognosis. She has to ween off the meds with good news. She decides to write. A manuscript. Nine Wigs. The Girl with Nine Wigs.
Wow! An inspiring story assured to empower you, through illness, and especially cancer—to put you in touch with life, how to embrace life, joy and laughter. Choose to waste, or treasure the time. The author demonstrates with brutal honesty and compassion, how to turn an illness into something good. (loved the Epilogue and the Postscript)
Even with the overwhelming cancer, her wigs offered her joy during her deepest despair to find a refuge, an escape, and comfort. A lesson for us all not to take anything for granted, we should celebrate life and love.
On a personal note:
A perfect book to lift my spirits-- my healthy and fit mom with all her annual doctor appointments, discovered two years ago she had colon cancer. She has been through surgeries, complications, hospital stays, eight months of chemo, blood transfusions and many of the same procedures covered in the book; to discover, she was in remission; to later find it has spread to the liver and outside to the abdominal area, and now unable to operate. Trying a stronger chemo was not working, as caused many other complications wearing her body down at age 83. She will not give up. Her friends are amazed at her tenacity.
Currently she is doing much better, and not taking chemo, taking one day at a time and enjoying life. The book meant so much to me as throughout all this my mom never lost her hair; however wears a short pixie cut. Now that she is off the chemo, they have taken her off her calcium, due to her kidneys, and her hair is now falling out with bald spots. I have tried to persuade her to see about a short sassy wig, but she continues to say she cannot stand anything on her head. However, she has not tried on a wig in twenty years, so I am positive we could find her one to boost her spirits. Cannot wait to tell her about this incredible memoir.
Thank you, Sophie van der Stap (beautiful in every way) for sharing your incredible journey, of strength; from pain to joy---you are an inspiration at age thirty-two, and wish you continued best of health and happiness! It was a pleasure to read your story--and highly recommend to anyone who is going through cancer, or to share with family and friends, who need a boost to get them through the dark valleys.
Sophie's monochromatic world explodes with color when three weeks into her treatment her best and dearest friend takes her shopping at a theater supply store for wigs to cover her head that has been robbed of hair by chemo. Expecting to see the kind of awful "beehive" wigs she has seen at other shops, she is delighted to encounter heads of witty, playful hair -- short red hair, long blonde locks, a shiny white bob. Over time, Sophie acquires nine wigs, each of which she affectionately names: Daisy, Sue, Blondie, Barbie, Platina. The wigs not only help her face her ordeal with courage, they provide a window into who the adult Sophie might be. "I feel almost lucky that I can wear different wigs and try out different personalities. That I can somehow figure out who I am underneath," she writes.
Ms. van der Stap writes with clarity and simplicity and large doses of humor. Even writing at the age of 32 years old today, she remembers what it was like to be so young when her world was upended. She swoons over "Dr. McDreamy," she blares the Rolling Stones to cover her anxiety, she watches "Desperate Housewives" with the nurses, she gives cancer the finger (in a mirror) as she begins her battle.
Ms. van der Stap doesn't gloss over the pain, the nausea, the terror, the daily humiliations of being a cancer patient. And she is an extreme cancer patient: fifty-four weeks of chemo followed by radiation. Yet it's very telling that as an epigraph to the book, she chose a quote from the Greek poet, C.P. Cavafy: "As you set out for Ithaka / hope your road is a long one / filled of adventure, full of discovery." I was glad to go along on this young woman's journey, and I think you will be, too.
Most recent customer reviews
This book was very good and sad. I like how all the wigs had a name of a person and each wig gave the girl a different feeling or...Read more