By YVETTE C. HAMMETT
There are days when Lisa Allen is pleased that her rented space at a local hair salon includes a private nook where she can meet with some special clients. The ones who turn up with wigs for her to cut and style. And the ones who show up when their precious locks are succumbing to cancer treatment — in clumps.
Those are the days she makes less money at Court & Spark Salon and Spa in Brandon, but goes home with a full heart knowing she has helped someone battle through cancer.
When Allen was a young mother of twins, she set her love of hair styling aside to become a registered nurse. She was the one you saw pre-heart surgery at Tampa General Hospital (TGH) and the one you saw post-op. But as her children got older and pursued their own dreams, she decided to go back and pursue her dream of cutting hair.
Many of her clients are the nurses she once worked beside at TGH. Others are patients her nurse friends have referred to her once they’ve been diagnosed with cancer. Some call her the “Hair Nurse.”
Ericka Raffman of Brandon, one of those Allen helped when she got diagnosed in 2016 with Stage 3 endometrial cancer, calls her a blessing.
“I called her as soon as I got my first wig and asked if she could cut and style it for me,” Raffman recalled. “The pictures, when you see a wig, it doesn’t look like that when you take it out of the box. You have to go to somebody who knows what they are doing. I had five wigs and she took her time with me. She never once charged me, and she was always there when I needed her. She was amazing.”
What Allen did for Raffman as she lost her hair going through six rounds of chemo and five and one-half weeks of radiation made her journey so much easier, she said.
When it was all said and done, Raffman called Allen again, this time to prepare her for her treatment graduation party. She had already dinged the bell for her last treatment.
“She wanted to be fireball red,” Allen recalled. “She came in with her F cancer T-shirt on, and I colored her hair.”
“It was my way of saying ‘you know what.’ I put my middle finger up to cancer,” Raffman said with a laugh.
“While I was in school, one of the Paul Mitchell national educators wandered through. I was doing highlighting,” Allen recalled. “He asked me to come intern in South Tampa. It organically happened, and let me see what this career really looked like. It was the best decision I could have made. The stuff I learned and the skills I garnered made me a better stylist.”
After the first year, she went to work at the Loft Hair and Nail Lounge next to O’Brien’s on Lumsden Road until it closed last month.
The Loft owner found a place for her and 10 others at the Court & Spark Salon and Spa.
“Luckily, they had little suites, so I could keep my own room, which is really important in providing privacy to specific clients whose hair is thinning. Sometimes they want to talk about extensions or their wigs.
“I worked in healthcare and a lot of the nurses, once I became a stylist, wanted me to do their hair,” Allen said. “If they came across a patient, they would reach out to me.”
Some who turn up for an appointment with Allen are ready to take control and shave off what remains of their hair and be done with it. Others, when it starts falling out, are ready for a wig.
“I show them how to tie beautiful scarves on their head and dress them up with earrings. I just kind of help them through until the next step, usually after about eight weeks of chemotherapy. “Eventually, you start to see hair growth.”
And for some, that means it’s time for another visit to Allen and some new fireball red hair.