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Here’s a riddle: If Terri Johnston’s clients typically stop coming to her after a few months or a year, how does Johnston continue to have so many clients that she doesn’t even have to advertise?

The sobering answer is that for 20 years Terri Johnston has specialized in styling for chemotherapy patients, people with alopecia and others experiencing medical hair loss. With cancer in her family, she wanted to use her hairdressing skills to help chemo patients with their appearance. She studied wig fitting and, later, added expertise in breast prosthetics and bras. She made sure these clients had privacy in a separate room. And in 1997, Johnston faced her own battle with breast cancer.

Today Johnston is still owner of The Inspiration for Inner and Outer Beauty in Rockford, Illinois, where she refers ordinary guests to the other nine stylists and, starting this spring, will be accepting only medical hair loss clients. Most are referred by the local hospitals, the Look Good Feel Better program or other salons, and when their treatment is over they usually return to their regular stylists. Johnston also is founder of the Inspiration for Hope Foundation, which raises money to help low-income women pay for wigs and breast prostheses.

A pioneer in the specialty when she opened her salon and boutique, Johnston was soon named Businesswoman of the Year and has been honored with various humanitarian awards. She did a TV spot for Cancer Treatment Centers of America. In Rockford, she says, she has a monopoly on this business.

“I don’t understand why more hairdressers don’t do this,” Johnston notes. “It’s lucrative and very rewarding. When you can help a woman through the worst time in her life and make her feel good, that’s the best feeling. It’s better than collecting the money.”

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