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Hair To Spare

“Tell me a bit about yourselves,” said my professor at the beginning of our first French class. We took turns introducing ourselves until we reached the last person, a young woman wearing a colourful toque who introduced herself as Amber.

Amber removed her toque and, revealing a hairless head, said, “I might as well tell you about my lack of hair.”

“You’re probably thinking I’m some sort of gang member or trying to make a fashion statement,” she said. “But I’m not. I’ve cut my hair in honour of my friend Julie who lost her hair while undergoing treatment for cancer. I’ve donated my hair so that a wig can be made for a cancer patient.”

Amber explained, “The medications used in chemotherapy treatment attack cancer cells, but, unfortunately, they also attack other cells, including those in hair roots. Julie’s hair loss is a temporary side effect.”

Dare to Share

Losing hair, Amber explained to me after class, is often a traumatic experience for cancer patients, and having the option of wearing wigs or other headwear helps patients rebuild confidence and boost self-esteem. Amber said, “You know the old saying, ‘When you look good you feel good.’” She told me to check out the Look Good Feel Better program, a Canadian non-profit organization that helps people cope with appearance-related side effects of cancer and its treatment.

When I asked how I could go about donating my own hair, Amber pointed me in the direction of the Canadian Cancer Society. Although the Society doesn’t take part in the fabrication of wigs, it provides patients and donors with information regarding hair-donation programs.

“Donated hair has to be in the form of a ponytail or braid, clean and dry, and not chemically treated,” Amber told me. And it takes more than one ponytail to make a natural-hair wig. Donations, according to Amber, are always in great demand.

Wigs made from human hair can be matched closely to a patient’s original hair colour and texture, and cancer patients are encouraged to save a lock and a picture of their own hair before beginning cancer treatment.

Caring for natural-hair wigs is easy; they can be washed and styled with alcohol-free, natural shampoos, conditioners, and styling products.

But wigs aren’t for everyone. So there are other headgear options including hats, cotton scarves and turbans, and stylish hairpieces such as bangs, ponytails, and sidepieces that can be attached to a hat.

“My friend Julie was really touched by my donation,” said Amber. “It’s such a good cause and it seems like such a small sacrifice to make.”

As I drove home from school that day, for the first time in my life I looked forward to having a shaved head.

Submitted by:

Laura Brisseau

Laura Brisseau is a contributor to alive magazine. Visit http://alive.com for related articles.




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