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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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