Stephanie Mikel with her wig
made from donated hair.

Michelle Little with her wig,
and hairdresser Millie Ortiz

Julia Adkins with her wig of donated hair.

Stephanie Mikel

*images provided courtesy of Wigs for Kids

hair donation by cancer patients

There are many issues that people with different types of cancer share in common. Among them is that chemotherapy treatment for many (but not all) types of cancer results in the loss of hair. The anxiety of not knowing when one’s hair will fall out, as well as the actual loss of hair, can be very traumatic for the person undergoing treatment and that person’s loved ones. Rather than sweeping up and throwing away or rinsing away the hair that one has spent years washing and styling, people with hair that is 10 inches long or more (which, when measured from the scalp, is only shoulder length) can consider donating their hair to one of three organizations that turn donated hair into wigs made for children or women who have lost their hair due to cancer, burns, medical baldness (alopecia) or other medical conditions.

Whether or not a person has enough hair to donate, the act of cutting one’s own hair prior to having it fall out is extremely empowering. The act of donating hair, knowing that it will be used to make a wig for a child or another woman who needs it, is even more transformative. While it might be nice to use one’s own hair for one’s own wig, it takes too much time and many bunches of hair to make one wig, so donating hair is, by definition, a selfless act. By donating hair instead of just losing it, one of the worst parts of cancer treatment becomes a little more bearable, and the person who is about to reflect on the outside what is going on in the inside sees from almost the beginning of treatment that some good things come out of some of the worst things that one can experience.

After I donated my hair, I looked on the Internet and asked medical professionals I know, but was unable to discover any encouragement for people undergoing cancer treatment to consider donating their hair. Neither organizations that accept donated hair to be made into wigs, nor oncologists, cancer organizations (including breast cancer organizations), surgeons and therapists had a concerted effort to inform women who are going to lose their hair to chemotherapy about the possibility of donating their hair. However, every medical specialist to whom I mentioned the possibility of hair donation by people about to lose their hair was enthusiastic about getting the information out to their patients.

The reason for this failure to recognize the obvious tremendous potential of cancer patients as a source of hair for wigs for children and other women may be that, historically, people with cancer have been viewed as victims who are not capable of helping other people. I challenge that view and assert that people with cancer, and, in fact, all people, are capable of helping others. The action of helping others is an affirmation of the spirit of life.

The Fuchsia Foundation has prepared and printed a brochure to encourage people who are about to undergo chemotherapy that causes hair loss to cut their hair rather than to wait for it to fall out, and if appropriate, to consider donating the hair for use in a wig for others. The act of cutting one’s own hair will be empowering and sets the tone for the ensuing treatment regimen. Those who qualify and choose to donate their hair may feel some relief from the agonizing expectation impending hair loss. Children and women needing wigs will be provided with hair. It is truly a “win-win” situation. This effort is reflective of the goals of the Fuchsia Foundation: to think of brighter (smarter and innovative) ideas that help brighten the lives of people in need (in this case the donors of the hair and the recipients of the wigs made with the hair).

Initially, we distributed the hair donation brochures to some hospitals and treatment centers in the Baltimore area. We printed and distributed brochures to surgeons, oncologists, mental health professionals and hair salons across Maryland and in other states. The only thing stopping us from reaching out to every hospital and cancer treatment center is funding. Your contribution really does make a difference.

Click here to download a PDF of our special "Hair Loss" brochure.




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