Recently, one of Azzam Ameen’s posts caught a lot of attention, as is usually the case whenever politics/politicians get highlighted. The post briefly talked about politician Hirunika Premachandra donating her hair for cancer patients. Most of the reactions were a mix of “she’s just trying to score political points” and “why are you highlighting this?”.
I share a similar sentiment with regard to highlighting that particular post. Not so much why it was highlighted, rather how it was highlighted. Unsurprisingly, many seemed to have missed the importance of the hair donation itself as a result.
Donating hair is not a new phenomenon. Although, there are still those who are left confused after seeing someone talk about donating their hair for cancer patients. The question in their minds is “how does this help cancer patients exactly?” So if you’re one of those people here’s hoping this will help add clarity.
At a very basic level, donated hair is used to make wigs for cancer patients who lose hair during chemotherapy treatment. The wigs commonly serve but not limited to, children and girls. Why? Because it isn’t like a guy going bald for fashion, cancer patients aren’t left with a choice on the matter. The process of losing hair can have a significant psychological impact on one’s self-confidence and overall mental health.
What’s important to understand is that losing your hair is more than just about the looks. It can serve as a constant reminder of the ordeal you’re going through as a cancer patient. Furthermore, it’s a situation that affects your relationships and how society as a whole associate you. At the very least, a wig could serve to help patients feel more like themselves.
How does it work?
Once the hair is cut its sent to wig manufacturers. The manufacturers then make the wigs and send them to the cancer patients. For example, Ramani Fernando Salons has a hair donation program for cancer patients in partnership with Indira Cancer Trust. The salons cut the hair from the donors and the initiative, in turn, makes wigs for cancer patients in Sri Lanka.
Of course, organizations may have different donation requirements. This is for both functional and quality purposes. In Ramani Fernando’s case, your hair has to be at least 8 inches long.
Unfortunately for Sri Lanka, getting enough wigs made is a challenge. Speaking to The Morning in early February, Dr. Lanka Jayasuriya-Dissanayake, Head of Indira Cancer Trust, mentioned that efficient equipment used to stitch wigs can only be found in China. Thereby, transporting hair between the 2 countries is a slow and tedious process.
She further stated that Indira Cancer Trust attempted to acquire one of the machines from China but has been unsuccessful so far. Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic in place, this might seem a near-impossible task. At least for the time being.
So, what can I do?
One of the things we can do in the longterm is to help change the general perception. For instance, it would help to change society’s view that you need hair to look aesthetically pleasing. If we guys can pull off the bald look then it shouldn’t be any different for women and children. Cancer patients already go through enough trauma.
Understandably, perceptions are hard things to change. Particularly across an entire culture. So, in the meantime, you can always contribute to the cause to help the much-needed community.
If you live in Sri Lanka, you can donate your hair via Ramani Fernando Salons. Provided its at least 8 inches long. However, the program might be temporarily on hold owing to the coronavirus situation. So, its best to check with Indira Cancer Trust on 011 236 2311.