Cancer is a brutal and unfortunately common disease. In fact, twenty-two out of 10,000 women ages 50 to 54 will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the next year. The treatments designed to save your life can end up doing a remarkable amount of harm to your body; when you’re already feeling nauseous and weak, having your hair fall out can truly be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Since over 65% of cancer sufferers lose their hair to chemotherapy treatments, forcing their internal battle to manifest outwardly, the Canadian Cancer Society has decided to do what little they can to help.
Why Hair Matters
Unlike the natural balding process in which hair loss occurs between 10 and 20 years, chemotherapy-induced hair loss happens rapidly. Most cases see around 60% loss, although many people lose all of the hair on their bodies, including delicate eyelash and eyebrow hairs. This is because chemotherapy is designed to kill cancer cells; unfortunately, it is much more difficult to target one specific area of the body, so the entire system is treated.
Hair follicles, which divide every 23 to 72 hours when healthy, are killed along with the cancer cells, and the hair falls out because it is unable to grow back. Abundance makes no difference; there are between 75 and 100 trillion cells in the human body, millions of which make up the hair follicles on your head, but chemo is so powerful and toxic that they rarely stand a chance.
This is extremely devastating for women, many of whom value their hair as a form of expression. Because hair loss can contribute to decreased self-esteem and shame, the Canadian Cancer Society has decided to open a wig bank in Kingston; when finished, the location will allow women and children to pick up wigs free of cost to help them feel their best during such difficult times.
“When they come in, they’re usually either overwhelmed, upset, or stressed so we try to alleviate some of that stress,” said Sylvie Fisher, a hairstyling apprentice at the All Hair Alternatives and Beas Mastectomy Boutique. “That makes them walk out with a smile on their face, their self-confidence comes back and they’re a whole lot happier.”
Doug Kane, CEO of the Canadian Cancer Society in the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington area, explained that the purpose of the wig room was to act as a sort of “lending library.”
“They can try (the wigs) on, take them. At the end of the day, they leave with a wig, and it seems like they’re leaving with sort of a new lease on life and a renewed hope,” he said.
Although it may seem like a simple difference, it has a profound impact on the lives of these women and children.