“Losing my hair was far worse than losing my breasts because I felt I looked like I was dying when in reality I was trying so hard to stay alive.” –Jewel Henderson
Many cancer patients experience anxiety when they realize they will no longer have their own hair and will face the pressure of society to wear a wig. Hair is often a large part of how we build our identity and express femininity as females. There are many emotions and questions that come with accepting being bald and choosing a wig. For individuals of color getting a wig that was the same hair texture they had before may be difficult if Cancer organizations do not accept a variety of hair textures as donations. Further cancer patients are faced with having to face society without their hair and need to be given space to embrace their new identity.
Who gets to give?
“Is my hair too Black to give back?”, is a short film produced by Lufuno Ramadwa, University of Cape Town Student and blogger.
The film enlightens viewers to think about why all hair textures aren’t accepted to make wigs as people of all races get cancer and go through a similar experience.
The video touches on the symbolic meaning we as humans attach to our hair and how it plays a large role in the formation of an identity.
Lufuno, said she did the video because her mother had cancer and she struggled to find hair that was not straight. She went on to say, “people of colour think their hair is not good enough to donate…women who have lost their hair to cancer would want to wear wigs because it’s a sense of comfort but women who are bald are just as beautiful”. Lufuno’s comment draws on how hair holds great power over how women are perceived in society and how being a bald woman is often frowned upon.
As Lufuno has said, “hair is a small thing but is actually quite a huge thing in society” which is why hair has a deep representative meaning.
Hair today, bald tomorrow
Understanding the symbolism of hair is vital when understanding why specific hair is chosen for wigs and why wigs are initially promoted for cancer patients. There is a deep cultural and personal attachment to our hair thus losing your hair can be a traumatic experience. The issue is rooted in how many of us are socialized to base our self-worth on physical attractiveness.
“Our hair is often seen as our crowning glory, and some patients may view their hair as their most attractive feature….For many patients undergoing treatment, it’s difficult to shake this cultural and personal attachment to our hair, so experiencing hair loss may be difficult….Hair loss can be a very emotional experience for patients going through chemotherapy or radiation”
– Rhonda Colley (mind-body therapist)
Miss Nuriya Dramat
Nuriya is from Cape Town and was diagnosed in February of 2015 with cancer. She believes taking charge is important when dealing with hair loss after chemotherapy.
“That totally broke me. For the first time since being diagnosed I broke down in tears. Because whether I looked sick or not I was loosing my hair and that I could not hide away,” Nuriyhea Dramat said when asked how it felt.
Nuriya said she would tell other cancer patients to embrace the change and take back the power by shaving their hair off, once it is off walk around showing off your bald head, just take back control.
Bald is beautiful
Hair loss due to cancer may include the fear of rejection from loved ones and society. There are many worldwide projects, campaigns and events that promote cancer patients to embrace their journey.
The Bald Project is a project started by Anna when she was diagnosed with Breast cancer. Anna’s project can inspire women to embrace the journey cancer takes them on. The Bald project is a heart-warming story of how someone can easily make a huge difference in the cancer community as a whole.
Images part of The Bald Project that Anne shared with me.
Be Part of the change
Everyone can participate in this worldwide event happening on the 21 October 2016. Once you register online and pay R145.74 (10$) to get a bald cap to wear on the 21st to help raise money and awareness for cancer organizations. These events bring together a worldwide community together through an interactive event. Click here to find out more.
Wigs available for cancer patients need to include all hair textures to avoid exclusion. Understanding why female patients would want to wear a wig is important as hair is often used as a benchmark for physical attractiveness. This is made clear in lufuno’s film tackles the beauty standards of society. Being bald should be embraced through projects such as The Bald Project as it promotes the beauty of being bald. Further, the worldwide event Be Bold, Be Bald encourages everyone to actively embrace cancer patients who are bald. Nuriyhea Dramat blog and Facebook page promotes conversation around cancer. Supporting cancer patients to accept their physical appearance can help reduce their anxiety to face society.