Last year, I was in a female workshop in Leeds, when the chair asked all the ladies present what was their favourite smell. So they started mentioning fragrances like “vanilla”, “jasmine” and some other exotic perfumes. I was the last one to whom this question was asked. I could easily say the name of a sophisticated perfume, as I was used to it from the times I was single, but these things lost importance in my life since I became a mother. So I said: “My favourite smell is the smell of my children.”
I don’t know if it is true what many people say: “older parents make better parents”. Actually, I can answer only for myself, not for other parents. In my case, as I became a mother for the first time at a mature age, I think it made me very devoted to my children, always worrying about them and not being so self-centred anymore. Taking all of them to play at toddlers’ groups when they were little, I heard some other mothers commenting about hair donation as a way of helping children who are undergoing chemotherapy. I fancied the idea from the beginning and so if perfumes had lost importance for me, why do I still need all my long brown hair only for myself? Even though I don’t think it is up to me to resolve all the unfairness in our world, “every little helps…”
Even though I prefer to have long hair, I can easily give it up if it comes to helping a child in need. Therefore, I decided to donate my hair to little children and young adults who are undergoing chemotherapy or have other conditions resulting in hair loss. We have no control over the genes we pass to our children, but we can have some control over the examples we set for them. So I also thought that was a good opportunity to set my children a positive role model. It may be possible to reduce hair loss due to chemotherapy medication by using the “cold cap”, which cools the scalp whilst the patient receives the treatment. Therefore, reducing medication which reacts with the scalp, there is also a reduction of hair loss. However, a cold cap cannot be used in all types of cancer, and it only has an effect with certain types of chemotherapy medications. They can also cause headaches, may fail to prevent hair loss and, because they are expensive, are not available everywhere. So knowing that the cold cap is not exactly a “miracle”, and determined to help, I searched on the Internet and found a great charity called “Little Princess Trust”. Contacting them, I was looked after by a kind lady, who gave me all the instructions about the necessary procedures that must take place before the donation: your hair must be clean, don’t wear hairstyle products before the cut, the minimum length for the donation must be 17 cm, the hair donated must be packed in a plastic bag and posted by the donor to the charity.
At the forefront of that fabulous voluntary service that makes less fortunate children be happier is the Manager Monica Glass, who says: “The NHS provides a synthetic wig to any child/young adult that requests one. However, they are not realistic and that’s why the charity originally started. In theory, a child could have a wig from the NHS and another from the Little Princess Trust.”
The charity makes no restrictions about the gender of the children who receive the wigs, according to Glass, wigs are provided to both boys and girls and even to teenagers right to young adults. “If the cancer sufferer is treated within a teenage cancer unit, in this case Little Princess Trust will provide a wig up to the age of 25. If the patient has a non cancer diagnosis (for instance alopecia or any other condition resulting in hair loss), the upper age limit is reduced to be a recipient of a wig,” she says.
Many children don’t care so much about hair loss. All they want is to get rid of that illness and carry on playing, go back to school and see their friends again. But children are all different. For instance, I never forgot how it was upsetting to have my hair cut very short, when I was too young to protest: I didn’t want to look like a boy. In the case of young adults, it is usually difficult to address the total loss of their hair, as it can be a defining part of their identity. So if they lose their hair, they feel like losing part of their identity. This can affect their self-confidence and even cause depression, as they don’t want to seem different from their peers. Actually, the hair loss can be very stressful for a teenage girl, as it is said that 50% of her looks depends on her hair. According to the way she styles her tresses, she shows her personality and mood more than with her clothing. If they are provided with a wig during a chemotherapy treatment, they won’t look sick, which is key. So Glass adds: “The age group which receives the largest number of wigs is aged 15-16.”
Also, there is no restriction on the age of the donors, as some donors are as young as 4 years old, children who want to help poorly children to have a wig. Glass says: “The charity has no exact details of the ages of our kind donors, however we are aware that a large proportion are from children.”
So I went to my hairdresser on the 26th September, where I had my hair platted, secured at both the root end and the tip end. She cut my hair above the band at the root end, releasing a plait over 30 cm of length, as I wanted to help in the best way I could. Donating 2/3 of my hair to a little child supported by Little Princess Trust, I kept what was left at shoulder’s length and settled down all my guilt feelings. My kids and my husband appreciated what I had done, saying: “mum shared her hair, now she looks even more lovely.” And happier, for making a child smile again, as well making a point with my own children. Actually, a teenager may receive my hair as part of her wig, as it can take from between 3-5 donations to make just a single wig. It is up to the wig manufacturer to decide whether a donated hair is suitable for the charity. If it is acceptable, the wigs are manufactured in small sizes and can normally cost up to £2.000,00 each, so they are not easily affordable. But Little Princess Trust doesn’t sell any hair donated to the charity.
It is flattering to have the power to serve, the power to help and enrich young people. They are the future of our world, although we parents prefer to think of our daughters and sons as being ever our Little Princesses and Princes. So why not to boost their confidence whenever we can? Why not to help a girl feel like a little Princess again? After all, our children’s self-esteem is the foundation of their well-being and the key to success as an adult. I still remember my childish feelings, but time goes by and I have become a mature lady, aware that I am leaving my mark in this world as well. That’s why I champion younger generations. If your child is going for chemotherapy, you can help her to cope with hair loss by talking about whatever you decide. You can even encourage your child to talk with a member of the oncology staff.
All the expenses, I mean the hairdresser and post office fees to send any hair to the charity, must be managed by the donor. In my case, my expenses as a hair donor were as follows:
1) Hair cut with my hairdresser: £29.00
2) Post office fees: £1.24
3) Giving a smile back to the face of a little child: priceless