Facing treatment for cancer can be a daunting time. To enable you to concentrate all your energy on getting better, you don’t need too much else to worry about and life needs to remain as normal as possible, right? I was present during the time where a close friend started chemotherapy and lost her hair (which grew back beautifully) and this year my teenage daughter lost most of her hair as a result of Psoriasis from biologic infusions for an immune disorder. I wanted to share my daughter’s wonderful and empowering story to inspire others who are facing the prospect of some or complete hair loss. She has given me her permission because, in her words, “of course mum as it may help someone else”.
It is important to know that if you ever arrive at your imagined hair loss worst case scenario, there is more choice out there than just NHS wigs. Real, professional help is out there, allowing you to move through what you think you can’t face and thrive way beyond it.
What does our hair symbolise?
History shows that hair is a symbol of beauty and femininity, particularly long hair, and evolutionary psychology suggests long hair was a sign of fertility. I asked my daughter what her long hair meant to her and she said it was her “signature and reflection of [her] identity”. Our self-esteem can take a serious knock if we lose our hair and history shows that it is evident that we have a deep personal relationship between hair and self-esteem. Hair is an obvious feminine marker, if it is removed do we feel we have nothing to hide behind and our face becomes more of a focus?
I remember sitting in the hospital with the Dermatologist hearing him say my daughter may lose a little bit of her hair and feeling sadness in my heart. I remember having a phone conversation with him a few weeks later, me reporting to him that she was losing more and more hair and I got very emotional. He remarked that my daughter’s immune system problems are somewhat invisible but losing her hair meant that it was a constant reminder that she wasn’t always well and it was no longer invisible. He mentioned The Little Princess Trust and the option of a real hair wig if things worsened.
I didn’t hesitate, I contacted them and the voice on the other end of the phone was so compassionate and understanding. Even during lockdown they put me in touch with a registered hair replacement specialist nearest to us. This is how we met Andrea Long, the owner of Andrea’s Hair Room in Leeds, West Yorkshire.
Our Fairy Godmother
Andrea is originally from Blackpool and has 28 years’ experience as a hair replacement and wig specialist, her interest sparked from accompanying her niece, who suffered from alopecia as a young girl, to get a wig. Back then there were limited wigs particularly for children, what was available were all made to fit adult heads, they were too big, too thick and the colours weren’t brilliant. Despite this, Andrea loved the shop and when she left school she went on to work there. She would work on wigs for celebrities, the inspirational gay community who worked at the famous Funny Girls in Blackpool and she saw a different side to the industry.
Eleven years ago she met her husband and moved to Yorkshire and began working in a hair restoration clinic, she eventually bought the business and moved it to what is now her current beautiful premises in Leeds.
Her clients range from cancer patients where she can visit at home or in hospital (pandemic dependent), alopecia sufferers, hair loss through illness, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, Trichotillomania (hair pulling) and female and male patterning hair loss. She offers a full one to one consultation in person or virtually/online which covers your lifestyle, maintenance, colour, style and your personality. She offers an expansive range of wigs, head coverings and hair pieces to match your budget. Wigs range from synthetic and or real human hair, can be custom made, and are all sourced form ethical suppliers.
Price points for wigs start at £180 and can go up to £600 plus but, quite rightly, she pointed out how much our hairdressing bills mount up to per year which is something to consider in your decision. The NHS do have wigs available but their budget is understandably limited. I wanted to write this to explain that something more can be done, that there is a wonder of choice out there and that Andrea and other specialists can offer the right cut, style and personalise your choice just for you.
The Little Princess Trust
The Little Princess Trust came to our rescue and my daughter now has a beautiful real hair wig that she can style, curl and straighten until her hair grows back. She was tired of trying to cover her head up and once she saw her new gorgeous hair (as Andrea predicted), she decided to ask Andrea to shave her hair off and felt immediate liberation.
The charity who have an MBE for volunteer groups have been helping children and young people up to the age of 24 who have lost their own hair through cancer treatments or other conditions since 2006. Providing real hair wigs is the heart of what they do and they also support the development of less aggressive and toxic cancer treatments for children. They have a network of over a hundred specialists and try to raise awareness that donating your hair for children and young people experiencing the devastating effects of hair loss is an incredible thing to do. My daughter has friends that have donated hair and once my daughter’s grows back she plans to donate too. I remember the first time I explained that she could have a real hair wig from The Little Princess Trust and her reply was that she didn’t think she should have one over a child suffering from cancer. Six months on and her hair is growing back and she still prefers her wig!
If you are facing potential hair thinning or loss, I have seen first-hand the life changing experience a real hair wig brings. Avoid trying to worry about how bad it could get, plan ahead of the game and empower yourself with all the choices and knowledge out there so when the moment comes you have options to suit you. It may be a real hair wig, it may be being comfortable having your head shaved, it may be using gorgeous head coverings or all the above. Just rest in the knowledge that real expert help is out there and it is never as bad as you first thought.
Hair Loss Products Recommended by the Jennifer Young Team
For those who have lost their hair as a result of chemotherapy, it’s not unusual to have breakouts on the scalp or experience dry skin. It is important to know that resources are available to help with this. Our collection of dedicated products has been created to help cool, soothe and care for the scalp following hair loss caused by cancer treatments.
The Defiant Beauty Scalp Care Collection contains Dry Scalp Treatment, formulated with tea tree, bergamot and lime known for their antibacterial properties. It is a deeply nourishing mask which helps to relieve tightness, dry skin and soothe sensitive scalps. It also contains Scalp Care Oil for daily moisturisation, containing 10 natural ingredients known for antibacterial properties. This product can help prevent breakouts on the scalp. The final product in the trio is the Scalp Cleansing Sprtiz. Wigs can sometimes feel very hot to wear. This mist can help you to take a break, cool down and alleviate some discomfort. Itchy Skin Oil can also help to soothe irritated skin.
For more information on The Little Princess Trust go to Littleprincesses.org.uk To contact Andrea Long go to www.andreashairoom.co.uk or call 0113 318 5593
Copyright Gail Donnan 2021