KARACHI: Cancer is a deadly disease which steals not only health but other joys as well. One part of its treatment is chemotherapy which causes hair loss and leaves patients bald. Many women of Karachi donated their hair to help prepare wigs for cancer patients as part of a drive organised by Pakistan Youth Forum’s (PYF) ‘Hair to help’ campaign at Depilex Parlour in Bahadurabad. The drive continued from 11am to 4pm on Sunday and within just five hours, nearly 50 women and young girls had donated their hair.
The aim of the campaign was to donate free wigs for cancer patients who have lost their hair due to chemotherapy. These wigs are supplied to hospitals where cancer patients are being treated, including Aga Khan University Hospital and Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital. Typically, the market price for a fake wig is above Rs15,000 but these wigs are provided free of cost after taking the patient’s data.
Syed Fahad Ali of PYF told The Express Tribune that ‘Hair to help’ is a project of PYF which has been going on since 2012. “We obtain hair from women and produce wigs for cancer patients, most people contact us through Facebook which is our essential mode of communication,” he said. “Mostly, teenagers from Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi contact us for this campaign,” he added. According to Ali, donors donate a minimum of 12 inches of their hair which is then sent to vendors in China who prepare the wigs. Local vendors do not provide the required quality, and since cancer patients’ skin becomes very sensitive due to the treatment, selections need to be made carefully, said Ali. A few inches of hair is discarded in the wig making process which is why there is a fixed minimum hair length of 12 inches so the final wig length can be at least 8 to 9 inches – long enough to cover the whole scalp, he said.
The donated hair is kept in different packets with the name of the donor on them. Usually four to six kilogramme packets are sent to China through a private courier service and complete wigs arrive after approximately 20 days. If there are no budget issues, hair ponies are sent in three months which are returned in the shape of wigs.
According to Ali’s estimates, roughly 80% of the donors are young girls and the other 20% include women and children. A major reason for this is that teenagers use Facebook more frequently and hence are more aware of this drive, he explained.
Sunbul, a young girl who donated her hair for the second time, said that it is her own wish to contribute to this effort. Since fake wigs for cancer patients are very expensive, she grows her hair so she can donate it. “People get shocked when I tell them about this since very few people in Pakistan are aware of this issue and if hair donation makes cancer patients happy then everyone should play their role in spreading happiness,” she said. Sunbul found out about the drive through Facebook.
Another donor, Romana, said that she joined the effort because she believes that hair is no less than a blessing for such patients. She said that hair beautifies a human’s persona and it makes them charming and attractive. “I can’t even imagine living without hair, I will be so disappointed if this happens. I think if my hair can make someone else beautiful then I should donate my hair,” she said, adding that it makes her happy to donate her hair for those who have lost theirs.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2018.