For some of the more than 6.9 million women around the world who are diagnosed with cancer, hair loss is the first outward sign that the cancer they were diagnosed with is real. Other side effects, such as weight loss and possible infertility, can be covered or kept personal. But for a woman who has lost her hair, it is the first public display of the disease, a feature that becomes the most noticeable.
“For most of us, hair is just another accessory,” says Alex Hamilton, Event Chairman at Eta Xi, UC Merced. “But for women who are going through or have gone through chemotherapy and cancer treatment, hair is a part of their identity.” So Alex and her sisters decided to grab the scissors and show how giving and receiving this part of a woman’s identity means more than the strands themselves.
Partnering with Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths program, UC Merced held its annual Beautiful Lengths event on campus March 18. “By making the cut, we wanted to help a woman get part of herself back and giving her a chance to feel beautiful and empowered once again,” she says. “We partnered with the ladies of Main St. Girlz Salon and hairstylist Alison Nicole to ensure that whoever wanted to donate could do so.”
According to the American Cancer Society, the estimated number of women who will be diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. in 2014 is 810,320. During their event, members of Eta Xi were able to gather 32 ponytails from participants, which will be made into about five wigs. UC Merced student Jessica Roque noted how great it felt to donate her hair to someone who needed it more than her. Others left feeling like a million bucks. “We know that this will become a tradition for many years,” says Alex. “We always exceed our expectations with participants and the amount of support we receive!”
Beautiful Lengths is a partnership between Pantene® and the American Cancer Society®, the largest nonprofit health organization committed to saving lives from every cancer and improving the quality of life for people facing it. So far, Pantene has donated 24,000 real-hair wigs to the American Cancer Society’s wig banks, which distribute wigs to cancer patients.