Sunday July 1, 2012
Losing hair for a good cause
PEOPLE lose their hair by choice, or by circumstances.
Cancer patients lose their hair when they undergo chemotherapy. I know. I have been through that journey before the first time in 2006 and another time last year.
The hair normally starts to drop after the first round of chemotherapy. In some cases, it starts later.
On both occasions, the moment my hair started to drop, I went to the barber to shave my head bald.
I reckoned it was better than having hair all over the house, which would give my caregivers more work than necessary.
I was told I look good bald, just like Yul Brynner or Patrick Stewart, though I would much prefer being compared to younger personalities.
In the oncology wards, meeting people without hair is common, although some women may put on wigs while the men wear caps.
Most of us just go through this phase of the journey knowing that the hair loss is temporary. We are proud of our shining scalps and it is a matter of time before our hair grows back, more luxuriant than ever.
I recall a memorable occasion when I met three women from three different ethnicities at the ward. I had completed my treatment a year earlier and my hair had grown back.
The three were reading Face to Face with Cancer that morning (this is a little book I co-wrote with my wife to encourage cancer patients and caregivers) and the nurse introduced them to me.
I told them that this time last year, I was in the same situation as them, making conversation with fellow patients while having the chemo drugs flow into my vein.
But I was bald, I said. They laughed, and almost as if on cue, they removed their wigs.
What about those who go bald because of choice?
Well, it does happen. I have seen many family members and friends who have decided to go bald to show their solidarity with the patient. So it can be a bit confusing wondering who the real patient is when a group of baldies walks into the hospital.
And then there are also those very ordinary, normal people who are prepared to go bald for a whole range of reasons in support of a noble cause, for political reasons or even because of a friendly bet.
I am touched that many, including TV newscaster Ras Adiba Radzi, have responded to Makna's Jom Botak (jombotak.makna.my) cancer awareness campaign.
I hope that the ensuing controversy will not detract from the fact that she cropped her hair with the purest of intentions. It is an action straight from the heart.
Today, the term cancer survivor has taken on a broader meaning to encompass many who do not actually have the disease, like the caregiver, the oncologist, the nurse and the friend.
Over the years, I have seen the oncology wards get busier, and we often remark that cancer has become so common now.
Thankfully, there is no shortage of “cancer champions” (as the late Kak Endon referred to us) who are doing their best to educate the people about the Big C. Whether we go bald, by choice or by circumstances, let us rejoice that we are able and willing to spread the message of hope. Thank you Ras.
> Deputy executive editor Soo Ewe Jin is starting to lose his hair, but this time it is simply because he is getting old.