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That inspiring ponytail..

Yaaayyyy!!! So it has finally happened! This is my first ever blog and I am starting to pen my words with the most favourite and passionate topic of Hair Donation that I have been involved in recently, which is the noble act of donating hair for the creation of wigs for cancer patients.

This deed of kindness, goes all the way to two years back on 8th Feb 2015, when I was living in Chennai… I had seen an ad in the Sunday newspaper that the beauty salon Green Trends, in association with Cancer Institute, was welcoming ladies to donate hair for making wigs for cancer patients for World Cancer Day. In another 30 minutes, I got a message on Whatsapp from one of my close friends Rajani, who shared a picture of the ad saying that she was planning to donate her hair and if I was also interested in doing the same. Thanks to her, it was the first time I heard about hair donation, but the decision to go ahead took only another 4 to 5 minutes, as memories of one of my closest family, my house help, Damayanti, who is a cancer survivor for 10 years now, but still the dearest aunty of my kids, losing 80 per cent of her hair overnight after the 1st shot of her chemotherapy, flashed through my mind.

Ever since I started growing my hair from college days, people who knew me, my friends and colleagues, always used to identify me with my long lustrous hair… I loved my thick locks of hair the most in my body, I was proud and confident, the way it used to be straight, shining and perfect…It didn’t matter if I wore a totally Indian traditional saree, salwar suit or completely western party wear, jeans or shorts, I never missed a chance and always made it a point to flaunt that beautiful hair.. As the saying goes, “Neighbour’s envy, Owner’s Pride”, I used to leave my thick locks of hair free till my waist without tying them up and my hands were always running through my hair , that my besties used to pull a fast one with me, saying that I was fishing for compliments, leaving that black beauty. Pregnancy and post delivery hair loss did not slow me down and both times ,I did make sure that my hair was much better, even if I had to take that extra effort to maintain it with my kids around!!!

However, in my mind, I thought , “After all ,hair is something which will grow and when you think about the people who are fighting this disease daily, these are trivial inhibitions that you need to get away with.”
At that point of time, what I felt was that I wanted to give someone the gift of hope, comfort and peace of mind. One day when they’re cancer-free, they’ll look back knowing they’ve been supported all along by someone out there!!!
Within the next 1 hour, I told my family members, my husband and my daughter mainly motivated me with this decision immediately. I called up this salon and fixed an appointment for the hair cut within couple of hours. I had always been attached to my long hair and cutting 12 inches off of my hair to donate for this act of kindness, was a very emotional experience.

So then I went to beauty parlour and the hair stylist did that chop, chop, chop, while I was closing my eyes tight and to realize in just 2 mins time, that 12 inches of my long locks of hair was all gone !! Yes, it was very shocking to me that I could just give away those locks of hairs which was my most proud possession…But within seconds, I was so happy, and trust me, it was a rewarding experience and felt so good to realize, that I had helped change someone’s life better!!! Ever since I did that noble act, not even once have I regretted my decision…

The next one week went on . Many of my friends, colleagues and relatives were sympathizing to me, “Oh , you used to have such long hair, why did you cut that long hair of yours?”, I was very cool and calm ,explaining to them why I did this and how important it was for us to come forward for such cause, and in my mind thanking God 100 times that I did have the strength to do this!!! While some were genuinely asking me out of concern, I also was in a little shock about the social stigma that we have, wherein a woman cutting her hair so short, was indeed so much to deal with,especially when married. All those moments, my heart was again and again, going back to those souls who lose 90% of the hair through chemotherapy. They are going through so much pain and trauma of cancer disease and the treatment, and on top of that, they end up losing their hair too. If this is the way our society looks at people with scanty and no hair, God! It will be so traumatic and indeed must lower the self-esteem of sufferers so much… my question was repeatedly, why is beauty so much determined by your looks and hair, and is it not the inner beauty of the human being that matters?
Further, my hair had grown so long in the last two years and I had thought about going to salon and cutting my hair many times, but it was just not happening due to my busy schedule.

After I moved to Pune, I met a very inspiring lady, my friend Manisha, last year February, who is into Pune running activities and is a doctor herself, who had gone through the entire episode of cancer a year back. I was fortunate enough to meet her on that day, when she had finished her rounds of chemotherapy, wearing a wig and celebrating the completion of Chemo. But the charm with which she carried herself with a beautiful smile on her face was so inspiring, no matter what tough times she had to go through, managing her chemo sessions , her job, home and school going kids..Isn’t that so inspiring?

So those moments of seeing my dear friend that day ,was running in my mind again and again, and I started getting this feeling that I should get back into hair donation and help someone have a better life and not waste the hair in the salons!! And so, I once again decided to go ahead with this cause and at that moment, I was telling to myself whether I have a calling and may be destined towards this and was extremely excited!!

I started enquiring in beauty parlours near my house, whether they do such hair donation activities and was tied up with any organizations and to my surprise, no one who I spoke to, were even aware of this concept and was asking me “What is Hair Donation?”!!! At that time, I came across this organization called Hair for Hope – India through Facebook and known sources, which I understood was an NGO ,that was started by Dubai-based Premi Mathew in 2013. I read more about them and understood Premi had started another initiative — Protect Your Mom — to spread awareness about breast cancer and how expensive these wigs are for buying and people who go through chemotherapy really struggle to get one… There were also instructions on how to donate ,that was clearly available in their website

www.protectyourmom.asia/hair-donation/how-to-donate

By that time I was pretty clear that I was going ahead with this for the second time, but I would donate 15 inches of hair as that was the minimum length they were collecting… They use 6 such strands of 15 inches of hair to make a wig. Thankfully my hair was more than 19 inches long!!!

Things were much easier as this was the second time I was donating my hair. I was much bolder, more confident and clearer that I have to go ahead with this cause..Of course, I knew for a fact that I have to deal with people’s reactions on “Lakshmi, why did you cut that long beautiful hair of yours?” If my dear friend Manny ,can have such pure smile and confidence on her face , wearing that wig and celebrating her success over this disease, can I not be little selfless and chop those long strands of hair and help those people out there , who cannot even afford to buy those expensive wigs to cover their scalp?

And come February 4th 2017, World Cancer day, I went to my favorite salon nearby, told my stylist friend Vishakha, about this cause and the instructions and YES! Got my hair chopped, another incredible experience!!! It was also another very touching moment, when she thanked me for making her indirectly contribute for this great deed…
Giving away something that is so beautiful and so much part of you makes you selfless and really happy!!! The satisfaction and happiness that I got in doing that act for the second time ,has been such an enriching experience and thanks to all the Gods for helping in such acts of humanity.. And when I came back home, my husband, two kids and their aunty, was so supportive and complimenting that I looked so beautiful!!! As much as I loved my thick long locks of hair, started liking my short hair so much , as it has been so much easier to manage, and the change and new look has been very welcoming.

Once my hair was cut , I sent it to this organization Sargakshetra Cultural Centre, charity based NGO who are the wig suppliers based in Kerala and also provide free wigs for economically challenged chemo patients. My hair donation pictures (before and after) were sent to Premi, as a standard procedure, and this was published in Hair for Hope FB page . She also requested to share this picture with my friends, FB groups and whatsapp groups to spread the word and awareness…
So I went ahead and shared this news in my FB wall,with my folks especially parents and from my husband’s family – parents-in-law, brothers & sisters-in-law, uncle & aunts , Zumba friends and few other school and friends whatsapp groups.. I was so surprised and humbled by the support that people gave me and the compliments I received too!! But then there were mixed reactions too and I was answering all those people once again on the importance of being selfless and come forward for hair donation..

One of my dearest friends, Jaya, was very surprised and totally amazed and suggested as to why I can’t think of spreading the awareness about this donation, through this larger Facebook Ladies group called PULA. PULA is a huge platform of close to 1 lakh Pune based Ladies, also known as Pune’s Google, where women actively search for information of varied kind, give and take suggestions, help fellow PULAites, post opinions, promote their respective businesses under group rules, and is beautifully run by this sweet person Sonia Konjeti. I thought about this for a day and I took this up with Sonia , she was surprised, excited and very happy to hear that such a noble cause of hair donation could be done and was ready to support me whole-heartedly, to spread the word and awareness.

That was a huge turning point!! After I shared my hair donation picture in PULA, I got such an overwhelming response and support through my friend Geetika and other PULAites, such emotional moments and was totally inspired by their kind and sweet words. Many women came forward saying that they were not even aware that hair could be donated, and have heard only about giving away food, clothes, books and other items. And when they had such long hair, why not do some acts of humanity for this devastating disease, rather than throw the hair in the parlour bins.

In India, this hair donation initiative is very popular in Mangalore, Bangalore and Chennai. People, who have stayed in the US for a while, would have, of course, heard about this as it is very popular with organizations like Locks of Love…And this is slowly becoming an upcoming trend for Pune women to donate hair to make wigs for cancer patients. Over the last 4 to 5 months,10 beautiful women, who are selfless with golden hearts, have come forward for this noble cause, either donating their hair or by going complete bald to show solidarity with cancer patients and posting their “happy and smiling” hair donation pics in social media. Thanks to each of the beauties!!
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/pune/women-donate-hair-to-make-wigs-for-cancer-patients/articleshow/58814327.cms

Today when I get minimum 3 to 4 enquiries and calls every week and people tag me in FB for hair donation, I am totally humbled and thankful to God, who inspires me to take this to a larger audience and create more and more awareness and make more ladies have the courage and heart to come forward for this. When I see my dear buddy Tara, who has just come out of this disease saying that “Every day is a Gift and a true reflection of that change, which has helped me to sail through and shine brighter”, I strongly feel that we need more people to be aware of how we can help each other and make a small difference in each other’s lives!!

I have also had a news coverage with the IBN Lokmat News Channel about a month back, on how Hair for Hope reaches Pune, story of my journey of hair donation. Thanks to almighty for making me part of this great initiative …Owe to my dearest family, especially Francis & kids, my relatives ,awesome friends ,well wishers and the wonderful platform PULA for helping me spread the awareness!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6cNWJszwu8

WHY DONATE?

Though the hair loss is painless and mostly temporary, it is often one of the most distressing side effects of chemotherapy and lowers the self-esteem of sufferers, making them withdraw into a shell! A wig with natural hair is very expensive. So it is criminal to throw away hair when people go for haircuts, not knowing that the hair which is wasted could actually bring a smile to a chemo patient.

Cancer needs to be eradicated, till then giving hope to people affected with this devastating disease is the least we can do to show our humanity… This contribution is our small way of celebrating life by helping someone copes with cancer.

A picture is worth a thousand words, as the saying goes!! Every picture helps to inspire a ponytail, a city, a state and even a nation!!! Spread the word, Spread the awareness, Donate hair!!!

Have you ever thought of donating your hair? Would you like to one day?

WHY DONATE?
Though the hair loss is painless and mostly temporary, it is often one of the most distressing side effects of chemotherapy and lowers the self-esteem of sufferers, making them withdraw into a shell! A wig with natural hair is very expensive. So it is criminal to throw away hair when people go for haircuts, not knowing that the hair which is wasted could actually bring a smile to a chemo patient.

Cancer needs to be eradicated, till then giving hope to people affected with this devastating disease is the least we can do to show our humanity… This contribution is our small way of celebrating life by helping someone copes with cancer.

A picture is worth a thousand words, as the saying goes!! Every picture helps to inspire a ponytail, a city, a state and even a nation!!! Spread the word, Spread the awareness, Donate hair!!!

Have you ever thought of donating your hair? Would you like to one day?

Hair Donation

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