Being diagnosed with cancer is devastating enough, but losing your hair during chemotherapy treatment must only add to the stress. For children though the anxiety is probably enormous.
However, help is at hand in the shape of a new book, published by the American Cancer Society (ACS), which aims to help children cope with hair loss caused by their treatment.
The book itself has stories in which children talk about losing their hair and having to wear donated wigs. One little girl called Emma talked about the embarrassment she felt when she went to school. She said: “It was just really embarrassing because people weren’t able to differentiate me from being a boy or a girl.”
She was diagnosed with leukaemia when she was just 5 years old. But Emma isn’t alone it seems. According to the ACS around 11,000 children are expected to be diagnosed with cancer this year. This is a huge figure, and something not readily realised. In the UK, a similar number of children are also diagnosed. However, there is one subtle difference. While British children will be treated on the NHS for free, children in the US will also have the added problem of needing family funding for their treatment. Insurance cover may not be available or it may be insufficient, which will no doubt add to the anxiety felt.
There are, however, many charities in the US that specialise in helping children feel better about their hair loss, with schemes in place whereby wigs made from donated human hair are given away for free.
The ACS hopes the book will go some way to help children, their friends and family members cope better with the effects of treatment. Speaking with local reporters, Dawn Stys, a nurse who works with children cancer patients said: “Not having hair is kind of the hallmark of being sick.”
Dawn added: “Your younger, school aged-kids um deal with it right up front. It’s pretty traumatic when it does happen but then they adjust pretty quickly, [but teenage girls are]…the most into their image and obviously your hair or hair style is such a big part of that so it’s really difficult.”
As for little Emma, she said that once she is better and her hair has grown, she intends to donat it to make a wig for charity.