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China Daily

Focus> In-Depth China> Content
Monday, February 03, 2020, 11:51
Volunteers are giving young cancer patients a head start
By Zhou Huiying in Harbin and Han Junhong in Changchun
Monday, February 03, 2020, 11:51 By Zhou Huiying in Harbin and Han Junhong in Changchun

Hair donated to barber goes into free wigs for children undergoing chemotherapy

Liu Jianjun helps a young patient wear a wig properly at the First Bethune Hospital of Jilin University in Changchun, Jilin province. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

About 120 volunteers have donated their hair to Changchun barber Liu Jianjun over the past 18 months to help children with cancer who have lost hair due to the side effects of chemotherapy.

Liu, 50, who runs a barber shop in the capital of Northeast China's Jilin province, launched a charity program with a local media outlet in June 2018.

"I provided free haircuts for them and another 80 volunteers posted me their hair," he said. "All the hair has been turned into wigs by a company in Shanghai free of charge."

I have visited the sick children in hospital several times. When I saw their smiles after wearing the proper wigs, I thought it had all been worth it

Wang Hongying, Changchun resident

More than 100 children in the city have received free wigs that can help them regain their self-esteem and self-confidence during cancer treatment.

Patients receiving chemotherapy, especially children, have weaker immunity and can only wear wigs made from human hair, not synthetic fibers.

"A wig needs about two donors' hair, with a length of more than 40 centimeters," Liu said. "A wig made from real hair costs several thousand yuan up to 10,000 yuan (US$1,450), which seems a huge burden for most of the young patients' families."

Changchun resident Wang Hongying, 71, had last cut her long hair 17 years ago.

"The hair was well-preserved and I'd refused several people who wanted to buy it till I got to know about the charity program," she said. "Although I really liked my black hair and planned to keep it as a souvenir, I donated it without any hesitation."

Her daughter also became one of the volunteers and began to introduce the charity program to her friends.

"I have visited the sick children in hospital several times," Wang said. "When I saw their smiles after wearing the proper wigs, I thought it had all been worth it."

Liu gives a volunteer a haircut after she decided to donate her hair to Liu's project. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Wan Fei, a regular customer of Liu's shop, is growing her hair longer so that she can donate it too.

"When I saw the posters promoting the idea of helping those young patients, I decided to keep my hair longer," she said. "My hair is still not long enough, so I have to keep waiting.

"I have a daughter who always wants to have a pretty look, so I can well understand the children who are afraid of playing with others due to hair loss.

"The children may become more sensitive, especially when they experience rejection from strange eyes. What the volunteers do can help them regain confidence in life and become optimistic and positive."

A volunteer displays the hair she donated to young cancer patients in Changchun. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

After two years' treatment at First Bethune Hospital of Jilin University, a 4-year-old girl nicknamed Duoduo returned to her home in a village in Jilin city recently.

"She is now in stable condition and only needs regular examinations," said her mother, Yang Dan. "My thanks go to those who gave us great help in the past two years, such as the wig for my daughter."

Duoduo was diagnosed with a serious adrenal tumor in December 2017 and began to receive chemotherapy and radiotherapy at the hospital.

The initial treatment caused severe reactions, including high fever, anorexia and hair loss.

"I could do nothing but accompany her in the hospital," Yang said. "One day when I washed my hair, Duoduo suddenly asked me where her hair was. At that time, I felt my world seemed shattered."

After finishing her sixth chemotherapy session, Duoduo received a wig from the charity program.

"She was too young to understand the meaning of beauty, but she showed us a smile after wearing the wig," Yang said. "Her smile is my biggest happiness.

"Duoduo will keep wearing the wig till her hair grows longer. Without being afraid of playing with others due to hair loss, her dream of playing outside can finally come true."

Zhang Yuan, head nurse of the pediatric oncology department at First Bethune Hospital of Jilin University, said: "For those young patients, the treatment may become a tough time in their memories. It would be another blow for them when they meet strangers' curious stares and inquiries about their bald heads.

"With the help of the wigs, they can regain confidence and happiness."

Contact the writers at zhouhuiying@chinadaily.com.cn

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