'Hair-raising' plan to help boost cancer patients' self-esteem

Workers at Singapura Hair Wigs making wigs that will be loaned to cancer patients. It was commissioned by Tan Tock Seng Hospital to make wigs from donated hair - nearly 120 people have pledged their hair.
Workers at Singapura Hair Wigs making wigs that will be loaned to cancer patients. It was commissioned by Tan Tock Seng Hospital to make wigs from donated hair - nearly 120 people have pledged their hair.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Mr Ho Yang Chuw's workplace is full of hair.

The wigmaker has been commissioned by Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) to make around 40 wigs from donated hair as part of a scheme to help breast cancer patients regain their self-esteem.

Nearly 120 people - including 60 hospital staff - have come forward to pledge their tresses.

"We've had to reject people, because it was getting a bit overwhelming," said Dr Juliana Chen, who is director of TTSH's breast clinic.

The hospital started its hair donation drive in February to help breast cancer patients deal with the emotional blow of losing their hair while undergoing treatment.

"One of the reasons why a lot of patients don't want chemotherapy is that their hair falls out," said Dr Chen.

"It helps me treat them better if I can offer them this to help boost their self-esteem."

Unlike events such as the Children's Cancer Foundation's Hair for Hope, participants do not have to shave their heads.

However, said Mr Ho, they must each pledge at least 20cm of hair, which will be sorted and made into wigs.

"We use partly machine weaving, and (also) partly knot the hair by hand," Mr Ho, who runs Singapura Hair Wigs, added.

"Each wig takes about eight to 10 days to make," he said.

The hospital also called for monetary donations, as each wig costs around $200 to make.

The wigs will be loaned to breast cancer patients for between six months and a year - which is enough time for hair to grow back after chemotherapy stops.

Forming nearly half of the hair donors are 51 students from CHIJ Secondary (Toa Payoh), some of whom had their tresses snipped off last Tuesday.

"I wasn't brave enough to shave my head bald," said Secondary 4 student Jill Pereira, who is taking part.

"But this is something I can do and that cancer patients can benefit from."

linettel@sph.com.sg