Friends of ANCHOR has launched a virtual support service for cancer patients who may be facing hair loss during lockdown.
The organisation usually offers the free service through its in-house hairdresser Heather Dalgarno, who volunteers in the ANCHOR Unit at ARI every Monday.
With restrictions currently in place at ARI and hairdressers across the country closed, the charity has decided to go virtual with its hair and wig styling service. It will run every day, with free, professional advice and support delivered via video call, telephone or messaging apps. Patients will be able to make appointments to suit their needs, whether it’s advice on how to fit and maintain their prescription wig, emotional and practical support as they face the often devastating side effect of hair loss, or tips for those who have new hair growing in, to give them the confidence to lose the wig and style their new-look natural hair.
The charity has also launched a postal delivery service for some of its wellbeing provisions.
During her shifts in the ANCHOR Unit, hairdresser Heather gets to know patients well, preparing them for what’s ahead with hair loss, helping with wig referrals, fitting and styling, as well as bringing some much-welcomed pampering with blow drys, hair cuts and beard trims. Often Heather can be asked by patients to shave their heads; an emotional day which many patients may now find themselves having to do alone.
Heather said: “For some patients, the trauma of losing their hair is worse than the treatment itself. No two people will lose their hair in the same way, and the emotional impact is different for everyone.
“It’s hard to think that some of the usual avenues of support aren’t available right now for people facing hair loss. We wanted to do all we can to bring some at-home support and help them along the way, whatever part of the journey they’re on. Each appointment will be tailored specifically to that person’s needs and will be taken at their own pace. I’d love to help build a plan for them to find their confident new look.”
Heather is able to provide advice on wig fitting, care and styling, as well as styling or wearing head coverings. For patients who have recently started chemotherapy and feel anxious about what is ahead with hair loss, Heather has worked with Friends of ANCHOR for seven years supporting oncology and haematology patients in the ANCHOR Unit so knows exactly what they will be going through. Requests are also welcome from family members who would like advice on how to support a loved one facing hair loss as a side effect of treatment.
Each patient receiving treatment in the ANCHOR Unit has access to the referral scheme for an NHS-funded wig, while Friends of ANCHOR provides patients with their first head covering for free, for both men and women, in a variety of colours and patterns.
In addition to the online hair loss service, Friends of ANCHOR has launched a postal service for its wellbeing provisions, which have been carefully selected to help patients manage some of the other side-effects of treatment. The charity will arrange safe delivery of wellbeing provisions to patients who require them. These items, which are all free, include sea bands and ginger remedies to alleviate nausea, soothing conditioner for dry scalps and digital thermometers for patients to closely monitor their temperature.