Braid of strength: Hair donation campaign launches for cancer patients

Written by on May 1, 2021

Approximately one out of seven Israeli women fall ill to cancer each year. One of the first effects of chemotherapy treatment is hair loss. 

This means that these women must grapple, on a daily basis, not only with the behemoth that is cancer, but also with side effects like losing hair, something that is precious to them and is a badge of beauty and identity for a woman. 

Pantene and Zichron Menachem, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting young cancer patients and their families, are teaming up, for the eighth year, to gather hair donations from women all over the country – to come together and celebrate the strength and resilience of women living with cancer. 

They are calling the campaign “Braid of Strength.”

Adi Tzvik, 37, told The Jerusalem Post that she donates every time her hair is long enough; the minimum requirement for donating is 30 centimeters, and seven of those donations make up one wig. 

Tzvik lost her cousin to cancer 10 years ago. 

She was “looking for a change, and I chanced upon the amazing work that Zichron Menachem does, and saw it as an opportunity” to get a new look, but also to give, in a different way. 

Getting the cut not only made her feel great about her looks, but “receiving the certificate after sending the braid – understanding that your donation, your act of giving, means something to so many women” – that sensation is unrivaled. 

TWO YEARS AGO, one of her husband’s relatives passed away from cancer. Before that, she wore a wig. 

“It was so empowering to her, she felt so good with that wig,” Tzvik said. The woman also had a son at the time, and being able to wear the wig around her son “gave her so much strength.” 

“People looked at her and,” thanks to the wig, “they didn’t see just a disease.”

A “donation truck” will travel across Israel, starting in Tel Aviv on May 1 and ending in Jerusalem on May 7, encouraging and facilitating hair donation throughout the trip. 

The donation truck that will travel all over Israel to collect hair donations from women. (Photo Credit: Zichron Menachem)The donation truck that will travel all over Israel to collect hair donations from women. (Photo Credit: Zichron Menachem)

Throughout the week of the campaign, 465 hair salons throughout Israel will participate in the campaign, offering cuts for free when the hair gets donated.

According to the organization, public awareness and receptivity of hair donation for cancer wigs has grown tremendously over the past seven years, surpassing other countries which host the campaign as well, like the US and New Zealand.

ATARA GHERMAN, 18, woke up one morning, when she was a bit over 15, and felt a bump in her neck. At the advice of her parents, she took blood tests. They revealed nothing. 

Gherman was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a week after undergoing a biopsy, which “doesn’t show up in the blood,” she said. 

Hodgkin’s is a type of cancer which grows in the lymphatic system of the body, the one which fights germs. It can spread to different parts and affect different areas.

One of the symptoms of Hodgkin’s is expanded nodes in the neck. 

When she got diagnosed, her sister bought her a journal: “It’s very important that you write, because you’re going to look back later on and not recall everything,” she told her. 

She recalled the exact moment she found out: She was sitting in the oncologist’s office with her parents, and they all looked at each other and understood. 

The shock, wonder and fear hit her strong. “You don’t think of people having a normal life before they have cancer,” you think “cancer is for sick people.” 

Gherman was then 16. 

“I really started to cry when she told me that my hair was going to fall out from the chemo[therapy]. Girls’ lives revolve around their hair – they schedule their hair washes around them. I couldn’t imagine my life without mine.” 

After her first round of chemo, she went for one last ride with it, cutting it into a mohawk, and dying it blue and red. 

“I knew that I had to turn this impossible challenge into something fun.” 

Zichron Menachem provided her with a fall wig when the time came, after her second round of chemo, about three weeks after her diagnosis. 

“When people see a bald head [where there should be hair], it can be scary for them, especially little kids; I would always explain to them that I was sick, and the only way for me to get better was to take medicine that would make my hair fall out.

“When they see a bald head, they see death,” she said. Chemo appointments were every other week. 

German didn’t always write in her journal, but she always vlogged, eventually starting a YouTube channel. 

The channel, with over 400 subscribers, became a haven for newly-diagnosed patients, as well as a well of discovery. 

“You see that I’m bald and I’m sick, but I’m still normal. It’s so important to me that people see that: other sick people, but also people who aren’t sick.” 

Tzvik assured that she will be donating her hair to the “Braid of Strength” campaign this year. “As long as my hair allows me to do it, I will continue to donate.”

Find out more about the campaign, and where to donate, here

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