Cancer patients can get ahead

Petricia Beckwith, of Thorne picks her headscarf from Hazel Moore (r), and Ann Kerrison, of the HeadStrong section, of The Aurora Centre. Picture: Andrew Roe
Petricia Beckwith, of Thorne picks her headscarf from Hazel Moore (r), and Ann Kerrison, of the HeadStrong section, of The Aurora Centre. Picture: Andrew Roe

A RANGE of brightly coloured hats and headscarves, a huge, lit mirror and attendants looking after your every need.

It sounds like the make-up suite of a Hollywood movie, but this is in fact a room buried deep within Doncaster Royal Infirmary where women cancer patients can go to be made to feel like a million dollars.

The work of the Aurora Centre which has given countless patients beauty makeovers and treatments as they battle the killer disease has been well documented over the years - but the service offers another very special strand to help visitors deal with the knock-on effects of their treatment.

For Headstrong, the Breast Cancer Care-backed organisation which helps patients come to terms with hair loss, is celebrating its tenth year in Doncaster, transforming hundreds of lives along the way.

Volunteer Hazel Moore, a former cancer patient, said: “A woman losing her hair through chemotherapy can be very distressing - the end of the world to them. We’re here to help put a smile back on their faces.”

Patients are referred from the hospital’s Chatsfield Suite and then turn up for appointments where they can have a friendly chat about coming to terms with their hair loss - and pick up tips on regaining their feminity by donning one of the wide range of hats and scarves on offer.

Fellow volunteer Ann Kerrison, who has also battled cancer, said: “When the ladies come to us, they are very apprehensive. Seeing large clumps of hair in the shower or on your pillow in the morning can be so upsetting for a woman - hair is such a key part of a woman’s life and they can feel horrendous.

“But we have a talk with them, tell them that we have experienced cancer too and explain what they can do and they go out feeling a lot better.”

All patients - and there are approximately 16 a month - are given a free headscarf, advice on scalp care and shown how to customise and tie their scarves to get stylish and different looks to suit all occasions. Headstrong also has a wide range of clip-on fringes - but the service doesn’t provide wigs.

Added Hazel: “A lot of women find wigs too hot and fussy. Scarves are much simpler and help to give women their confidence back. It can be quite daunting going into a shop, feeling that people are staring. Women can come here, feel totally relaxed and get themselves a whole new look with our help.”

And one such patient is Thorne’s Patricia Beckwith, who after first being diagnosed with cancer nine-years-ago, is a keen and regular user of Headstrong.

She said: “I am still here to tell the tale - and Headstrong and the Aurora Centre have been wonderful during that time.

“When you are diagnosed, it feels like an intruder in your home - someone has taken over and invaded your life and you feel there’s nothing you can do about it. But if you have cancer, you have to control it - and this is my way of doing that - retaining control over your life is important.

“You don’t realise how devastating it is until you lose your hair,” said Patricia, 70.

“You can do so much with the scarves, different colours, different styles - the lot. I like to customise mine with brooches and flowers and if someone rings at the door, I can just slip one on.”

For more details about Headstrong and the Aurora Centre, contact 01302 553198.