A mother of six from Arizona suffered cancer-related hair loss while undergoing radiation to treat her brain tumor. She disliked how much she stood out as a result. So her son grew out his long, blond locks to make her a wig.
The Distress of Cancer-Related Hair Loss
In 2003, Melanie Shaha began suffering from dull headaches. Later on, doctors attributed this pain to a benign brain tumor in the pituitary gland, which regulates hormones controlling stress, growth, and metabolism. The tumor was about the size of a plum and affected the gland’s functioning. Fortunately, a successful surgery removed the tumor and all was well.
However, the tumor returned in 2006, leading to a second surgery. But for the third occurrence in 2017, doctors prescribed radiation. “I asked (my doctor), ‘Will I lose my hair?‘ and they said ‘No,'” Shaha recalled. “Three months later, I had a big shed and started losing hair. I was surprised.” 
“Not having hair, you stick out like a sore thumb and well-meaning people can say things that break your heart,” she added. “I don’t mind being sick but I mind looking sick. I’d rather blend in and not stand out at the store.”
Hair loss of any kind, cancer-related or otherwise, is a distressing experience. Hair is often a part of a person’s identity; it’s part of how they present themselves in public. People experiencing alopecia can feel stressed, and embarrassed, which can lead to decreased self-esteem, social phobia, anxiety, and depression. Women in particular report more distress from hair loss compared to men since they tend to have a stronger sense of identity linked to their hair.  Many people take their hair for granted but Melanie’s 27-year-old son Matt understood its importance.
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“Coming soon to a head near you!”
So in 2018, during a family lunch, Matt made a joke about growing out his hair to make a wig for her. He had just graduated from a university with a dress code that required short hair. To celebrate his freedom, he was skipping on haircuts but now he began to grow it with a purpose.
Shaha didn’t want to impose on her son but he persisted. “I would tell him, ‘I love your hair’ and he’d say, ‘Coming soon to a head near you!’” she said. His hair most resembled his mother’s when it comes to color and texture opposed to their other family members.
But on March 21, 2022, he had grown 12 inches of hair over a span of two and half years. The haircut was ceremonious, done at his mom’s house with a few of his coworkers. “We were super pumped and when they started cutting, we bawled,” Melanie said.
Then they sent the hair to Compassionate Creation, a company based in Newport Beach, California. In June, they delivered the hand-stitched wig, which had cost $2000. The company shared the story on their social media, saying, “Had to share these candid shots of our client Melanie rocking her custom built wig! We had the perfect blond supplemental hair in stock to pair with their submissions and couldn’t be happier with the results!”
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“She gave me the hair in the first place.”
“The family was such a joy to work with,” said Veronica Balch, co-founder of Compassionate Creation. “When someone selflessly shaves their head for a family member, it makes what we do even more special.”
“The color is spectacular and we had it cut and styled with a hairdresser,” Melanie said about her new wig. “Matt said it looks great on me. It sure fills your emotional cup.“
“It’s a no-brainer,” Matt said. “She gave me the hair in the first place.” 
But more importantly, her new hair gives her the sense of normalcy she craved since the beginning of her hair loss journey. “You know, I’ve lost my eyebrows, lost my eyelashes, I lost my hair, so it’s just been such a tremendous gift to be able to have a more normal appearance, to go places and not stand out because you look unusual, but to fit in and be beautiful,” Melanie said. “It’s really great.” 
Keep Reading: This Artist Creates “Henna Crowns” for Women with Cancer and Alopecia
- “She lost her hair battling a brain tumor. Her son grew his hair out to make her a wig.” Today. Elise Sole. July 21, 2022
- “The psychosocial consequences of hair loss.” Biostock. July 5, 2021
- “A mother lost her hair due to a brain tumor — so her son grew his hair for over 2 years to make a wig for her.” Insider. Lauren Edmonds. July 24, 2022
- “Arizona Man Grows Out His Hair for 2 Years in Order to Make a Wig for Mom Battling Brain Tumor.” People. Anna Lazarus Caplan. July 22, 2022