One of the most radical effects of chemotherapy on the human body is loss of hair. Many cancer patients try to cover it by wearing wigs. There are others too, who choose to cover their heads with scarves, or embrace their hair loss with pride. But what does this choice say about the person suffering from hair loss? Or should it even say anything?

Losing hair during chemotherapy itself is a big struggle, especially for women, who are cultured into believing that long luscious hair is synonymous with beauty and femininity. But does choosing to wear a wig after hair loss make you vain? Does embracing your hair loss leave you vulnerable to scrutiny?

Sonali Bendre, who is undergoing treatment for high grade cancer, recently shared a video collage on Instagram, in which she sports a wig. “Vanity is my favourite sin.”

A quote from Al Pacino is how she begins her post. “The way we look has a profound psychological impact on us… A little vanity here and there does no one any harm. It’s important to do what makes you happy, even if it’s something as simple as wearing a wig, bright red lipstick, high heels….”

“All that white noise doesn’t make a difference in the larger picture. No one can tell you what’s right or wrong for you.”

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"Vanity is my favourite sin." – Al Pacino Well, it might not be my all-time favourite sin (that would be gluttony ?), but who doesn't like looking good? The way we look has a profound psychological impact on us… A little vanity here and there does no one any harm. It's important to do what makes you happy, even if it's something as simple as wearing a wig, bright red lipstick, high heels…. All that white noise doesn't make a difference in the larger picture. No one can tell you what's right or wrong for you. When I was testing out the wigs, I had a brief moment of self-doubt… "Am I vain for wanting to look good?" As part of the entertainment industry, you're always expected to look good… Maybe that has been ingrained in me? But then I gave it a thought and I realized I like looking good for me. If I'm in the mood to wear a scarf, I will. If I want to walk around bald and free, I will. Only you know what would make you feel good, and what works best for you. So take every opportunity you can to #SwitchOnTheSunshine. #OneDayAtATime ?? Thank you @priyankachopra for connecting me with the amazing @bokheehair, who created my new look.

A post shared by Sonali Bendre (@iamsonalibendre) on

The right choice is the one which makes you happy

Having had two female cancer patients in my family, I have seen the havoc cancer treatment wreaks on the human body and mind. The loss of hair for women is especially a traumatising experience. This is because long, luscious locks are part of the definition of feminine beauty in our society. In a society which still frowns on short hair, complete loss of hair creates panic and a sense of shame among women. Especially in small towns, many female cancer patients still cannot dare to walk out of their homes with a bare head.

SOME TAKEAWAYS-

  • Sonali Bendre shared a video collage on Instagram in which she is seen sporting a wig.
  • Whether cancer patients should cover their hair loss with a wig or sport a bare head is a choice best left to them.
  • At a time when being happy is of utmost importance, their decision should be about what makes them happy, and not about what others will approve.

Bendre’s post sheds light on the other aspect of this stigma with baldness. “When I was testing out the wigs, I had a brief moment of self-doubt… “Am I vain for wanting to look good?” she says.

There is a lot of stigma associated with aesthetics in our country and they run deep on both sides of the scale. How a female cancer patient chooses to deal with hair loss is one of them. If she chooses to wear a wig, then people may call her vain. If she chooses to embrace her baldness, then people may brand her bold. Many people will turn around to look at her, as she passes them on a street, as if she is not from this world.

Which means that eventually there is no way women can please everyone in our society

So then what should women do? Simple, they should do whatever makes them happy. The battle with cancer is not an easy one. It is draining on many levels and takes a lot of mental and emotional strength. Why must women burden their already taxed souls with another worry? To hell with what others will approve of. Why not embrace what makes them happy?

Choosing to wear a wig doesn’t make a woman vain, and if it makes her happy, then she shouldn’t care about what others have to say. Because being happy and positive is a big part of healing. And the fear of facing judgement from others takes that away from a cancer survivor. But for Bendre and millions of cancer patients, now is not the time to concentrate of social judgement, but on personal happiness and fulfillment instead.

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own.

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