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Cancer patients’ woes inspire women to donate hair in UAE

Women’s Wing at Al Ain Church organises hair donation event

  • From left: Jaisy Mol, Jismol Jismon, Mine Benny, Jini Bobe, Jini Thomas and Mercy Varghese after cutting theiImage Credit: Supplied
  • Surumi Shihab (right), her daughter Isra Shihab and husband Shihab after cutting Surumi’s hair. Image Credit: Supplied
Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: A seven-year-old girl’s weeping over her bald head from chemotherapy has been haunting Jismol Jismon and finally she got a chance to donate her hair for such cancer patients.

“The doctor at our hospital picked up little girl’s cap and asked her whether he could take it. Although he did it to cheer her up, she started crying, saying that her classmates were making fun of her bald head,” said Jismon, a 27-year old nurse, about her haunting experience while working at a hospital in India a few years back.

She does not know whether the little girl won her battle against cancer. However, when she donated her hair at an event at St George Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Simhasana Cathedral in Al Ain on Friday, she felt relieved.

Her sister-in-law, Jaisy Mol, 28, also had a similar experience while working as a nurse in Mumbai. A 32-year nun suffering from leukaemia, who was also a nurse, fell into deep depression after she went bald from chemotherapy.

“I was blessed with long hair and the nun always advised me to take care of it, saying you realise its value after you lose it. Despite being a trained nurse she could not cope with it [who later lost her battle to cancer], therefore I was not surprised at other women patients’ sadness over hair loss,” she said.

She also donated hair along with other eight women at an event organised by Martha Mariam, the women’s wing at the church.

Surumi Shihab, 26, a homemaker, drove from Baniyas in Abu Dhabi to Al Ain with her husband Shihab and 5-year-old daughter Isra after seeing a Facebook post about the event. While she was giving away her 20-inch long hair, her husband donated blood at the event.

She was inspired by Premi Mathew who runs a Facebook page titled ‘Hair for Hope India’ that promotes hair donation for cancer patients, she said.

The Muslim family was delighted to feel “to be part of the church family” for a good cause. “As we stayed the whole day at the church, the church members made all arrangements for my husband to attend Friday prayers at a nearby mosque. They treated us as part of their family as we also joined their good cause,” Surumi said.

As Gulf News reported on June 14, the church hosted Iftar for more than 200 Muslim workers during last Ramadan and gave them a rare opportunity of offering the Maghrib prayers inside the church. “It was the first time, at least in the UAE, that a church opened its doors for Muslim prayers,” Bobin Skaria, a church leader had said.

Mercy Varghese, 50, a staff nurse at an Al Ain Hospital said the sufferings she witnessed of her four colleagues, who went bald from chemotherapy, prompted her to do something for such patients. “Fortunately, they all survived. But hair loss was their difficult experience. No other medication [unlike chemotherapy] causes such drastic physical change in a patient. They need support and hair donation is the best way to do it,” she said.

Varghese, the zonal coordinator of women’s wing of the church in the UAE, said the collected hair would be donated to Friends of Cancer Patients [FOCP], a non-profit Society, founded in 1999 under the directives and patronage of Shaikha Jawaher Bint Mohammad Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah.

The voluntary organisations like FOCP collect hair and facilitate manufacturing wigs for cancer patients who went bald.

Joyce John, secretary of the women’s wing, said they organised the event as part of the UAE’s Year-of-Giving. “We thought this is the best way of giving,” she said.