Power of Ponytails is an initiative of RID 3012, the Roteract District Organisation that covers parts of the Indian National Capital Region. It is all about empowering people and enabling them to take charge of their lives. Under this project, they donate hair to creating wigs for cancer survivors, spread awareness about cancers affecting women, and delve upon cancer-related preventive measures. They wish to spread the message that hair should not affect the way people live their lives, just like race, religion, gender, caste, etc. should not.

Pens & Ponytails is an event curated to encourage young writers to put forth their thoughts in the form of essays, poems, rhymes, and prose related to spreading awareness about cancer and the importance of hair donation. The following three entries are the finalists of the event, handpicked by the Power of Ponytails team.

 

1. The Breaking Curse
Swastik Sahoo, Lotus Valley International School, Noida

A wraith, a demon, a serpent, a nightmare

Preying on innocent flesh.

An abomination in the eyes of the infected & unaffected alike.

A sickening curse that named itself Cancer.

 

May the years come forth

Where there will be neither hatred nor contempt

Towards those who do not behold

The locks they once had

 

A wraith, a demon, a serpent, a nightmare

Preying on innocent flesh.

An abomination in the eyes of infected & unaffected alike.

A sickening curse that named itself Cancer.

 

May the years come forth

Where there will be unshakable hope for those in despair

That their soul, body and mind may not be held

By the burden they abhor

 

A wraith, a demon, a serpent, a nightmare

Preying on innocent flesh.

An abomination in the eyes of infected & unaffected alike.

A sickening curse that named itself Cancer.

 

May the years come forth

Oh so bountiful and pure

Where there will be neither death nor pain

Birthed from this loathsome malady

 

A wraith, a demon, a serpent, a nightmare

Preying on innocent flesh

May the sorrow you bring now be vanquished

Take thyself away from our presence

 

For amongst us are warriors,

Those daughters and fathers

Those Sons and their mothers

Those Warriors and Heroes

 

With hearts stronger than iron

Purer than white

Kinder than the angels

They will arise to see your demise

 

2. Beauty in Baldness
Anashwara Manoj Menon, Delhi Public School GBN

Laces tied up; hair kept in a secure bun. I was now ready to go on stage. Surprisingly enough, I was having shortness of breath. This had never happened before, but it was possible; it was the final match after all. The match will determine who would be the best ballet dancer in our state.

I took a deep breath glancing at the audience; there may be hundreds…no thousands of people watching my every step.

As the song started, I started dancing, I had practised this routine over a hundred times, but for some reason, I found it difficult to do it now, the pain in my chest from this morning had now worsened, I kept going until the pain in my chest became unbearable, and afterwards, all I could remember was the blurry faces of the audience in shock.

I wake up in the Emergency Room with a Nasal Cannula and my mother by my side. What happened to me? My mother looked worried when she turned around, and she did not say anything. She just brushed my hair with her fingers, which comforted me a little. Just then, a doctor holding some files barged in and smiled at me, but I knew something was up.

“Mrs Singh, we have run all the necessary tests and…” the doctor halted for a bit and continued “,…and we found out…that your daughter has lung cancer and is currently in the fourth stage.”

There was pin-drop silence in the room. The world around me was spinning around. Was I going to die at such an early age?

The doctor then spoke about a few more things, but I could hear none of that, all I could hear were my thoughts and how my dream of being a ballet dancer would be crushed.

We drove home, still with a nasal cannula attached. The doctor said I would have to wear it every day from now on.

On the way, mom did not say anything, just held my hand tightly. She was on the verge of crying but was resisting because it would upset me.

We reach home, and I quietly go upstairs, lock my door and stuff my head in a pillow. The world around me had shattered, along with all my dreams, memories. It was all useless now. What would I say to my friends? With these thoughts in my mind, I fell asleep.

The sun rose, and everything went as usual. Only I had a nasal cannula and started attending online school. Everyone was upset hearing the news, my friends cried a lot with me, but we all knew tears would change nothing now. The classmates with whom I was not much attached started messaging me and sending motivational messages. Everyone supported me a lot but yet, there was an empty feeling in my heart.

I started making memories, spending more time with my family, doing all that I wanted to do in my power.

Soon a week passed, and it was the day of the appointment. We walked through the hospital doors nervously.

The doctor smiled at me as she walked by, “how are you, has the pain in your chest reduced? I hope you are taking your medications timely.” she said, clasping my hand firmly.

“Yes, the pain has reduced, and I take my medications regularly,” I replied, giving a slight smile.

The doctor smiles again and speaks about all the procedures and preparation we will have to make before the taking first dose of treatment and gives us the medicine.

A week after the first dose, I started having intensive hair fall, and the volume had already reduced by more than half. We had to shave my head as the hair was getting too thin.

I watched my bald head in the mirror, crying. My hair which I loved a lot– was gone now. What if I had gone to the doctor when the symptoms first showed up? Could I be cured then? All these thoughts were plaguing my mind.

The doorbell rang, but I was too tired to get up, so my father answered instead. It was Sana, my best friend.

She rushed to my room cheerfully, which brought a grin to my face.

“Hey, your birthday is next week! What should we do for the party!” she said, jumping. “Ha…in this state, what party am I going to have” I mumbled. “Oh, come on, I have a massive surprise planned for you!” she said, twirling her hair.

“Fine,” I said, and we started planning for the party. The decorations, games, cake all were ready, and we were inviting everyone in our class.

Today was my birthday, and I never thought I would feel excited for my probably last birthday. My parents greeted me in bed from where I sat in the wheelchair and saw the decorations. It was truly wonderful.

I wore the best robe I had and waited for the guests to come. I was happy and sad at the same time.

The clock struck five, and the guests arrived except for Sana. She messaged me and said she would arrive when it would be time for ‘the massive surprise’. We had a wonderful time playing games, watching movies, and talking. For a second, I even forgot I was under oxygen support. Soon It was time to cut the cake and the surprise Sana planned for me. I got a box and a paper with all the well wishes written by my friends, and as I was about to open the box, Sana arrived– but she was bald? A few of my friends and some strangers too came, and all of them were bald. Sana stepped forward and asked me to open the box.

Inside were the loveliest wigs I had ever seen! I burst into tears and hugged Sana. “Thank you, thank you so much…” I had no words; I could not stop crying. Sana held my hands and said, “Haha, don’t say thanks to me. Say thanks to these people who were willing to donate their hair.”

I had never been happier in my life. Even though these wigs could not help cure my disease, they gave me the hope and support to live. I felt reassured that there were still people who loved and supported me unconditionally and would continue to do the same.

 

3. Battling with Cancer
Tarunima Sharma, Lotus Valley International School, Noida

In 2020, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) released a report that estimated nearly 13.9 lakh cancer cases in India that year. This report was based on data collected from 28 population-based (incidence rates for a defined population) and 56 hospital-based (clinical presentation, diagnosis and care) cancer registries between 2012 to 2016. It also stated that these incidences are likely to rise by about 12% over the next five years. According to the data, India’s cancer burden in 2020 majorly comprised of tobacco-related cancers (27.1 per cent), followed by gastrointestinal cancer (19.7 per cent) and cancer of the cervix uteri (5.4 per cent). Besides this, the reports indicated that cervical cancer is on the decline while breast cancer is on the rise and is being observed in large numbers in metropolitan cities like Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad.

Cancer is one of the most dreaded and feared diseases in the world, and rightly so, considering the millions of people that succumb to it worldwide every year. It is a genetic disease; the genetic changes that may be inherited or induced by environmental factors result in the uncontrolled growth of the body cells that can start nearly anywhere in our body. This abnormal growth results in the formation of a mass of cells known as a tumour. Non-cancerous or benign tumours are those that do not invade other parts of our body; though they can be removed easily and usually do not grow back, they can be fatal if they grow too large or form in places like the brain. Cancerous or malignant tumours are the ones that can travel to distant parts of our body and form new tumours; while many of them are solid tumours, some, like in the case of leukaemia, are not.

The rapidly rising incidence of cancer is a cause of concern to all. While people above the age of 50 remain at high risk of being affected by cancer, lately, an increase in the occurrence of the disease has been observed in younger age groups as well. The disease needs to be detected during its early stages to be treated and cured in time. However, it is often difficult to do so as people are unable to identify the symptoms or occasionally due to certain myths and stigmas associated with cancer. This is why it is crucial to raise awareness about the disease, its causes and symptoms. It is also important to educate people about the various tests they must do to detect cancers and other precautionary measures that can be taken. For example, in females, women above the age of 40 must undergo mammography regularly as it is the best way for early detection of breast cancer. Similarly, girls and young women must make sure to get themselves vaccinated for cervical cancer in time.

People undergoing treatment for cancer have to also go through several hardships. Alongside physical, and often financial distress, they also experience mental and emotional stresses. One of the major reasons behind this is the loss of hair as a side-effect of their treatment. Hair is an important part of one’s identity, irrespective of their gender. Therefore, losing their hair causes the patients to go through emotional turmoil and trauma. This may lead to them losing their self-confidence and shutting people out. However, there is a way out. Wigs! Though not the ordinary synthetic ones, but wigs made of actual human hair, for the former ones are uncomfortable and not enough to help them feel normal. While making these wigs normally cost a fortune, several organisations work towards making them for cancer patients; but making these wigs won’t be possible unless people willingly step forward and donate their hair.

By donating their hair, a person can help cancer patients regain their self-image and restore normalcy in their lives. Wearing a wig can help the patient feel more confident to step out of their houses and go about freely, without being conscious about their appearance or wary of the sympathetic looks (and whispers). It will also give them the strength to endure their sufferings.  

In case you are interested in participating in this donation campaign, please read through the instructions provided below thoroughly. Please zoom in through your window to make the text more visible.

 

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