October 14, 2016 | by Denise Heady
Speaking with Clarice Aguilar, you would never guess that she was battling a rare form of ovarian cancer at just 18 years old.
The young woman is full of drive and vigor, elated to begin studying physical therapy at Azusa Pacific University. The only clue that she may be fighting a deadly disease is a near bald head hidden by a baseball cap.
Even though she appears to be confident, she, like many other cancer patients dealing with the physical side effects of chemotherapy, wants to just be “normal” again.
“It’s hard to stand out, especially being a college student,” said Aguilar in an interview with ABC 7 in Los Angeles.
While many women are often aware of the side effects of cancer treatment and even expect them, it still doesn’t make it any easier to cope with. Many women experience a sense of loss over changes in their physical experience — especially when it comes to their hair.
To help make these women feel empowered, whole and confident once again, actress and entrepreneur Jaclyn Smith and celebrity hairstylist Jose Eber, both advocates in the fight against women's cancers, provided City of Hope patients with wig fittings, hair consultations, and styling and cosmetology tips.
All wigs were donated to patients by Smith and customized for each woman by Eber and his team of stylists.
The annual event started five years ago and this year Eber and his team helped more than 100 patients transform their hair.
“It does mean a lot to them,” Eber told ABC 7. “Some of them cry, some are in big smiles because they have not seen themselves with hair for quite a while.”
Cassie Polchow, a licensed cosmetologist who works in City of Hope’s Positive Image Centersm, told NBC 4 in Los Angeles that cancer patients appreciate the transformations so much because many of them can't afford the costs of the wigs — the average of which can be up to $250.
"A lot of times people don't understand what it's like to lose their hair and their eyelashes and their brows," Polchow said. "Being able to give back and show them the tools and the resources that they can have while going through this to make the process easier — that's our goal."
Looking at Aguilar after her fitting with Eber, you would never know that she was fighting cancer. Her new hair can easily be mistaken as her natural look before she started treatment.
“It’s a lot like how my hair use to be,” said Aguilar. “It’s nice to fit back in a little bit.”
Learn about the image-enhancing services offered to patients at City of Hope's Positive Image Center.