Most people think nothing of getting a haircut — but the latest trims for Poughkeepsie natives Kim Ross and Erika Hernandez come with much emotion attached.
An event planner for the Culinary Institute of America, Ross was diagnosed with breast cancer in September after a trip to her OB/GYN and undergoing various tests at the Dyson Center for Cancer. Hernandez, the 25-year-old licensed nurse who assisted her at the Dyson Center, was so moved by Ross and the other patients she assisted, that she wanted to give back where she could.
“I decided to give the most sentimental gift — my hair — to someone who needed it more than me,” she recalls, noting that women who face cancer often feel like they lose some of their dignity when chemotherapy forces their hair to fall out. “I didn’t want [Kim] to worry about her image while she was fighting this battle.”
Hernandez, who has sported lengthy locks all her life (“I can’t remember ever having short hair,” she says), approached Angelline Smalls of Poughkeepsie’s An’Tyrice Salon and Spa with the hope of donating her hair for a wig for Ross. In addition to the salon, Smalls has for the past five years operated Wigs by Angelline, a company that designs and assembles wigs for cancer patients, often using their own hair (read more about the specialty service here). It also offers a nationwide hair donation program to which people can send their tresses with the express purpose of turning them into wigs for women battling the disease.
Kim Ross (far left) stands with stylist Angelline Smalls and nurse Erika Hernandez, who shows off her sleek new bob. At right, Ross wears her natural wig prior to its shaping and coloring
The pair decided to use Hernandez’s hair — which had reached the staggering length of 40 inches — and subsequent wig as a part of October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month campaign. Since costly medical bills can often push a hairpiece out of the budget for some patients, Smalls and Wigs by Angelline donated all their services at no cost. The best part? It was all clandestinely arranged without Ross’s knowledge.
“I had no idea,” Ross says, recalling the moment Hernandez first gave her the good news. “She came into the room and took her [hair down], at first I thought she was showing me a hair piece. But when she told me she was giving her hair to me, I jumped off the table and burst out crying. I was almost hyperventilating and kept hugging her.”
Throughout the month, the ladies met with Smalls to discuss new styles for both women. “I absolutely love both of their new styles,” says Smalls. “Erika’s bob shows this new light to her beautiful smile, and Kim was able to get the long layers that she’s always wanted.”
The big day arrived on October 10, and Hernandez made the cut, shearing off 26 inches of her hair. “I cried,” she says of the moment. “It was very emotional for both myself and for Kim.”
Smalls, who says the wigs usually take between six and eight weeks to craft, collected the tresses and put in a rush order to ensure the headpiece was ready for Ross’s first chemotherapy treatment. Ross received the fully cut, colored, and styled wig on October 29. The happy recipient declared it “everything I could have wanted and more.”
Hernandez is also very pleased with her new look. “I love it! I’m even physically lighter now,” she laughs.
All three women hope this experience can be used to raise awareness, both about breast cancer and also about how women can come together and support each other in their times of need. “We want to show people that anyone who has been touched in some way by cancer can help do a good deed,” says Smalls.
For more information about An’Tyrice Salon and Wigs by Angelline, visit www.antyrice.com.