To help make a difference in the lives of children with cancer, the SingHealth Duke-NUS Paediatrics Academic Clinical Programme (ACP) and KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) hosted a Hair for Hope event in KKH on 8 July.
Among the people who shaved their heads in support of the Children’s Cancer Foundation (CCF) are Assoc Prof Ng Kee Chong, Academic Chair of the Paediatrics ACP, and Assoc Prof Chan Mei Yoke, Head of Haematology/Oncology Service at KKH’s Department of Paediatric Subspecialties.

Can you tell us about why you decided to participate?

Assoc Prof Ng Kee Chong: I think it’s important to support and affirm kids with cancer and their families who have to go through the painful process of long treatment and show solidarity with these brave young children and their families. It will also help create better awareness and inclusiveness for one and all, as we work together to better treat and care for children with cancer in the community.

Assoc Prof Chan Mei Yoke: I have always supported the Hair for Hope main event. Last year while I was there, I spoke to one of the Children’s Cancer Foundation workers who challenged me to do it. I wasn’t so keen to do it in the main event but I thought it would be more appropriate to have a satellite event in KKH instead. We can show our support to our patients and families directly in this way.
When I suggested to Kee Chong that we bring the event to KKH, everyone was very enthusiastic. Having suggested it, I have to participate, right?

Assoc Prof Ng Kee Chong, before and after his bald statement at the Hair for Hope event

What gave you the courage to shave your head?
 Prof Chan: I don’t think it is particularly courageous, especially compared to what our patients go through. I had a choice (while our patients did not) and my hair will grow back again (I hope!) so it really isn’t that big a deal.

What are some of the efforts under Paeds ACP that can help achieve these future goals?

Prof Ng:  We aim to continue partnering, actively and constructively, with key childhood advocates like the Children’s Cancer Foundation and Viva Foundation as well as other local and international academic partners to advance translational clinical and health services research and develop new and more effective holistic models of care, to care for and manage children with cancer and their families.

Before the big day, what were you looking forward to? Were you afraid?

Prof Chan: I was looking forward to some savings in shampoo and water! But I feared that I have a funny-shaped head that will be exposed without all my hair.
Prof Ng: I looked forward to having a cooler head after being shaved. My main fear was, at my age, my hair follicles may not be able to regenerate. Having said that, I don’t miss my hair much, as I’m already starting to lose it.
What is involved in improving care for childhood cancer and raising awareness about it?

Prof Chan: Improving cancer care requires team effort. The team includes not just the doctors but the nurses, the allied health staff, psychosocial supportive staff (like CCF) as well as the parents and family. Researchers and basic scientists play an important role too. It takes a village to take care of the child.

Assoc Prof Chan Mei Yoke, before and after her bald statement at the Hair for Hope event

How are you rocking your new look?

Prof Chan: I have scarves and beanies and wigs but if it’s too hot and uncomfortable, I just go “au naturel”.
What are your wishes for our young patients?

Prof Chan: I hope they realise that they are not alone in their journey and are encouraged to live life to the fullest, whatever comes their way.
Prof Ng: My wish is that the patient and their family members continue to work with their medical team to manage the disease and also to constantly address the psychosocial needs of the child. It is equally important for the families of these young patients to keep their spirits up and build up their psychosocial resilience.

Hope and love is needed to sustain both the young patients and their families through this journey. Hope and love will overcome the difficulties that they encounter.

KKH staff and patients who shave their heads to support children with cancer at the Hair for Hope event in KKH on 8 July