"I told Carol, 'When you lose your hair, we'll have your wig ready for you,'" recalls Ryan Sales, a stylist at Salon 808 in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Carol is a client of Ryan's, who had recently begun chemotherapy treatments for her breast cancer. And the wig that she'd get from Salon 808 (along with a styling session for it) would be free of charge, as part of a policy started by the salon's owner, Henry Ramirez. Affectionately known as Uncle Henry, Ramirez has been offering free wig styling and low-cost wigs at his salon for any woman undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer or living with a condition that causes hair loss, like alopecia, for more than 20 years.
"Some say (the wig) is the best medication they have taken: makes you look good, feel good, even if you don't wear it," Ramirez says.
Uncle Henry's altruistic program has evolved over time, as he has worked with and learned from lots of women facing the double challenge of a threatening medical condition and a drastic change in appearance. Initially, the salon had a private room where the clients could try on wigs alone. But this ended up feeding into the stigma around hair loss, says Ramirez, so he changed the process. It's all about dignity.
Now, he explained, "we do it out in the open. I tell my clients, 'You're on this journey, not by choice, but you deserve to face it with dignity.'"
Carol, the client of Ryan's undergoing chemo, just nominated Ramirez and his stylists at Salon 808 for a Honolulu Star-Advertiser Heroes Next Door Award in recognition of their compassionate and sensitive program benefitting local women.
The way we see it, Uncle Henry and his colleagues deserve this kind of award 20 times over!