A HAIRDRESSER who specialises in hair loss and wig services, has helped transform the looks of two women to make a stand against cancer.

Ashlea Anderson, 34, and Molly Richardson, 18, are both being treated for cancer and have both lost their hair as a result of treatment.

To help raise awareness for this year’s Stand Up To Cancer, a joint campaign from Cancer Research UK and Channel 4, Sunderland hairdresser Nicola Wood at Kitui Hair Design, took on the challenge to give them an extreme hair transformation.

Ashlea, mum to Joel, 14, Ivy, 6 and April, 3, was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in May. She underwent a lumpectomy, has completed three rounds of chemotherapy and continues to receive chemotherapy every week.

The special educational needs teacher at Portland Academy, who was diagnosed in May, said: “I found a lump that didn’t feel normal so I went to the GP. Despite doctors feeling confident that it wouldn’t be anything because I’m young, tests revealed it was cancerous and that it was the rare triple negative type, which means it doesn’t respond to normal treatments in the same way."

As a side effect of her treatment Ashlea began to lose her hair, something that she was initially very worried about, but when it happened she got everyone involved in her own transformation.

She said: “My first thought was am I going to lose my hair, and when it started to fall out I was sad as it felt like that was part of my identity going, but then we got the kids to help me cut it off and it’s quite nice now to be able to just pick up a wig and go.

“Wearing a wig makes you feel like you don’t have cancer. For that time you can just feel normal. That’s why Nicola’s wig service and salon has been incredible to find. She was able to reassure me that my hair will grow back, but for now I can have a great quality wig that feels just like hair instead.”

As part of the makeover Ashlea modelled a bright orange wig, the campaign colour of Stand Up To Cancer.

Ashlea, who writes a popular blog Three Kids and Counting, said: “I just love the striking colour and boldness of it. I feel full of confidence when I have it on.”

While Ashlea was embracing orange as part of her makeover, college student Molly was enjoying new luscious, long locks.

Molly, of Washington, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in February 2018 when she was 16 and studying at sixth form. Since then she has been receiving chemotherapy and will continue to do so until June 2020.

Molly said: “Before I was diagnosed I was really poorly. I’d lost a lot of weight and had numerous infections that I couldn’t seem to shake. Following a blood test at the GP I was sent to A+E and from there transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital where I was told I had leukaemia. I was admitted into hospital and began treatment straight away.

“The initial part of the treatment should have taken six months, but due to a number of side effects and reactions, including having to learn to walk again due to the amount of time in bed, it took 11 months. I’m now in the maintenance part of chemotherapy, which is designed to keep the cancer from returning and I’m much more stable.”

Her hair fell out in thick clumps at the beginning of her treatment, but she was too poorly at the time to even think about getting a wig.

Now that she is stronger she has visited Nicola’s salon and got a bright peach coloured wig for her first style.

“I wasn’t really worried about losing my hair and I just shaved it off which I was alright with”, said Molly, whose hair is starting to grow back, “but it’s strange having hair again now, especially as it’s starting to grow back thick and curly, totally different to my straight hair before. I wanted to go as bold as I dared with my first wig and loved it. Now for this makeover I wanted to embrace the really long hair, as it’ll be quite some time before mine is this long again.

“I feel really pretty having real hair again and it’s nice to take control back. I did try on a dark straight wig as part of the makeover, but that was too much like my old hair and it was quite hard to see in the mirror.”

Nicola, 40, started working with hair loss in 2017, when she faced her own cancer diagnosis. Since then her and the team have become the city's only independent NHS-approved wig service and patients with medical hair loss at the Freeman and RVI hospitals and other NHS hospitals are also able to use their payment voucher at the salon.

She said: “I was treated for breast cancer in May 2016 and it led to my own exploration of the hair loss experience.

"I realised that finding good quality wigs, that looked like real hair was a huge problem.

"I would sit in the hospital and see so many people wearing wigs, the difference in a good and bad one was shocking to me. I realised there was something I could do to try and help, not only to provide good quality products, but a service and experience that helped people with hair loss gain their confidence back.

“As a result I’ve created a purpose-built hair studio at my salon specifically for men, women and children with hair loss. They get the experience of a luxury hair salon, but with the added privacy of the hair loss studio to make them feel comfortable and relaxed in our care.