23-year-old woman with cancer finds stylish way to help others with hair loss

Mandy Velez
Contributing Writer

After a stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis on Aug. 21 and the news she’d lose hair to its treatment, journalist Natasha Verma felt panicked. “It sounds so trivial, but that’s my identity and that’s how I express myself,” she told Yahoo Lifestyle. “It was a really big punch after already hearing you have cancer.”

Journalist Natasha Verma is giving back in a major way to other women battling cancer. (Photo: Vermafoundation.org)

Dealing with ill-fitting, itchy, and expensive wigs on top of it all only made it worse. So Verma, who works as a traffic anchor at NBC 10 Boston’s morning show, came up with a better alternative to avoid the wig woes, and other cancer patients soon may be able to benefit too.

On Nov. 9, the 23-year-old announced on Facebook a “cap wig” fundraiser to raise enough money to produce free hats with hair for female and children cancer patients who want to have a wig look, without the hassle of cost or styling.

“Many women, especially those struggling to cover health care bills, cannot afford the cost of a quality wig,” Verma wrote on her announcement. “That’s why I’ve decided to raise money and donate free wigs to women and children fighting cancer.”

The caps will mimic the look that Verma herself sported during her chemotherapy treatment.

“On top of dealing with cancer I couldn’t deal with customizing hair for myself. I would throw on one of my baseball caps,” she told Yahoo Lifestyle. “It was so easy to wear and I didn’t have to worry about styling my hair. I thought why not create something like this. That way during chemo you don’t have to deal with itchy scalp.”

The cap wigs are made from 100 percent human hair, customizable, and completely free for cancer patients. After verifying their diagnosis with Verma, each patient is entitled to a cap and can choose the color of both cap and hair. Each will cost around $100 — a far cry from the $1,000 to $2,000 some of the higher-quality wigs usually cost.

Verma, who has been in remission since November, is no stranger to fundraisers. Her parents founded the Verma Foundation, an organization that raises money for an orphanage serving children with disabilities in India — but the cap wig initiative is one she was eager to add to the agenda.

“On days when I felt good, I would look into mirror and I would see myself: I was bald, I looked pale. I looked sick, so I felt sick. On days when I felt great, it didn’t translate,” she said.

That’s why she wanted to focus on wigs.

“When you look good, you feel better. It allows you to be like, ‘I have strength, I have confidence, I have hope, I can conquer this disease.'” she said. “It’s a way for women … to gain that emotional strength back.”

Verma with her boyfriend, Gary, who is also a TV reporter. She says: “He took care of me during my cancer treatment. We played a lot of gin to pass the time during long chemo days.” (Photo: Courtesy of Natasha Verma)

Apparently other cancer patients agree. Verma said tons of orders have come in already, even for children including a 7-year-old girl and a young woman with breast cancer in California about to lose her hair.

Because Verma’s mother also owns a beauty business that includes the sale of hair extensions, she’s been able to expedite the production process and hopes to ship by the end of January.

Since announcing the fundraiser, she’s raised a few thousand dollars. But she said to fulfill all the orders that have come in so far, she’s hoping to reach her $20,000 goal.

“I’m taken care of and I really wanted to pay it forward,” she said.

Verma with her chemo nurse, Jade, and her father, Omesh Verma, MD, who she says “is very supportive and never missed a chemotherapy treatment.” (Photo: Courtesy of Natasha Verma)

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