SOUTH PORTLAND (NEWS CENTER Maine) — When Debby Porter was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, her thoughts immediately turned to her hair. "I had no idea what to do," she says, "And the prospect of losing my hair was actually scarier to me than the diagnosis itself because I didn’t know how I was going to face a life-threatening illness not looking and feeling like myself, and believing that I was going to look very sick and scary."
As a working hairstylist, after she recovered, Debby was in the perfect position to help other women going through the same thing. So she founded the non-profit Hair Matters. Working out of the Ocean Waves salon in South Portland, Debby started offering special services to people facing cancer treatment-related hair loss -- everything from head shaving ceremonies, to wig selection and fitting, to help with styling re-growth.
"A lot of people will come in and say, 'I didn’t realize I was so vain until I thought I was going to lose my hair'", says Debby, "And we say it’s not vanity. It’s not about vanity. It’s about holding onto the essence of who you are, your identity, your self, while you’re facing down this illness."
Every year, Hair Matters works with about 100 clients, building relationships with each one, and supporting not only them but their families, as well. Debby says, "Sometimes clients would like to have a (head shaving) ceremony of some kind. So we open the salon up for clients to invite friends and family and photographers and, you know, they get to bring music and have wine if they like and make it a celebration."
Last month, Hair Matters opened a second location in Wells, and Debby says her goal is to, one day, have certified salons in every state in the country. "It's about helping to show them that there is hope. There is always hope. And there is a way through it."