Employee’s courage inspired by our cancer patients

Angelina was Shamsha Damani’s best friend for three years. A constant in the MD Anderson program director’s daily life, well-known to her large family and even some of her co-workers, Angelina wasn’t someone Damani met in school, a mentor at work or a beloved pet. Angelina was her wig. A new look Just after starting her job at MD Anderson’s Lyda Hill Cancer Prevention Center, Damani noticed that her hair was falling out at a rapid pace. She didn’t worry initially. She’d had autoimmune issues in the past, and it had always grown back. This time was different. Within a month, she’d lost all of her hair on her head, even her eyebrows and eyelashes, due to an autoimmune disorder called alopecia. “I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror, and it was really rough at first,” she says. “Whenever I looked at family photos, it was painful because I knew I’d never look like that again.” There is currently no treatment or cure for alopecia, but her family’s support kept her moving forward and discovering how to live with her new condition. Her sister found the wig makers who created Angelina (named after actress Angelina Jolie); her son was the voice of positivity throughout everything. “When I was upset about how I looked different from before my alopecia, he told me, ‘Mom, pretend you were born this way, and let’s make new memories for our photos,’ which was great advice, especially given he was 7 at the time,” she recalls. Wanting to make a difference When she was younger, Damani wanted to help find the cure for terrible diseases...