Emily Wallace, from Corbet, was diagnosed with leukaemia in September last year when she was just 10 years old.
Having lost her hair on two separate occasions during her chemotherapy treatment, she was asked to take part in a BBC programme about the trauma of hair loss and how it impacts on people’s lives.
True North: My Wig and Me is an emotional portrayal of the experiences of Emily (11) and two young women who’ve suffered hair loss, and former hairdresser Therese Hughes, whose wigs are helping to ease the pain and stigma.
The programme follows Emily as she searches for the perfect wig in the run up to her confirmation. It also features model and mum-to-be Frankie who has alopecia, and young mum Orla who is being treated for cancer.
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All three have formed a close bond with Therese, who wears a hairpiece herself and whose wig creations have helped restore their self-esteem and allowed them to feel normal again.
Emily’s dad, Sean Wallace explained how his daughter was approached to be in the programme while she was at Tresses Hairpiece Boutique on Belfast’s Lisburn Road looking for a wig.
He, his wife Stefanie, and other daughters Aislinn (15) and Seanine (16) are extremely proud of Emily, now a Year 8 pupil at Our Lady’s Grammar School, Newry, and her decision to appear in the documentary.
“For a wee girl that age it’s not easy and she came through it all with flying colours,” Sean said.
“We are really proud of what she’s done and her telling her story will definitely help other little children in the same situation.
“We gave her the go-ahead, but it was up to Emily if she wanted to do it and do it for all the other children who are in her situation who are going through the same, and she said she would.
“She’s a wee fighter and she wasn’t well at times when the cameras were here, but she fought on through it and did it for them and they (the programme makers) were very proud of her as well.”
Emily, a former pupil of St Colman’s Primary School, Annaclone, is now in remission, although she will still have to undergo “maintenance treatment” over the next couple of years. Her hair has started to grow back and she no longer needs to wear a wig.
Sean, a country music promoter, continued: “For anyone going through that sort of thing it’s an awful experience, but especially if you’re a young girl or a woman and you’re left with no hair. You just don’t want to go out or do anything and this woman’s wigs are life-changing - they help people face life and get on with life and it shows that there’s light at the end of the tunnel for everybody.”
Sean, who also praised the “absolutely amazing” staff at the Royal Victoria Hospital and Daisy Lodge in Newcastle who have helped Emily during her cancer battle, said he hopes people tune in to watch the documentary.
“We will definitely be crowded round the TV on Monday night. We have seen clips of it but we’re excited about seeing the whole programme,” he added.
True North: My Wig and Me is due to air on BBC One Northern Ireland on Monday, October 10 at 10.45pm.