While it’s not always widely discussed, hair loss as a result of undergoing chemotherapy for cancer patients is a devastating side effect. Many look for wigs to feel some sense of normalcy but find most on the market to be lacking. That is what the event, CAPWALK, hosted by the Verma Foundation, was all about: supporting those experiencing hair loss in a time they need it most.
The Verma Foundation is a non-profit organization that creates and donates cap wigs to women and children undergoing chemotherapy treatment. The Foundation was co-founded and sparked by TV news anchor and cancer survivor, Natasha Verma.
Natasha graduated high school at the ripe age of 15 and went on to study journalism and biology/pre-med at the University of Texas. She became their youngest graduate at only 17. By 18, she had her master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. After working her way up in the station, she became an anchor and reporter for NBC10 Boston in 2016.
While in Boston, she felt pain on the left side of her shoulder and noticed there was a lump. She went to the ER, but was sent away with pain meds. She returned to the doctor days later experiencing chest pain. Despite pushback from the doctor, Verma and her father insisted on a CT scan. The results came back, and the doctor told her they believed she had Hodgkin’s lymphoma, later determined to be stage 2.
Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a cancer that affects the lymph system, which is part of the immune system. This part of the body fights infections and diseases while controlling the flow of fluids in the body. It can occur at any age but is more common among early adults (20s) than those in late adulthood (after 55).
Her chemotherapy started at Beth Israel Boston, where she completed three rounds without radiation. She was constantly on pain medication and dealt with immense changes to her body. Throughout the process, she had her family to support her, and continues to do so today.
As most know, hair loss is common in chemotherapy treatment. Verma experienced this after her second round of chemotherapy, where hair would fall out with ease. She bought a synthetic wig but quickly came to the conclusion that it was not a sufficient substitution, as it didn’t look like her. From this stemmed her idea for a cap wig, with 100% human hair. Thus, creating the Verma Foundation.
As someone who dealt with the emotional pain of hair loss during chemotherapy, she understood how it isn’t about vanity, it’s about dignity. Verma wanted to make women in cancer treatment feel beautiful, despite going through the toughest time in their lives. Wigs typically cost up to $1,000, so the Verma Foundation gives them to patients completely free of charge. They also provide the opportunity to customize the cap to fit patients’ styles, both with the style of the cap and hair.
“This is a way to alleviate some of that emotional loss and trauma when going through chemo,” Verma said.
Angela and John Schmidt generously donated their home in Castle Pines for the evening to host the event. The venue provided a bar and an array of food for guests, as well as a silent auction. Autographed footballs by Broncos players, private cooking classes and spa treatments were just a few of the items to bid on, and all proceeds go towards the cap wig program.
Starting off the event was Verma, with an introduction of the Verma Foundation. The audience then got to hear from Verma Foundation president and Verma’s mom, Shama Verma, as well as her sister and board member, Manisha Verma. As a tight-knit family, they described how difficult it was to watch Verma fight cancer. Despite the initial hopelessness they felt, Verma’s grit, as well as their development of the foundation has made them hopeful.
The main event of the evening was the fashion show, where each of the models battled cancer, and received a cap wig in the process. Host and managing editor of the Daily Blast Live, Sam Schacher, emceed the runway with great energy and heartfelt stories of each model.
The first to take the runway was Tami Murphy, an invasive ductal carcinoma survivor. After receiving her cap wig in the mail, she claimed that it was the happiest she’s felt in a long time and helped her feel normal in a time of chaos. Alongside her was 9News anchor, Jon Glasgow, the duo sported an everyday chic look to kick off the show. Murphy wore a navy cardigan by Core Knitwear, a shirt by Cotton Citizen and flared jeans by L’Agence, all styled by A Line Boutique.
Following Murphy was Denise Dillon with 9News Meteorologist Chris Bianchi, also wearing an everyday chic look. Dillon is a triple-negative breast cancer survivor who saw a clean scan on Sept. 19 after battling the disease since 2020. Dillon wore a tank top by Enza Costa, as well as a blazer and jeans by L’Agence.
Next to take the stage was Carrie Guffey escorted by 9News Anchor Darius Johnson. Guffey is an acute promyelocytic leukemia survivor who finished her last infusion cycle this week. To battle her rare form of leukemia, she became an inpatient with Anschutz medical campus for 30 days straight. Guffey and Johnson showed off date night outfits, with Guffey wearing a Go Silk blouse, Avenue Montaigne pants and booties by L’Agence.
Celebrity guests Lacey Henderson, USA Paralympian, and Chris Sharpe, Colorado Rapids Assistant and Goalkeeping Coach, took to the runway next with a date night look. Henderson was only nine when her right leg was amputated above the knee to save her from rare cancer. This never stopped her from doing what she loves: playing sports. She was a division 1 cheerleader at DU before becoming a track and field Paralympian, even going on to compete in the 2016 Rio games. Sharpe is a committed advocate for cancer patients as his sister and aunt are both survivors. Henderson wore a sweater from Crush Cashmere along with a tank from AGOLDE and booties from Proenza Schouler.
Stacey Grisham was next to the runway with 9NEWS Meteorologist Ed Greene. Grisham, an Invasive Ductal Carcinoma survivor, was declared cancer-free as of last May at Kaiser Permanente. She sported a game day look with a shirt by Madeworn, a sweater by Off-White, pants from Cinq a Sept and shoes by Proenza Schouler.
To close out the runway was eight-year-old Clara Chi-Hasselbach, who bears the burden of Acute-Lymphoblastic Leukemia. While enduring her chemo treatment at Children’s Hospital, her family was affected by the Marshall Fire in Superior. However, her spirit did not waiver as she continued to fight. When Chi-Hasselbach grows up, she wants to be a fashion designer. She wore a denim jacket by Alice + Olivia, top by L’Agence, and a crossbody bag from Golden Goose.
The women were all styled by A-Line Boutique with jewelry from Kendra Scott, while the male looks were created by Andy Samaras at Concord Custom Tailors. Hair and makeup for the runway were done by The LOOK Salon and Med Spa.
As the finishing touch and to finish out the night, the models walked the runway and stood together while they removed their caps to show their natural hair.
“It was more than just a fashion show, it was a celebration of life and a celebration of all these women and their incredible stories,” Verma said. “I hope people felt really moved when they heard their stories and thought about these women. If that’s the case, it was truly a success.”
The event clearly showed the love that the Verma family has put into the organization and the good that can be done for those who are struggling the most. To learn more about the Verma Foundation and how to donate, visit their website for more information.