Photo Essay – “I Am A Warrior” Project’s Marcia Mejía

PAGE  #18

By Nancy Laughlin - Photographs by Juan Diego Durán

“I Am A Warrior” Project’s Marcia Mejía 1

Must one be a warrior to help create a warrior? Marcia Mejia proves it certainly helps. The three-time cancer survivor and self-made entrepreneur created the “I Am A Warrior” Foundation to help cancer survivors stay positive by enhancing their physical appearance with makeovers, which include a handmade wig.

Marcia’s struggles with cancer made her a business woman who understands the emotional, and financial needs of a woman receiving cancer treatments. Sitting in her spa/hair salon, Marcia described herself looking in a mirror after she had lost her own hair during various cancer treatments, and spoke of her feelings of hopelessness and being unattractive. But, Marcia is also a self-described warrior who found ways to make herself feel beautiful again. Marcia now uses her talents to help other women in the community feel attractive during their journeys.

First, she collects hair donations at her salon to have wigs made for these women. Throughout the year, anyone (male or female) is welcome to make an appointment to donate hair if they meet these requirements: Hair must be at least 12 inches (30 centimeters) in length and be clean, dry, and healthy.

Dyed hair is also accepted. Next, Marcia arranges to have the donated hair made into wigs by a specialist in Quito. She said the quality of wigs, especially the wig cap, is of great importance.

Finally, Marcia holds an “I Am A Warrior” event for the women who will receive a wig and makeover in front of an audience of their families, cancer survivors, and the hair donors. Hair donors are an important part of the ceremony because of the emotional experience of both parties.

These wigs take time and money. Women must often wait for them, so Marcia provides hats and scarves, as well as makeovers to help the women feel more beautiful while they wait. These services are available year round at her spa. Anyone going through cancer treatments and needing a wig can sign up for one, expats included.

Finally, Marcia holds an annual Gala Fundraiser to attract donors. This year’s gala is planned for June or July. Word of her foundation has spread. Currently, about 150 women are on a wig waiting list. Helping these women takes

action and money. With the cost of each wig between $70 and $120, this means a goal of $18,000 for the wigs. It also takes an average of four hair donors to make one wig. To provide a wig for everyone on the list, there is a need for 600 hair donors.

Marcia personally donated wigs to survivors at each of the “I Am A Warrior” events last year.

       How can you help?

  • Donate cash, scarves or hats.
  • Visit Marcia Mejia Spa/Salon, located at Zamora Chinchipe 001 y Unidad Nacional.
  • Donate hair, or host a fundraiser.
  • Contact the spa for an appointment: Spanish speakers call 2886274 or 098 716 5244
  • English speakers call Andrea Moreno 098 377 8549. Email:
  • Spread the word.
    Tell your friends, families and neighbors how to help through personal contact and social
    media. Don’t have the hair to donate? Then suggest to someone with healthy hair how and why to donate. 
  • Our challenge to you -- We’re looking to the
    help of our generous readers to reach this $18,000
    goal, as well as 600 people who will donate hair. Cuenca Expats Magazine made the first
    $100 donation.


A Hair Donor’s
Unexpected Experience

By Nancy Laughlin - Photographs
provided by Mauricio Bernal

We think of women donating hair for cancer survivors, but that’s not always the case. Mauricio Bernal, owner of the popular “gringo hang-out” Sabatino’s Restaurante, emotionally described his experience. Up to the time of donating his hair he had worn it long, adding that his last hair cut prior to the one for donation was eight years ago. Mauricio says that two events had led to his decision to cut his hair.

First, accompanying his mother to SOLCA for an exam, he noticed the cancer patients and admitted it was the first time he had felt such compassion for people going through these hardships.

The second was when visiting a friend of his mother who was receiving cancer treatments and she admired his long hair. At that moment, he felt guilty as he noticed her wig, and then thought about her comments about his hair. As Mauricio retold the story, he said he felt the same lump in his throat that he did that day. Mauricio laughed when he talked about actually getting the haircut. The stylist asked him three times, “Are you sure?” When Mauricio said “yes” for the third time, the big scissors came out and it was the point of no return.

Would he do it all over again? Mauricio smiled as he said he has never regretted the decision for obvious reasons, but added that with long hair it took him 45 minutes to get ready, whereas now it takes 3-minutes.

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