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Nonprofit connects women who lose their hair to cancer with free wigs

Carolyn Keller knows what it's like to experience hair loss during cancer treatments, and has found a way to lift the spirits of thousands of women going through the same process.

Keller is the founder of EBeauty, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that provides free wigs and styling for women with cancer who are losing their hair. She went through breast cancer treatment twice, and when her sister-in-law Laura Jirsa was diagnosed with the disease, Keller passed along one of her wigs. This made "all the difference in the world," Jirsa told The Washington Post. "You can feel terrible on the inside, and still look like yourself on the outside."

Giving Jirsa a wig inspired Keller to launch EBeauty in 2011. Donors send EBeauty gently used wigs, which are then cleaned and styled by students at Paul Mitchell Schools before being distributed to patients at hospitals or people who reach out directly to EBeauty. Since 2011, the nonprofit has given away more than 55,000 wigs.

Wigs made from human hair are pricey, ranging from $700 to $7,000, and are an additional expense at a time when medical bills are already high. Michele Peterson of McLean, Virginia, told the Post that when she went through chemo earlier this year, her hair became dry and brittle, and EBeauty gave her two wigs. Her hair is now starting to regrow, and she's going to give the wigs back to EBeauty as a way of paying it forward.  "The wig was really my savior and made it easy for me to continue on with normal life," Peterson said.