Tuesday, March 17, 2015

And now... I am bald

So here we are, a little over six weeks after I began the St. Baldrick's journey.  Six weeks ago I looked like this:

Now I look like this:
 Photo Credit: J. Greg Jordan

So what was it like- in a word- AMAZING!  This has been one of the best decisions and experiences of my life.  As a theater kid, making drastic changes to my appearances was par for course.  The shaving of my head really wasn't too much of a worry for me.  The part that moved my emotions in crazy, unpredictable ways came from the fundraising and support.  In the course of six weeks I had originally thought that raising $1000 would take work and effort.  I set out a fundraising plan to get me there:

Step one: Put it out on social media- what I am doing, why I am doing it, how you can help through posts and pictures
Step Two: Let the places I work know what I am doing, why I am doing it, how they can help by putting out information and donation jars
Step Three: Let my community know what I am doing, why I am doing it, how they can help by hanging up fliers around town
Step Four: Let local business professionals know what I am doing, why I am doing it, how they can help through hand written letters with information included to spread the word 

This seemed like a solid plan for the six week period to get to that $1000 total.

However, I hit that total after step one and two, within one week!  This was a humbling moment for me because people are asked to support a lot of great causes, and it is sometimes hard to support even the ones you really want to. Money is tight sometimes but in the course of one week- my friends and family showed amazing generosity that left me floored.  I couldn't stop though- I still had two steps to go in my fundraising plan.  So I kept going.

I raised my goal total on my online profile to $2500 but secretly thought "What if I could get matching funds from the business professionals and hit $5000?"  So, when I sent out my letters that is what I expressed to all those awesome local business people I know.  Everyday I inched closer and closer.  Patrons at the pub where I worked continued supporting me each day.  Family and friends gave what they could.

When the big day finally arrived, I totaled up where I was at with donations and it came to just over $4000.  Tears filled my eyes as I stood in front of a huge crowd of family, friends, patrons and community members and announced my estimated total.  The things that move me is how in a world full of so much negativity, the people I am lucky enough to have in my life can be filled with so much hope, love, support, kindness and generosity.  This is what brings tears to my eyes, even now as write this.  I am very, very lucky to have all of these very special and supportive souls in my life!

So then I sat down in the chair.  The stylist banded the 21 inches of hair that would be mailed off to "Wigs for Kids" (this company works specifically with kids who are suffering from hair loss for a variety of reason but especially those undergoing cancer treatment).  Then the shaving began, and that was a very interesting feeling.  The razors buzzed back and forth across my scalp. There were no mirrors except for all of the faces of my family and friends watching and cheering as my hair slowly came away from my scalp.  It was intense and absolutely full of joy!  Pictures and videos recorded the whirlwind that I still have not fully processed as the stylist finished and I stood up on the chair to shout "BALD IS BEAUTIFUL!"  The stylist then handed me those long locks and I held them high beside my now bald head. Exhilarating!
(Photo credits: Emporia Gazette and Cathy Gilligan)


Then, after I thought it was all done- it wasn't.  Suddenly there was a donation cup full of money in my hand. My father with tears in the corners of his eyes was pressing money into the palm of my hand as he hugged me. As I went around town with friends, it seemed everyone I hadn't seen yet was handing me a few more dollars.  Then when the day was winding down and my tired bones were ready to call it a night, I logged into my online donation profile to see that there had been several more donations over the course of the day.  I was just under or right at the pie in the sky; hardly hoped for; wanted to hit but didn't think I actually would total of $5000.  I went to sleep that night with tears in my eyes- not because I was missing my long hair- but because I was overcome with humbleness from the support of my family, my friends (both near and far), and my amazing community that rallies for a cause in a way that moves me.   I AM SO LUCKY!

This was by far one of the best things I have ever done.   It reminded me how lucky I am that I have the "CHOICE" to do this when so many others do not.  Losing hair is one of the many side effects of treatments for cancer- there has to be a better way.  Though I will say, hair is not what makes us beautiful.  All day people were telling me how beautiful I look, how my eyes pop, how much more distinctive my features seem now.   Hair is just a feature, a feature that will grow back eventually for me.  What makes us beautiful is that light inside of us that radiates through our eyes, and our faces, our nonverbal signals that tell the world the each of us is special in our own unique way when you look past those exterior features. SO WORTH IT!

The money raised at this event, along with the money raised at several other similar events around the country has already raised over $18 million this year that will go to the best, most promising research.  Someday- it will make a difference for families with children who just want to be kids but instead must battle cancer.  That matters. That matters to me. So I thank you for reading about this, because now you know more and can spread the word for next year or maybe even sign up to shave your head by choice- because bald is beautiful!