Our friend, Nicole, wrote to us to share the story of donating her hair in honor of her best friend. This story is sure to touch your heart – it certainly touched ours.
By guest blogger, Nicole Pearson
My son, Kian, and I donated our hair in honor of my beloved friend, Melissa Re. I met Melissa, or Re (pronounced “ray”) as most of her friends called her, when we were both freshmen on our college basketball team. Our team was tight, some more than others, but we all got along, and it was the most fun I had ever experienced playing on the court.
Together, Re and I experienced the tragic passing of one of our teammates, which forged our unbreakable friendship. From that moment on, we leaned on each other; l depended on her more than she ever needed me, but our friendship worked.
After college, we coached sophomore girls basketball together for three seasons. Re, good with control, was the head coach and I was the assistant coach that brought comic relief. I truly enjoyed spending every day doing what we loved and being able to share the experience with my best friend.
Nursing was her passion, after basketball and softball of course. Some days she would work 12 hours in the neuro-intensive care unit and then come to practice for three hours afterward. I could sense how emotionally and physically draining the job was on her, but she loved helping take care of her patients and never allowed the hard days to ruin her spirit.
In late winter of 2011, I received a phone call that would forever change my life. At the age of 30, Re was diagnosed with lung cancer. I broke down, but being the person she was, she consoled me. She always was the giver. She would take my boys on special dates so that I could have time to myself without me asking. Auntie Re Re, as my boys called her, treated them like they were her own children. She was naturally authentic by telling it like it is, but also understanding and compassionate. She was my greatest gift, my greatest friend.
Re battled cancer like the athlete she was – strong, confident, resourceful, a bit sarcastic, and NEVER choosing to quit. In 2015, Re lost her battle to cancer. A few months before her passing I had the privilege to travel with her to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, where she was receiving her treatments. I have never felt so humbled in my life. There were cancer patients everywhere, young and old, newly diagnosed and seasoned veterans. To this day, that memory has stuck with me and continues to shape who I am.
While Re was at one of the many doctor appointments, I took a break and grabbed some food from the cafeteria. While I was there waiting in line to pay, there was a family that came up behind me with a little girl no older than three years old. She was thin, without hair, and had a face mask on. I gave her a little smile and under that mask I saw a little crinkle of her eyes and knew she was smiling back at me. It nearly shattered me.
When I got back to the doctor’s office, Re saw the distress on my face and asked what was the matter. I told her what I was feeling, and she responded with, “I am a woman in my 30s who has done many things and been to many places. I have met many great people and am so thankful for that. What upsets me about this disease is that it has no moral compass. At least I have had the ability to have a full life, but there are sick children out there that haven’t even had a chance to live.”
After Re passed, I wanted to do something to honor her, like she had honored me for so many years being an undeniably amazing friend. I decided to grow my hair out and donate it to children undergoing cancer treatment. During her last round of chemo, Re stated it was the most she ever felt like a cancer patient because she had lost her hair. With this in mind, I found a wonderful non-profit organization, Wigs For Kids, who specifically donate to children.
My hope in donating my hair is to give kids, like the one in the cafeteria, a little peace of mind in not having to think about the weight of upcoming doctor visits, the overwhelming abundance of medications, or the fatigue in their bodies – rather that they can feel “normal” and can relish in the glory of feeling good about their bodies no matter what. The cancer battle can be long and hard. I hope that this wig helps a kid recipient to feel strong, confident, and powerful, just as a cape does for superheroes.
Kian donated because he knew how much Re meant to me, and she played a huge role in his life growing up. We had a family friend grow out his hair a few years back for Wigs For Kids. Kian truly enjoyed the idea of helping kids and decided he wanted to donate as well. He grew out his hair for a little over two years, including many tears brushing his “luscious locks” and an extremely hot summer of baseball. Kian has been such a wonderful inspiration and a source of encouragement to me.
On January 10, 2020, Kian and I donated our hair – Kian with 12 inches and me with 16 inches. We are grateful for what Re taught us and for the opportunity to honor her by giving to Wigs For Kids.