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Hair dare helps fight cancer

Teachers and students stopped by the Illahee Junior High cafeteria after school last Tuesday to get their manes cropped for a good cause.

Stacy Barrow, almost 15, organized the Dare to Cut Your Hair campaign as part of her ninth-grade project. The hair, bound into ponytails, will be sent to an agency that will turn them into wigs for patients who have lost their hair because of their treatment programs.

Barrow was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease July 13 last year.

Her mom, Vikki Barrow, said Stacy handled the diagnosis well.

She missed at least four days of school each month because of her overnight chemotherapy treatments, but she declined a tutor and maintained straight As on her own.

The chemotherapy weakened her immune system and left her tired a lot. She got the flu earlier this month and had to spend a week in the hospital.

Her illness forced her to take a break from the gymnastics team, but the thing that broke her heart the most was losing her hair.

Vikki Barrow said Stacy was prepared for chemotherapy making her hair fall out. They already had talked about a wig.

“But when she woke up and found hair on her pillow, she lost it,” Vikki said. “I don’t think anybody should have to go through this, but definitely not your kids.”

She took Stacy and some of her friends to the hair salon. They cried as the stylist trimmed off her hair.

Hodgkin’s is a disease of the lymphatic system in which cells divide out of control and can form a tumor. Symptoms usually include night sweats, fever, tiredness, weight loss, cough or breathlessness, a persistent itching all over the body and swelling around the lymph glands.

Doctors treat Hodgkin’s disease with radiation or chemotherapy. If treatment is successful, which it usually is, Hodgkin’s is one of the few cancers doctors will use the word “cured” to describe.

Stacy now is recovering from eight months of chemotherapy treatments. The tumor is gone and doctors removed the port for the chemotherapy from her chest two weeks ago. She’s back on the cheerleading squad. She said she feels a lot better.

Stacy’s hair is beginning to grow back, but she still wears her wig. That’s why she decided to do the hair drive — she knows what it feels like to not have hair.

Her advisor at Illahee, Ron Gibson, helped her with the drive, and his sister, Denise, volunteered her services as a hair stylist. Stacy and some of her friends made up permission slips, made announcements and visited classes to get the word out.

Stacy said she was surprised at the number of people who showed up to donate their hair. She expected the haircutting to last from 2 to 4 p.m. last Tuesday, but, at 4:30, there still were two girls waiting to donate their locks.

By the end, Stacy collected 52 ponytails from more than 15 donors. It takes twelve 10- to 12-inch ponytails to make a wig.

Stacy credits her “awesome” friends with the donation drive’s success.

“They helped me tell people. They were going up to people saying, ‘Hey, look at all this hair,’” she said.

Sarai Marroquin, 15, a ninth-grader at Illahee, met Stacy in gymnastics last year. She heard about the donation drive three weeks ago and decided to donate her hair.

“It’s for a great cause,” she said. “I have really long hair ... I’m happy I could help out.”

Losing her hair and undergoing the treatments was hard, but Stacy said the trick was to be herself and to keep on going.

“It shows people even bad things can’t bring you down,” she said. “Even though I’m just being myself, it’s cool that I can be an inspiration.”

Staff writer Erica Jahn can be reached at 925-5565 and ejahn@fedwaymirror.com.

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