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Shaved heads: Teacher and student bond over girl's cancer

You don
You don't find many teachers willing to shave their head in support of a student, but that's exactly what Amanda Hubbard did for her student Melissa Garcia-Robles.
— image credit: Greg Allmain/Federal Way Mirror

Teachers and students bond with each other throughout the course of a school year, for a variety of reasons — some serious, some lighthearted.

At Wildwood Elementary, one fifth-grade teacher has created what will likely be an indelible bond with one of her students. When you get right down to it, you don't find many teachers willing to shave their head in support of a student, but that's exactly what Amanda Hubbard did for her student Melissa Garcia-Robles.

"It took me about a week, but I finally went into J.C. Penney and said, 'just shave it off,'" Hubbard recalled, her black hair now short and spiky. "And I came in the next day, and it was totally worth it. She (Garcia-Robles) was so excited, and it meant a lot to her."

Hubbard shaved her head in support of Garcia-Robles, who had shaved her head shortly before in support of her cancer-stricken older sister, Arpisy Estrada. Estrada, 15, is a student at Sacajawea Middle School who was diagnosed with leukemia in late 2012. She is currently being treated by Dr. Robert Irwin of Mary Bridge Children's Hospital in Tacoma.

Their mother, Ana Susana Robles-Salcido, said Hubbard's selfless act in support of her daughters is something powerful and profound.

"I felt something beautiful, it was a beautiful thing…the act of love the teacher had done," she said through an interpreter. "And I am very grateful to her."

For Garcia-Robles, expressing her reasons why she shaved her head are difficult for her, as it probably would be for most fifth-graders.

"I felt sorry for her," she said simply.

Older sister Estrada said her little sister's support, along with Hubbard's support, has been invaluable.

"It's sweet that they did that," she said. "Now I know they have support for me and I know they're on my side too."

Robles-Salcido said that Estrada's sickness is contained, and that there are currently no cancerous cells in her body. Her faith shines through in her words, especially as she spoke about Irwin and the staff at Mary Bridge.

"(We) have a wonderful doctor, and he's an angel sent from God," she said. "It's a special hospital, the whole staff have been wonderful. They have been (supportive of) the family. I have never been in a hospital like that with a lot of attention. It has been a hard time, but wonderful, because everybody has supported us."

Hubbard said the experience has made a deep impact on her as well, especially after she made the decision to shave her hair.

"It was a really great experience doing this because you just don't know how many people have been impacted by cancer," she said. "Just talking with people, various people, about their moms, or dads, or their sisters. It's just a much more powerful statement than I thought it ever could have been."

While Garcia-Robles and Hubbard's hair continues to grow back (with Hubbard getting some special help from Robles-Salcido in the form of a special shampoo), Robles-Salcido is confident that her daughter and her family can beat cancer.

"At this stage right now, we are going to win this battle, we are going to win the battle of cancer," she said. "I know we will."

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The Mirror would like to give a special thanks to Wildwood Family Liaison Greta Holtz, who was instrumental in making this story possible.

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