It’s that time of year.. our pants are feeling tighter, dust-bunnies are starting to take up residence in our wallets, and our schedules are jam-packed with the promise of happy memories being created.
With the new year just weeks away, it’s also time to start penning those resolutions, big and small.
I got out of the house alone this week (a big deal when you have 12 week old twin babies, so thankful for my husband) to stop in for a much-needed pampering at my favourite local salon, Beauty on Bank (key features for me: non-catty, welcoming atmosphere; high quality Redken products; experienced stylists and colour technicians; non-inflated prices… and a cappuccino maker). The planning for a big event in the New Year was causing a buzz of excitement amongst staff and clients.
Beauty on Bank is a leader in the Ottawa community by taking part in Hair Donation Ottawa‘s annual event. Hair Donation Ottawa has raised over $370 000 since 2011, and over 25 000 inches of hair have been donated by this fundraiser. The money and funds raised supports child and adult cancer research, simultaneously empowering financially-challenged kids with hair loss by providing them with free wigs.
For a local salons like Beauty on Bank that have volunteered their time, this means a marathon day of cutting, styling and donating… offering long hours of unpaid labour to support a good cause! In preparation for the event, Shelley is also working to recruit hairstylists to donate their time and skills on the big day.
“There are for-profit hair donation services out there,” acknowledges Shelley, “…but can you imagine struggling with cancer treatments and having to worry about the financial strain of purchasing an expensive wig… or worse, not being able to afford one?”
Shelley’s logic hit close to home. A couple of years ago, I met Erika at an event that we were both working; we immediately hit it off over the water fountain as we filled our bottles.
“I’m trying to lose weight, so I’m here drinking water instead of ordering a greasy piece of pizza like everyone else. But… I’m always trying to lose weight, so what’s the point…” I joked to her, rolling my eyes as I sipped from my bottle and expecting to bond over stories about life-long struggles with weight loss and obesity.
Instead, Erika surprised me by joking back: “Yeah, I’m the only girl in the world who gets blasted with never-ending cancer treatments and gains weight, instead of losing it!”
Erika’s openness immediately drew me to her.
The next event that we worked together, she had drastically changed her hair… it was longer, lighter, and shinier than I remembered it being. When I complimented her, she smiled and exposed a small piece of her scalp near her ear, where her skin met the material of a wig. Erika explained how because of her cancer and the treatments, she struggled with most aspects of her appearance (changes to skin, loss of hair, weight gain), despite being a self-proclaimed girly-girl.
“It’s really hard to find and keep a job,” she explained, “because no one wants to hire the girl with cancer, everyone feels guilty about making me work, I have a million medical appointments, and no one really understands how sick I feel sometimes.” On top of that financial constraint, we were both working in jobs that paid just above minimum wage. Yet while I was spending money on the normal (read: frivolous) things that 20-somethings do, Erika was buying creams, wigs, and drugs as a result of this pain-in-the-ass cancer she was forced to deal with.
The last time I saw Erika was shortly before her death, in the butterfly garden between CHEO and the General Hospital. Being told that she had days to live, a last-minute dream wedding was planned by hospital staff with the help of her family and friends (click here to read more, it was awesome).
As she was pushed up the chair in her wheelchair, Erika locked eyes with me, looking from my very-pregnant belly (just weeks prior to the bursting into existence of my twin girls) and then searching my eyes. In this moment, I was stunned by the unfairness of it all: the imminent and untimely passing of her too-young life as I impatiently anticipated the arrival of two new lives.
Still, it was in happiness that I saw Erika as she was that day, a blushing bride on her wedding day. I was overcome by the absolute beauty of her, her elegance, a wigged halo of blonde hair framing her beautiful face.
It seems like this year, cancer has dug its claws into so many. As a community, we have mourned the news with Magic 100’s beloved Stuntman Stu, talented Canadian Gord Downie, and the wife of Ottawa Senator’s Craig Anderson, to name a few. At home, we said goodbye to a friend after an impossibly long battle with breast cancer, a cousin battles courageously with lung cancer, the father of a friend goes head on with lung cancer, my niece’s grandmother contends with leukemia, and 2016 marks 5 years since the passing of a brave, determined family friend.
Community leaders like Shelley, businesses like Beauty on Bank, and volunteers like the stylists, salons, and donors that participate in Hair Donation Ottawa allow people who are struggling with cancer to feel pretty when otherwise they might feel worn-down, sick, or self-conscious. Important too is the fact that this is a non-profit fundraiser, allowing beauty to be financially accessible.
Hair Donation Ottawa’s 7th annual fundraising event will take place on April 30th, 2017 at Algonquin College. Hair donors are expected to collect sponsors (amounting to a minimum pledge of 75$ for participants under the age of 18 and 150$ for participants over 18 years old) and can opt to donate 6 inches or more of hair (non-virgin hair accepted), shave their head entirely, and/or cut their long beard. If donating hair isn’t your thing or you can’t make the event, consider sponsoring or donating!
In the name of hair happiness for a fellow community member struggling with cancer… Interested in making a financial donation? Willing to offer your skills as a stylist? In need of a cut? Contact Shelley at Beauty on Bank: (613) 523-7290 or Hair Donation Ottawa at (613) 791-8391.
Still short on resolutions? Click here to read about another way to make positive change in your community.