If there's one sight that gives me instantaneous grief, it's seeing a child with cancer — a pure, innocent soul suffering through what can be the most horrific of diseases.
Growing up, my father — a school teacher for young kids — would donate to St. Jude Foundation every single year.
I donate occasionally to charities, but I'm on a tight budget that doesn't allow me to spare much. So I searched online to see how I can contribute to sick children without sacrificing dinner for my own child.
I found St. Baldricks Foundation, a charity that holds events where you can shave your head to not only raise awareness of child cancers, but also to show solidarity with those who've lost their hair due to treatments like chemo. I decided then and there that I would shave my head.
I grabbed my husband's electric razor and shaved my entire head clean. I cried while doing it; it's an emotional experience and can spark an identity crisis. I felt self-conscious. It was the first time I had no hair since I was born. I remembered that there are others who don't have the choice to shave — their hair just leaves them without consent. I cried some more when reality set in: I was healthy. I was alive.
I raised $250. I knew it wasn't a lot of money, but it was something that made me feel like I was doing my part to help.
But being a woman with a shaved head invites questioning stares and tons of questions. Shortly after shaving, I went on a live-stream application called Periscope. I was immediately bombarded:
"Are you a lesbian?"
"Do you have cancer?"
"You are so ugly."
The questions hurt, I won't lie. But in my heart, I knew what I was doing was the right thing and that these questions would lead to answers that may help someone else choose to follow the same path I did. And in many ways, I am OK with it because that's the point: I raise awareness, people donate, and children get the help they so rightfully deserve.
But shortly after his death, I realized I did know how. I knew what I had to do. I signed up for St. Baldricks again and shaved my head. This time, I skipped the self-shave and went to a nearby salon that was nice enough to shave my head for free.
It didn't bring my father back. It didn't cure the cancer in millions of children. But if my tiny piece in the puzzle can help even one person, or just make a compassionate statement, then I'm happy.
I didn't hit my goal this round. With the onslaught of Go Fund Me pages, it's very difficult to get donations to "general" charities when people feel they can help a specific individual. I understand that. But it won't stop me from shaving my head next year and the year after that.
I do this for the children and I do this for my father, who I know is looking down at me, smiling with pride.
There are many ways to support cancer research and raise awareness that don't involve donating money. For ideas, check out the American Cancer Society's Get Involved page.