Jessica Plumart is a junior Human Development and Family Studies major at the University of Missouri. This year she served as the Family & Hospital Relations chair for Mizzou Dance Marathon. You can find the original version of this story on the philanthropy's blog, here.
If you are walking around campus and see two people rubbing each other’s nearly bald heads, chances are they are members of the Dance Marathon family (or DMamliy) comparing their hair growth. This is because at Dance Marathon’s Main Event I, along with several other Steering Committee members, Morale Captains and dancers did something that still feels completely unreal: we shaved off all of our hair in support of all the little super heroes who have lost their own hair from chemo and other treatments.
Absolutely nothing could have prepared me for this experience. I had talked to friends who had lost their hair to cancer and others who had shaven it in solidarity. I thought I was prepared and that it wouldn’t really be a big deal; after all it’s just hair.
After months of telling everyone my plans to go DMald (bald) and raising funds FTK, the day of the Main Event had finally come. Only then, while absent mindedly running my hand through my long pony-tail, it really hit me. Today I am going to be bald. Like, really really bald. Why am I doing this again? I quickly told myself “FTK! FTK! FTK!” and repressed all the nervousness to deal with later.
With about half an hour to go until the hair clippers came out, the emotions were escalating quickly and the tears were pouring steadily; and not just from me. Some of our Miracle Families (who have very much become part of my family) were also sharing in the tears. The Newman family, whose 6-year-old son, Rylan, has Leukemia, offered up lots of hugs and words of encouragement. Mom Sharon and brother Bren rolled up their sleeves to make sure their matching “cancer sucks” tattoos were fully visible as they recounted when Bren shaved his own head in support of Rylan, and explained how much it meant to them that so many of us were about to do the same. After more tearful hugs and kind words of encouragement from other families and Steering Committee members, I was ready to head to the stage to make the cut.
Standing on a stage crying in front of 500 people with your head bent over a trashcan watching all of your hair fall off in chunks is a feeling there really are no words for. It was terrifying, exciting, sad, and inspiring all at the same time. As completely terrifying as the actual shaving process was it was all quickly made worth it. The second Kate was done shaving, Sharon and Rylan were at my side for excited high fives and Steering Committee was there with countless hugs.
What was truly amazing was the love that I felt from dancers. So many great people that I had never previously met were coming up to me throughout the rest of the night with supportive hugs and words of encouragement. Dancers were saying how they wanted to get involved more and how some (girls included!) wanted to shave their heads next year. One dancer who had also shaved his head told me how much Dance Marathon and all of us shaving our heads meant to him because he is a cancer survivor.
Nearly a month has gone by since the Main Event and going bald, and honestly some days it is still really hard. There are some days where I just don’t want to go anywhere because I don’t want to worry about getting strange looks and questions from people. Little things I would not have thought about, like buying sunglasses, are so much harder when you don’t have hair because you just don’t look the same and often don’t feel the same. Even though sometimes I just cry because I miss my hair and miss looking like everyone else, I am so glad that I did this and was able to get this slight perspective into these Miracle Kids’ lives. I cannot even imagine how hard it must be to lose your hair on top of being really sick and dealing with rough treatments.
All of the Steering Committee, Morale Captains, dancers, Miracle Families, my friends and family, teachers and classmates have made me feel so incredibly loved and supported throughout this. All of the encouraging calls/texts/tweets/classroom chats make me feel like I am not doing this alone. The whole point of shaving my head was to get some insight to what these kids are going through and to show them that they are not fighting alone. Feeling this much love makes me confident that our Miracle Kids are feeling even more love and support, and they are most definitely not alone in their fights.