My son, Kian, and myself will be donating our hair in honor of my beloved friend Melissa Re. All donations are going to the non-profit organization Wigs for Kids and the leading children's cancer hospital St. Judes.
I met Melissa Re (Ray), or Re as most of her friends called her , as a newly 18 year old in my freshman season of "college" basketball. Our team was tight, some more than others, but we all got along and it was the best and most fun I had ever experienced playing on the court. We loved playing so much we even played on rec leagues any chances we got.
But it wasn't truly until the tragic passing of one of our teammate that brought me and Re to what I consider an unbreakable friendship. We always said that "Bement knew we needed each other" and from that moment on we leaned on each other (I depended on her more than she ever needed me, but our friendship worked).
We even coached sophomore girls basketball together for 3 seasons. She being the head coach because she was good with control and I being assistant coach, the "comic" relief. We had a great good cop, bad cop routine down and I truly enjoyed spending every day doing what we loved doing and then being able to share in the experience with my best friend.
In late winter of 2011, when I was expecting my 3rd child my husband received a job promotion and we found out that we would have to relocate. As a family this would be a very big change, but we were very excited to see the plan that God had been laying out for us.
A few weeks later; we went to visit the new town we were going to be moving too and this is when I received a phone call that would forever change my life. At the age of 30, Melissa Re was diagnosed with lung cancer. I broke down, but being the person she was she consoled me.
She always was the giver. She would take my boys on special dates so that I could have time to myself, all this without asking (she was their Auntie Re Re). She treated my boys like they were her own children. She was always very authentic with me by telling me like it is, but all the while being understanding and compassionate towards me. It was in her nature, it came so naturally to her. She was my greatest gift. My greatest friend.
Nursing was her passion (after basketball and softball of course). Some days she would work 12 hours in the neuro-intensive care unit and then come to practice for 3 more hours. I could sense how emotionally and physically draining the job was on her, but she loved helping take care of her patients and never allowed the hard days to ruin her spirit.
Re battled cancer like the athlete she was. So strong, confident, resourceful, a bit sarcastic and NEVER choosing to quit.
In 2015, Re lost her battle to cancer.
A few months before Re's passing I had had the privilege to travel with her to Texas to MD Anderson: Cancer Research Hospital (where she was receiving her treatments). While we were there I have never felt so humbled in my life. There were cancer patients everywhere, young and old, newly diagnosed and seasoned veterans. Still to this day I have this memory that has stuck with me and continues to shape who I am.
While Re was at one of the many doctor appointments, I ended up taking a break and going to the cafeteria to grab some food (I was pregnant with my 4th). While I was there waiting in line to pay there was a family that came right up behind me with a little girl no older than 3 years old. She had the typical "cancer" signs; thin, no hair and a face mask on. She was just standing there looking up at me, I give her a little smile and under that mask I see this little crinkle of her eyes knowing she is smiling back at me. It nearly shattered me.
When I got back to the Dr. office Re was still waiting, she had seen my distress on my face and asked what was the matter. I had told her what I was feeling and she responded with..."I am a women in my 30s who has done many things and been many places. I have met many great people and am so thankful for that. This is what upsets me about this disease is that it has no moral compass. At least with my life I have had the ability to have a full one, but there are poor children out there that haven't even had a chance to live."
After Re passed I needed to feel like I was doing something to honor her, like she had honored me for so many years being an undeniably, amazing friend. So in honor of my friend I decided to grow my hair out and donate to the children. With her last round of chemo she stated it is the most she ever felt like a "cancer" patient because she had lost her hair. With this in mind I found a wonderful non-for-profit organization, Wigs for Kids, who only specifically donate to children. My hopes for donating my hair is to give these kids, like the one in the cafeteria, a little peace of mind of not having to think about the weight of upcoming dr. visits, or the overwhelming abundance of medications, or the fatigue in their bodies; that they can feel "NORMAL" and can relish in the glory of feeling good about their bodies no matter what. This battle can be long and hard. I hope that this wig helps these kids no matter their circumstances feel strong, confident, and powerful just as a cape does for superheroes.
We will also be donating to St. Judes because Re always dreamed about one day being a nurse at St. Judes research hospital, even before she herself was diagnosed. They do so many great things for families and we just want to give a bit back for their dedication of making these battles a little bit easier.
Kian is donating because he knew how much Re meant to me and she was a HUGE role in his life growing up and still very much is; he remembers her "Lighting McQueen car". We had a family friend grow out his hair a few years back for Wigs for Kids and Kian truly enjoyed the idea of helping kids. That is when Kian decided that he wanted to donate as well. He has been growing his hair now for little over 2 years, it has been many tears brushing his "luscious locks" and a VERY hot summer of baseball this year; but Kian has been such a wonderful inspiration and a source of encouragement to me.
A great friend of mine, Ashley Dowd at Magnolia Salon in Bloomington, who is also a wonderful stylist has been more than helpful with helping us with fundraising ideas to get the word out along with agreeing to cut our hair. We are very thankful for her and the resources she has provided.
Our hair appointments are set for January 10th, just a few days after Re's 5 year heaven anniversary. We would love to break $1,000 and with your help I know that we can.
We just want to say thank you for your donation, or even simply reading our story. To say we were blessed to have known such a wonderful person is just a small word to describe someone who has helped shaped who we are. We hope reading this you get an understanding of how amazing our Re was and take a piece of her with you.