Many of us know young women who choose to grow their hair down to their waists with the intent to donate to those who have lost their hair to illness. My daughter did it in 9th grade, as did many of her friends. It is the ultimate act of selflessness. Many of these girls have much of their identity tied to their tresses and by donating them to those who are suffering, they learn a great lesson of the true meaning of giving. (Locks of Love provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada under age 21 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis).
This weekend a very special young woman in our lives turned 21. She is the dear friend of my daughter and we have known her since preschool days. In celebrating her birthday, she too, chose to donate her beautiful long locks. Although turning 21 is a big milestone for many, this was monumental for Emily and her family and friends. What is different about this remarkable woman is that she has known first hand what it is to lose her hair. Not once in her short life, but twice. By the time she was 12 years old she had battled Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and become a two-time cancer survivor.
This young woman has battled cancer and won with the grace and zest for life like no one I have ever known. She is a true inspiration to me and every time I see her she lights up the room. To be loved by Emily is to be truly loved, and she let’s you know that.
There was a big party at her parents home where she showed her bravery once again by having her hair cut in a room full of people who love and support her. And was that room full! It is hard for me to put into words how much of an effect this person has had on those of us who have known her most of her life. If you can measure a life by the people you touch, Emily is a giant.
As she sat in that chair I could not help but flash back to both times that we learned of her illness, the years she spent stoically fighting this dreaded disease and the elation we all shared when she received a clean bill of health.
She has dedicated much of her life to helping ease the road for so many children who are suffering. Among her many activities she is a past speaker and major fundraiser for the annual Relay for Life event in our town and volunteers at Sunrise Day Camp – the only day camp in the nation dedicated to serving the childhood Cancer population and their siblings free of cost. Her latest campaign is Bald for a Cause, where she not only donated her hair but set a fundraising goal of $5,000 in honor of her 21st birthday. These donations benefit the Sunrise Day Camp and The Winthrop University Cancer Center for Kids.
If you can, please join me in honoring this truly terrific young woman and give any amount to help her realize her goal.
In her own words, here is a quote from her Relay for Life speech:
I’ve realized that true friends will stick with you, no matter what you look like or what you’re going through. They’ll remain by your side, ready to help in any way possible, giving you the courage you need to succeed. I believe that my battle with Leukemia had helped me find those real friends. I’ve learned that bad things do happen to good people, but its bravery and courage that helps those good people make it through.
To Em – my sweet, may you always know the love that was in that room this weekend. With all the awful things you have had to live through, you have known the love of so many and have given it back tenfold. When I grow up I want to be just like you!
What this world needs is more Emilys!