NORTH TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) – For too many of us, cancer has left holes in our families and in our hearts, taking our loved ones far too soon. The Roswell Park Cancer Institute is fighting back and News 4’s Katie Alexander is doing what she can to help.
Tuesday morning, she cut off nearly a foot of her hair at Studio 14120 to help make a wig for someone fighting cancer and to raise money for Roswell Park to continue its cutting-edge cancer research and innovative patient care.
As part of the care model, Roswell Park patients can take advantage of the Cancer Institute’s Resource Room, which offers a non-clinical space for patients to get education materials, emotional support from volunteers, and free wigs and styling services.
Those wigs make a huge difference for people who lose their hair during cancer treatments. “What we know from research is there’s a whole mind-body connection to healing of cancer,” Roswell Park Resource Center coordinator Martha Hickey explained.
News 4 had the opportunity to check out the Resource Center ahead of Katie’s hair donation, to meet a couple of the patients who directly benefit from donations to Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
One of them, Amherst resident Gail St. Pierre, was getting fitted for a wig for the first time. St. Pierre was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in July and started losing her hair a few weeks after starting chemotherapy. “It was a realization that I really do have a terrible disease and I have to try whatever I can to beat this,” she said, “and if you feel good, you’re going to try all the harder.”
St. Pierre got a boost in her cancer fight when stylist Jeff Lindner helped her put on her wig for the first time. “I am feeling fantastic,” St. Pierre told News 4. “Oh my gosh! What it’s like to have hair – I feel so normal and so elegant!”
Other Roswell Park patients say they also feel better after sitting in one of the stylists’ chairs in the Resource Center. “It just lifts your spirits,” said Loretta Pike, who was diagnosed with stage four cancer in her lung and liver in June.
“I mean, without the wig, you’re a different person when you look in the mirror,” Pike explained. “When you put that wig on, it’s like, ‘Oh my God, I’m not sick. I don’t have cancer.”
On average, the Resource Center gives away 100 wigs a month, and a grant funds free appointments with stylists who shape the wigs. “I leave here sometimes with a glow, because of something God gave me special that I can do for people,” said Lidner, who owns the 21st Century Salon and has been giving his time as a stylist in the Resource Center for 20 years. “They’re so sad when they sit in the chair. When they leave, it’s tears of happiness.”
“I make people feel good. I feel like with the wigs, most people it’s their glory to have hair,” added Lafondra Martin, another stylist who also works at a salon at 3025 Genesee Street. “It makes you feel good to have hair.”
For many people, it’s clear, a wig offers more than just hair, though. It gives the person who’s wearing it hope and healing as they continue their cancer fight. “I have my bad days, I have my good days, but when I come here to this Resource room, Martha (Hickey) and Jeff (Lindner) are the nicest people. They make you feel different, like you don’t have a problem in the world,” Pike said.
Katie Alexander is donating her hair to the Pantene Beautiful Lengths program, which gives free wigs to organizations like the American Cancer Society.
Many Western New Yorkers may remember she made a similar donation in July 2015, cutting off 11 inches of hair live on air.
This time around, she’s taking part in Roswell Park’s Goin’ Bald for Bucks campaign, which is all about clipping, snipping, and shaving the way to find cancer cures.
Katie is hoping to raise up to a thousand dollars to help fund Roswell Park’s cancer research efforts and patient care initiatives. Even before the big cut, her family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors had helped raise more than $600!
If you’d like to make a donation, please visit http://baldforbucks.org/KatieWIVB. Any amount makes a difference!