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Why I’m going bald to help fight cancer

By Elisabeth Arriero
earriero@charlotteobserver.com
GD51SGBD1.3
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Carter Dang, a 3-year-old from Huntersville, lost his battle with neuroblastoma on Feb. 27

“God created a few perfect heads, the rest he covered with hair.”

Those were the words of reassurance my dad gave me when I first told him I was shaving my head for charity.

I don’t need perfect -- just please, no weird lumps or offensively-shaped birthmarks on my head.

On March 15, I will be participating in The Charlotte Checkers’ fundraiser for The St. Baldrick’s Foundation.

The organization was created to help fund childhood cancer research. Participants raise money and then shave their heads in solidarity with children battling cancer.

So far, the Checkers have raised $45,509 of their $50,000 goal. My goal is to raise $1,000 for the event. So far, I'm 92.3 percent of the way there with $923 raised.

Joining forces with the charity was rather serendipitous.

You see, ever since I was 18 years old, I have wanted to shave my head. I think I may have been brainwashed during my freshman year at UNC-Chapel Hill.

After all, in March 2006, “V for Vendetta” was released in theaters. So that fall, as an impressionable freshman, I couldn't go anywhere on campus without someone playing the movie -- whether it was at a party, in the student union, in the dorms, etc.

Spoiler alert to anyone who lives as a recluse in Nepal: There’s a scene in the movie where Natalie Portman has her head shaved on screen. It was intense and powerful. And Portman really pulled the bald look off well.

Flash forward to the spring semester of freshman year, and Britney Spears is making international headlines after shaving her head. Of course, this marked the beginning of a very major (now infamous) public meltdown for Spears. But at the time, I admired her chutzpah. She wasn’t some washed up '90s star trying to get some attention. This was a pop star in her prime, shaving her head and rocking it confidently.

To me, a female with a shaved head is an affirmation that beauty and femininity aren’t confined to long, flowing hair. Women can be poised, elegant and striking without using hair for a crutch.

It’s a great complement to my existing views. After all, I’m the kind of female who doesn’t own a hair dryer and who doesn’t use any make-up beyond Chapstick. Colored lip gloss is “going glam” for me. And if you ever see me with a full face of make-up, I’m probably at an awards gala or a wedding.

With a great example set by Portman and Spears my freshman year, shaving my head has been on my bucket list ever since.

But I didn’t just want to whimsically shave my head one day. I wanted to support a good cause in the process.

I had struggled to find an opportunity until I went to a hockey game that I wasn't originally supposed to attend. Near the end of the game, the Charlotte Checkers announced their plans to host a St. Baldrick’s fundraiser. And as part of that event, Checkers in-game host, Elle Bunn, as well as forward Matt Marquardt also will be shaving their heads!

It was perfect! This was the opportunity I'd been looking for. I signed up.

When creating my fundraising page, St. Baldrick’s suggested that I choose a child battling cancer to honor. There were about a half dozen selections, with kids from the Charlotte metro region to Raleigh. I chose to honor a 3-year-old Huntersville boy battling neuroblastoma because he was closest to where I lived.

It was that arbitrary.

I had no clue at the time that I would develop a close bond with this boy’s family over the next several weeks. I didn’t know that their journey navigating childhood cancer would deeply touch my heart, moving me to tears on multiple occasions. And I had no way of knowing that by the March 15 shaving event, I would be honoring this sweet boy’s memory and not just his ongoing battle, making the mission of St. Baldrick’s all the more significant to me.

But more on that later.

Be well.

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