My purple hair is about raising cancer awareness

I am probably too old to have long hair and purple hair extensions. But my reason is good: I'm sick and tired of cancer.

Too many people in Cornelius have been affected. I have purple extensions to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer. My hair will be long until it grows long enough to donate to Locks of Love, a public nonprofit that provides hairpieces to children with cancer.

My purple hair is the work of my hairdresser, Dodie LeFevre. When I went to get my hair done in August 2009, Dodie had a pink hair extension in support of breast cancer awareness. No one in her family had breast cancer; she was just joining in the cause.

Dodie suggested I put in purple hair extensions to support my best friend, who had been diagnosed with a pancreatic tumor.

Little did Dodie know that a month later, her sister, Debra Green, would be diagnosed with cancer.

Debra wasn't feeling well and went to her doctor, who sent her for a mammogram because she hadn't had one in four years. She found out she had Stage 2 breast cancer. Three weeks later, Debra found out she also had Stage 4 liver cancer.

Debra died last month.

Dodie said she didn't really know what to say about the loss of her sister, except it was "the most horrific experience I've had in my entire life. ... I won't ever get over it, watching someone that you love so much, watching her body go downhill."

When Debra went into hospice care, she was "talking and could acknowledge that you were there." A few days later, "her physical body and her emotional body broke down. ...

"I never want to go through something like that again in my entire life. My sister just withered away."

Dodie was able, nevertheless, to see a small bright side to that experience.

"In the last 20 months of her life, Debra gave me the biggest gift. She let me get to know my nieces (Debra's daughters, ages 13 and 15) better than I ever would have known them. I grew to really become an aunt. They're my heart and soul now."

What she will always remember about her sister, Dodie said, is that she had the "biggest sense of humor through the whole experience."

Debra had been heavy her whole life and always had been told to watch her weight, until she was diagnosed with cancer. Her doctor told her to eat high-calorie, full-fat foods. Debra reacted by saying, "I have waited my whole life for a doctor to tell me to eat full-fat foods."

Dodie said, "Here she was dying, and saying, 'Let's eat.'"

Though I never met Debra, I miss her. I heard enough about her from her sister to feel like Debra was my friend.

So in about two months, when I have Dodie cut off all my hair, I will donate it to Locks of Love in Debra's name.

I plan to keep my purple extensions as long as Dodie will put them in my hair. She may not realize it, but she and Debra have been an influence on cancer awareness.