Senior center Michalina Tomczak and senior guard Kasey Gassensmith shaved their heads to raise awareness about colon cancer April 10. Gassensmith donated her locks to Pantene Beautiful Lengths, and the two raised more than $1,500 for Chris4Life Colon Cancer Foundation.
Colon cancer, also called colorectal cancer, is the third most common cancer in men and women, and also is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society. Research by the American Cancer Society has shown that incidence and mortality rates of colorectal cancer are higher in African-Americans than in Caucasians.
The Chris4Life Colon Cancer Foundation is dedicated to finding a cure for colorectal cancer, according to the foundation’s website. The website states until a cure is found, the Chris4Life Cancer Foundation is committed to improving the treatment experience for patients and caregivers and raising awareness about colon cancer.
Tomczak says she also is committed to raising awareness for the cause because colon cancer research is a very personal topic for her. Tomczak says her father was diagnosed with colon cancer in October 2012 and died from the disease April 22, 2013.
Tomczak says she always had considered shaving her head but gained the courage to do so following her father’s death.
“There’s many ways to keep them around, even when they’re gone,” Tomczak says. “You can still honor them and keep them in your life. They can still impact your life even if they aren’t right there with you.”
This was Tomczak’s first time shaving her head, and she says it probably will be her last. Tomczak says Gassensmith’s support, along with that of the Truman State community and her teammates, encouraged her to shave her head.
Tomczak says in addition to moral support and encouragement, many people have helped with her efforts to raise money. Tomczak also encouraged anyone considering shaving their head to do so.
“Hair is just hair,” Tomczak says. “When I shaved it, I felt no different. I looked in the mirror and still saw myself. Nothing had changed. Hair is not essential to happiness. It will grow back, and it’s not the end of the world. I’m more confident than I was before. It increased my self-esteem. It’s empowering and freeing.”
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