"I don't mind being sick but I mind looking sick. I'd rather blend in and not stand out at the store," the mom of six said.
Hair loss is one of the most common side effects of cancer treatment. It can be quite depressing as it is a constant reminder about a patient's illness. Hair is so intrinsically linked to one's identity that losing hair during cancer therapy can take a devastating toll on the patient's mental health.
When a mom suddenly began to lose her hair because of her treatment, she didn't want to stand out in the crowd for not having her hair. That is when her son stepped in and decided to grow out his hair to donate it and make a wig for her.
Melanie Shaha of Gilbert, Arizona, began experiencing dull headaches in 2003. She was told by the doctors that the headaches were because of a benign brain tumor of the pituitary gland.
The tiny gland located at the brain base regulates hormones related to growth, stress and metabolism, according to TODAY. Even though Melanie's tumor was only the size of a plum, it affected the functions of her pituitary gland.
"I had surgery to remove the tumor and I had a really great outcome," the mother of six shared.
#AZ Man Grows Out His #Hair for 2 Years in Order to Make a #Wig for #Mom Battling #BrainTumor - "It's just been such a tremendous #gift," Melanie Shaha said of her son Matt's decision to help make her a wighttps://t.co/v8hfru1bf7 #cancer #oncology #Haircut— April Shorty (@April_Shorty_) July 23, 2022
Unfortunately, the tumor returned and Melanie had to undergo surgery a second time in 2006. It came back a third time in 2017, for which she was prescribed radiation. “I asked (my doctor), 'Will I lose my hair?' and they said 'No,'" Melanie recalled. "Three months later, I had a big shed and started losing hair. I was surprised."
According to the National Cancer Institute, radiation can cause hair loss on the areas being treated.
"Not having hair, you stick out like a sore thumb and well-meaning people can say things that break your heart," she added. "I don't mind being sick but I mind looking sick. I'd rather blend in and not stand out at the store."
A year later, in 2018, over lunch, Melanie's 27-year-old son, Matt, joked about growing his hair to make a wig for his mom. Matt had just graduated from a university that prescribed hair length as a part of their dress code. Though he was simply enjoying the freedom of growing out his hair, "something clicked."
The bond between a mother and son is often unbreakable. In the case of Melanie and Matt Shaha, the bond was strengthened when the 23 year old grew out his hair to make a wig for his mom, who's been battling cancer.https://t.co/rAYY5z1KOG— LiveNOW from FOX (@livenowfox) July 20, 2022
Malanie, who didn't want her son to worry, said, "I would tell him, 'I love your hair' and he’d say, 'Coming soon to a head near you!'" she said.
By March 21, 2022, Matt had grown the required length of his hair—about 12 inches— needed for a wig. Eventually, he along with a few of his coworkers, went to his mom's house, where they cut it all off.
"We were super pumped and when they started cutting, we bawled," said Melanie. Her son's hair was then sent to a Newport Beach, California-based company called Compassionate Creations which delivered a hand-tied wig to Melanie in June 2022.
“The family was such a joy to work with," co-founder Veronica Balch said. "When someone selflessly shaves their head for a family member, it makes what we do even more special.”
As for Melanie, she loves her wig. "The color is spectacular and we had it cut and styled with a hairdresser," she said. "Matt said it looks great on me."
"It sure fills your emotional cup," she said of her son's selfless gift, adding that it will definitely be a hard one to top.
Representative Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Dianne Gralnick