Health care communicator sheds locks for love

Danielle Bates, communications director of NC Children's Hospital, shaved her head on Saturday, May 18 at the Crunkleton to help raise awareness and money for children with cancer. Learn more to see how her mother and a young patient, both who battled cancer, served as her motivation.

Health care communicator sheds locks for love click to enlarge Danielle Bates getting her head shaved at the Crunkleton on Saturday, May 18.
Health care communicator sheds locks for love click to enlarge Bates (left) and Taylor Stewart's mother, Lorrie.

Danielle tells us why she's doing this:

Worldwide, a child is diagnosed with cancer every 3 minutes. I have met many kids (too many kids!) battling cancer. In the fall of 2010, I met a family that became particularly special to me, Taylor Stewart of Norman, N.C. and her mother, Lorrie.

Taylor was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) within a couple weeks of turning 12 earlier that summer. Having once been a 12-year-old girl myself, I was in awe of how she took her illness in stride and remained upbeat. Lorrie, too, inspired me, always smiling and looking for the positive, even in the scariest of situations. I have two young ones of my own. I can’t imagine what Lorrie was going through.

Over the next couple of years, I grew close to Taylor and Lorrie, riding the roller coaster of ups and downs posed by Taylor's illness. I always hoped I'd hear good news the next time I saw them. Then one day last summer, I ran into Lorrie. The expression on her face said it all. I cried openly as she bravely managed the words: Taylor was near the end.

Taylor lost her brave battle September 7, 2012, just a few weeks after her 14th birthday. It was then I resolved that I had to do something-something drastic and dramatic. I had to raise not only awareness but money to fund research in Taylor's memory.

Some have asked: why not walk or run a marathon? My mom was just 43 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She caught it early and we were told she had a 99 percent chance for survival. I told her I’d shave my head if she lost her hair. As it turns out, I didn’t have to, because her chemotherapy regimen was “light” enough that she didn’t lose it . . . at least not the first time around.

A year later we found out her cancer had metastasized to her liver. They pulled out the big guns. When her hair fell out, I reiterated my commitment and told her I was going to shave my head. As most moms probably would, she argued against it. “You’re young. You’re single. Please don’t.” I didn’t put up much of a fight. And I’ve always regretted it.

Some months after we learned the cancer had spread, my mom and I were standing outside a children’s cancer clinic in California. We were watching the children play, and she turned to me and said, “If there is a shortage of miracles in this world, I don’t want God to waste one on me.” She explained all the things she’d been blessed to experience in her life and how heartbreaking it was to her knowing that those kids might never get the chance. So in my mind, not only am I making up for the fact I didn’t shave my head when I first had a chance, but I’m doing my part in making Mom’s miracle wish come true. She’d really like that—much more than if she and I had been bald together during her treatment.

The original article was published by Ragan's Health Care Communication News and can be found here.