Nicole Davis’ long, dark locks will be no more come June 30.
Davis, a College Station resident, is joining the fourth annual “St. Baldrick’s 46 Mommas: Shave for the Brave” event in San Antonio, where moms and “honorary mommas” from across the nation and Canada will shave their heads in support of childhood cancer research.
Davis is considered an “honorary momma,” lopping off her locks for her best friend’s daughter, 4-year-old Siena Hernandez, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at age 2.
Davis has been friends with Hernandez’s mother, Laura, since the third grade. The Hernandez family now lives in Greenley, Colo., but Davis said the two still talk regularly.
“Them being so far away, there hasn’t been a lot I’ve been able to do to support them,” Davis said. “If I was there, I’d cook meals, watch the kids. I’ve only been a shoulder to cry on — somebody to call and listen.”
Laura Hernandez, who has shaved her head before in support of her daughter, will be at the event in San Antonio, and will shave her head once again, this time alongside a lifelong friend.
“A lot of people are like, ‘You’re doing what?'” Davis said, laughing. “For me, it’s the least I can do. It seems like a small sacrifice to make considering the struggles they have gone through. Giving up my hair for a little bit — it’ll grow back, it’s not permanent — is not as big a deal as a lot of people want to make it.”
Davis said her hair, a thing most women value highly, is worth trading to raise awareness.
The team of 46 Mommas began in 2010 with a goal of raising $1 million for pediatric cancer research. They exceeded that goal, raising $1.08 million at two events in Los Angeles and one in Washington, D.C. This year’s event in San Antonio is intended to be a reunion for many of the original Mommas to celebrate the milestone, as well as raise even more funds for childhood cancer research.
Courtney Moore, one of five lead organizers for the upcoming event, said she was concerned at a past event as she watched a mom, who had never had a short hairstyle, cut off 28 inches.
“Naturally, you keep rubbing your head, because it feels so weird,” Moore said, reflecting on the several times she’s shaved her head in honor of her daughter. “She said, ‘I feel so great! Why didn’t I do this before?’ It makes you feel like you can really do something — make a statement that is powerful.”
Davis, who has a 2-year-old daughter and is a nanny for two other toddlers, said she’s had conversations with them to brace them for her imminent change in appearance.
“We’ve been trying to prepare them, but luckily [my daughter] will be there with me when it happens.”
Davis said her husband was quite surprised when he learned his wife would soon be hairless, but is very supportive of the cause.
“People have talked to me about getting scarves and hats. Sunburning is definitely a concern because my head has never seen the light of day before, but I want it to be something that people ask me about,” she said.
Moore and Davis said childhood cancer research is underfunded and they hope getting rid of their hair will get the world asking questions and opening their pocketbooks.
Chatchawin Assanasen, associate professor of pediatric oncology at the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio, said 175,000 children across the world are diagnosed with cancer annually — the equivalent of a diagnosis every three minutes.
As a result of research, survival rates in childhood cancer, specifically leukemia, have increased from 20 percent to 85 percent over the last 25 years, he said.
As an organizer of St. Baldrick’s events and a recipient of funds for research, Assanasen said fundraising events such as the 46 Mommas shaves are crucial to developing new medicines.
Assanasen shaved his head at a San Antonio event in March.
“It’s a little part of what I can do to fund the research effort so that the broader goals and lives of these kids can be improved,” he said.
In addition to caring for Siena in her battle with cancer, Laura Hernandez also has a 6-year-old, a 1-year-old and a baby on the way.
“It’s really an empowering thing,” Davis said about her upcoming shave. “At least in my situation, it’s a feeling of helplessness that I can’t do more to make it better. As a mom, it’s really profound. You want to be able to protect your kids, but sometimes you just have to trust the doctor. This [shave] is all for childhood cancer. It gives us a way of doing something for our kids other than just being there.”