‘Be The Hope’: Shaving for Cheyenne

by Dani Varela
February 8, 2017

2016 Ambassador Cheyenne’s childhood cancer journey began two years ago when her doctors discovered a life-threatening tumor blocking her airway. Cheyenne’s grandmother Dani reflects on what that day was like — and how it inspired her to host her own St. Baldrick’s event and shave in her granddaughter’s honor.

be the hope head shaving event

Shavees and volunteers at the “Be The Hope!” event form a cancer ribbon.

On January 30, 2015, I received a call that changed my family’s life forever.

It was the day I found out that my 9-year-old granddaughter was being airlifted to the hospital because a fast-growing tumor was crushing her windpipe.

It felt like the ground went out from under me. It was surreal. I thought, “this happens to other people, not to us.”

This two-year childhood cancer journey has changed Cheyenne a great deal. She has learned a whole new language. She has had to face her mortality and the possibility of never being able to bear children. She has had to endure more pain and suffering in the last two years than most of us endure in our whole lifetime.

BLOG: Cheyenne’s 11th Birthday: A Time to Celebrate Life >

Because of this cancer journey, she is in a different place than her peers at school. She missed so much school during the first year of treatment and she wasn’t able to share in experiences with her friends, so connections changed.

cheyenne and her grandma after her shave

A happy Cheyenne helps show off her grandmother’s newly-shaved head.

But, Cheyenne has an amazing attitude that lifts those around her. She is excited about life, and she has a special appreciation for the “gifts” this journey has given her.

In March 2015, not long after Cheyenne was diagnosed, I attended my first St. Baldrick’s event. I was moved to tears more than once as I watched men, women, and children shave their heads for kids with cancer.

BLOG: Why We Shave: One Family’s Commitment to Find a Cure >

I knew after I attended that first head-shaving event that I wanted to host my own — and I wanted to shave my head for Cheyenne.

Last year, I organized our first head-shaving event at Elizabeth High School in Elizabeth, Colorado. We named our event “Be the Hope!” and we raised over $6,900 for childhood cancer research. Students, teachers, and parents were moved by the celebration and honoring of “our” cancer kids — two angels, one survivor, and two fighters.

be the hope head shaving event

Dani’s new bald head encourages everyone to Be The Hope for kids with cancer.

I didn’t tell anyone I was going to shave at our event. It was fun to see everyone’s reactions. Cheyenne gave me a huge hug and said, “Grandma! You didn’t tell me you were going to shave your head! Thank you, Grandma, I love you!” She even gave me advice on how to respond to people’s stares and questions.

It is an awesome experience to be a part of something bigger than yourself. We are beyond grateful for the opportunity to “Be the Hope!” for kids with cancer.

Be the hope for kids like Cheyenne. Join her grandmother and raise funds for childhood cancer research today.

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Watch Cheyenne explain why she knows what words like “lymphoblastic” mean in our new campaign:

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