UCSF Doctors Shave Their Heads for St. Baldrick’s [PHOTO ESSAY]

by Rebecca Bernot, St. Baldrick's Foundation
December 30, 2013

On November 16, the lobby of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center in San Francisco turned green.

Green feather boas, green beaded necklaces, green bow ties and jackets, and even green hair flooded the space as several physician-researchers and faculty members joined with patients, families, and other volunteers and supporters for a St. Baldrick’s head-shaving event.

Mignon Loh, M.D., Ph.D., lead organizer for the event and a member of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation Scientific Advisory Committee, was planning to shave her head. She has been receiving St. Baldrick’s support for her pediatric leukemia research since 2008.

“I am so grateful for their support that I figured I could give back, raise a little money, and tolerate being bald for several weeks…if it gets our message across that we’re doing great things and we need to keep doing great things,” Dr. Loh said.

Dr. Loh was the first shavee℠ of the day to sit in the barber’s chair. Her daughter took the ceremonial first snip.

When asked why she was shaving, Dr. Loh replied, “I want to make a statement to everybody I meet when I’m bald about how important it is to raise money to support childhood cancer research.”

When it was all over, she gave a thumbs-up.

Dr. Loh was soon joined by Dr. Amit Sabnis, a St. Baldrick’s Fellow researching metastatic rhabdomyosarcoma.

Also braving the shave that day was Terese Calvo, whose daughter, Tori, was recently diagnosed with childhood cancer. Tori and her family left their home in Guam so she could receive the medical care she needed at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital.

Tori’s cancer journey began at the start of her freshman year of high school. What her mother thought was normal teenage stress and anxiety soon turned out to be something much worse. The doctors in Guam sent her to UCSF, where she learned she had anaplastic astrocytoma, an aggressive brain tumor.

Terese and her husband, Jake Calvo, had promised Tori that they would shave their heads in solidarity with her if she began to lose her hair in treatment. Tori’s hair fell out a month before the St. Baldrick’s event, but Terese and Jake waited to shave so they could raise money for pediatric cancer research.

As she sat in the barber’s chair, Terese was overcome with emotion. “I cried tears of joy,” she said. “I will probably never know the pain Tori had to suffer, but I was happy that I could finally share in the joy of being bald with my baby girl.”

“After the shave I felt content, confident and liberated,” Terese said. “I felt as beautiful as my daughter and all others who have lost their hair to cancer.”

Tori and her mom shared a special moment after Terese’s shave. “Hair is an accessory and is not vital to live,” Terese said. “What’s important is a strong heart and mind to help one fight to get better and overcome any illness or disease.”

Next, it was Jake’s turn to go under the buzzer.

Afterward, the family stood together with their freshly shorn heads and smiled.

When people ask Terese and Jake about their new hairstyle, they are proud to tell them about Tori and the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. Although they are glad to have surpassed their fundraising goal, they like to remind people that the need for childhood cancer research funding is dire, and there’s no deadline for donations.

“We would like to thank everyone who contributed to this amazing cause. We are overwhelmed by the love and support that we are still receiving,” Terese said. “We pray every day for a miracle, and we have hope that someday a cure will be found for all cancers.”

Photos by Cindy Chew.

You can help raise money for childhood cancer research, too. Get involved today.

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Read more stories on the St. Baldrick’s blog:
Dr. Brad Doubles Donations on His Head for Kids With Cancer
Pediatric Oncology Nurse Shares Why He Shaves for St. Baldrick’s
Avery’s First St. Baldrick’s Event [PHOTO ESSAY]
High School Students Raise Money for Childhood Cancer Research [PHOTO ESSAY]