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Shave It Forward by BaldSurfer
My name is Carl Deacons, but for as long as I can remember, my friends have called me Deke. And this is y story.
I'd just turned 18 a few weeks before the day I went to the doctor for my pre-college physical. He asked me to raise my arms and ran his hands around under my pits and he paused and I felt him apply a little more pressure and I felt a tinge of pain.
"How long have you had this?", he asked me.
Being a wiseass teenager I said "Pit hair? Probably around eight grade, Doc."
"No," he said, "I mean that lump." I had no idea what he was talking about so he took my other hand and placed it on a small hard lump right where y pit met my pec. The look on his face scared me even as he tried to downplay it and say that he wanted me to get it checked out "Just to be sure." Later, in the doctor's office m mom cried as he explained what he'd seen and what we needed to do. A few days later, they did a biopsy and the doctor explained that I had a kind of cancer called lymphoma. We'd caught it early and the doctor said it was highly curable. A simple surgery and a course of chemo. I'd have to push back starting college until at least 2nd semester, but he was sure things would be fine. I was scared but took hope from the doctor's confidence.
The surgery went fine and I was home in a few days. My best friends, Mike and Jerry came to visit every day, and that always made me feel better.
Let me tell you about me and my boys. Mike had been a football star in high school. The girls all loved Mike, tall, brawny with blue eyes and blonde hair that always looked perfect, even when he took his helmet off right after a game. Jerry was the brains of our group, straight A student, but always funny and goofy and fun to be around. He was tall and thin. The guy could eat more than all of us put together and never gain an ounce. This year, he'd taken to wearing a big retro-looking afro and a cheesy "porn stache". Me - I was in the middle, I'd been an athlete - a decent baseball player but never a starter, but in pretty good shape and if I worked at it I got good grades. My dark brown hair was stick-straight and I wore it long, hanging just past my shoulders. During baseball season, a ponytail hung out the back of my cap.
So here we were in my room and the guys knew I was about to start chemo and they asked if I was scared. I said I wasn't. I'd been warned that the treatments would make me feel nauseous, that I'd have little appetite and would lose a lot of weight. And yes, there was a chance I'd lose my hair. But I just wanted to get well and move on with my life. My parents and I had talked to the doctor about the side effects and the doctor said soking a little pot would make it better. Mike and Jerry eagerly volunteered to administer that part of my treatment.
The treatments did suck. After the first one I started feeling nauseous all the time, and with my parents' reluctant blessing, the guys would stop by and smoke a joint with me to make me feel better. A few days after the third treatment, I was sitting up in my bed, smoking a joint with Mike and Jerry and I unconsciously reached up and brushed my hand through my hair. The guys looked at me horrified and before I could ask why, i looked and saw clumps of my long between my fingers. I ran my hand through again, and more hair came loose with no effort.
"I knew this was gonna happen," I calmly told my buddies. "I can't watch it keep coming out in clumps. You guys wanna have some fun? Hand me that joint, and go open the top drawer in my bathroom and grab the clippers. I bought them just for this."
I eased myself into a chair and took a long pull on the joint. Jerry wrapped a towel around my shoulders as Mike plugged the clippers in. He went looking through the guard combs until I told him we weren't going to use one."Let's do it!" I said, trying to sound brave. Mike asked if I was sure and I said absolutely, so he snapped on the clippers and raised them to my forehead. I shuddered as I heard them start eating into my hair, and as 12 inch hanks of hair rained down, my facade of confidence faded and i felt tears run down my cheeks. The guys pretended not to notice, and it wasn't as if they could stop now anyway. A few minutes later, the clippers were turned off and I ran my hand over the sandpaper of my scalp.
"I gotta see," I said as I weakly stood and walked into the bathroom. As I stared silently at the pale skin of my head and my drawn thin face I thought I really looked like I was sick. And while I stared at my reflection, I heard the clippers start up again in my bedroom. Curious, I turned around to see Mike chopping off Jerry's bushy afro."What the hell?" I asked and Mike replied that if one of us was going to be bald, we were all going to bald. I told them they didn't have to do that and Jerry jokingly exclaimed "I wish you'd said that 2 minutes ago!" Of course I never could have talked them out of it, and after Jerry lost his afro (but kept that silly moustache), Jerry shaved Mike's perfect blonde hair. The three of us, newly bald, shared another joint as I told them how much their sacrifice meant to me. Of course, being healthy, they looked better bald than I did, with my sunken dark eyes and drawn face. But they stayed bald with me through all my treatments that summer and made me feel less alone in the world.
I recovered as the doctor promised and by November, soft hairs sprouted on my head. Not stubbly but soft and new. My head was quickly covered in short brown hair and I started to work out and gain some weight back. By the time I started college in the spring, I looked almost normal. As my hair got longer and longer, it became my personal symbol of being well again and I knew I'd never cut it again.
That was 12 years ago. I moved to New York after college and when the banking firm I started at said they'd prefer me to have shorter hair, I explained my story and promised it would always be neat and professional looking, but I wasn't cutting my shoulder length hair. They agreed. And that's how it's been. I'm married, with 2 kids of my own. Mike and Jerry live far away but we still stay in touch.
Last month, one of the VP's at the bank was organizing a St Baldrick's fundraising event and came around looking for volunteers to shave their heads. He told me that it benefits kids cancer research and that my long hair would probably raise a ton of money. I thought about how my hair was my symbol of health, but then I thought how much it meant when my friends shaved their heads in solidarity. Then I thought about my own kids and knew I'd do anything to help keep them from ever getting cancer. So I agreed. I was one of 20 guys at the firm to sign up, but even from our other co-workers, I'd raised the most donations - almost $5000. Then when I posted it on Facebook, my friends from all over the country got involved and by the day of the event, I had $8500 pledged in my name. We had the event at a bar near the office, and as my turn got closer, I started feeling scared and nervous. Suddenly I felt like that sick kid who had no choice but to shave his head all those years ago. Suddenly I got a text message on my phone from Jerry with a link to a YouTube video and he said I had to watch it immediately.
There, on my phone, was a video of my 2 old friends in a bar, their heads freshly shaved and pale. "Deke, you know the rules, man. You shave your head, we all shave our heads. We got our "Deke 'Do's" and raised 2 grand! Keep up the fight, buddy!"
I was overwhelmed and didn't even notice that my name had been called until the whole bar started chanting DEKE! Filled with confidence, I got up on stage, smiled as they wrapped the cape around me and I heard the clippers begin to purr. The crowd went wild as a stripe was shaved down the middle of my head. I felt so great about the cause and the support of m friends that I had no regrets as I again watched a foot of hair rain down around me.
When it was done, someone handed me a mirror and this time it was a healthy smiling though bald Deke that looked back. I ran my hand across the bare scalp. I knew I'd grow my hair back immediately. At least until next year, when I could again repay the kindness of my friends and support a great cause by making what now seemed like a small sacrifice.