MaKayla Muir winced when the clippers' steel blades first touched her head. But as strands of thick black hair tumbled down around her, she held steady. She even smiled at her bald reflection in the mirror. • MaKayla, 15, has lost her hair before. But this was the first time it happened voluntarily. • In 2009, the teen from Tampa was diagnosed with alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancerous tumor that affects the soft tissues of the body. Radiation helped her heal, but it also caused her locks to fall out. • "It was scary," she said. "Being 13, 14 and going to public school with no hair was hard on my self-esteem." • Now she knows better. • "Hair doesn't define you. It doesn't make you beautiful," she said. • That's why, on Wednesday evening, she became one of the first women to shave her head as part of Tampa Bay's Cut for a Cure, which raises money for the Pediatric Cancer Foundation. • "I shaved my head to show girls it's not a big deal," she said.
The 2-month-long event has been held for the past four years and raised close to $1 million.
The money goes toward funding clinical trials.
"We are looking for less toxic and more targeted therapies with a focus on sarcoma and tumors," said Nancy Crane, the foundation's executive director.
Even celebrities are in on it. Last month, Tampa Bay Rays coaches and players shaved their heads.
It was a male-dominated event for four years. Then this year, a woman involved with the Rays stepped up. Another three, including MaKayla, joined as well.
"We want more women," Crane said. "If you're bold enough to shave, then step right up."
Mickey Warhola, 53, of Tampa, did just that. Warhola shaved her head on Monday for all the young girls who need a role model.
"I definitely think, for the majority of people, woman have a little bit of a different feeling about their hair than men do," Warhola said. "It impacts our self-image differently."
It's also personal. Warhola's brother and mother died of cancer. And as a nurse case manager, Warhola figures her action will help her have more empathy for people losing their hair because of treatment.
When someone recently inquired about her health after seeing her shaved head, Warhola used the opportunity to espouse the good the organization does.
"I don't want to cover it up because I want people to ask me about it," she said, "so I can go into why I did it and why it's such a good cause."
Bonnie McCaslin's 8-year-old granddaughter got to take the first swipe on Grandma's head Wednesday night.
"I'm going to shave my grandma," Sara told the event's host. "I'm going to make her bald."
Sara was diagnosed with a brain tumor when she was an infant. For her family, funding pediatric cancer research is especially important because it is the only option left.
With traditional treatment options exhausted, Sara now goes to a hospital in Pittsburgh to receive specialized treatments.
"Without research, we wouldn't have this opportunity," McCaslin, 60, of Seminole, said. "I have to show my support."
It doesn't hurt that she looks great nearly bald, her daughter, Laura McCaslin, added.
Shelley Rossetter can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3401.