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Love for mom shines through

Published Jul. 7, 2003
Updated Sep. 1, 2005

Nancy Plagenberg, 67, has breast cancer and has been undergoing cancer treatment for 3{ years.

One of Plagenberg's worries was the loss of her hair during chemotherapy. As she and her daughters discussed each step in her treatment, she liked to tease them, saying: "It better not make my hair fall out."

During one such conference call among Plagenberg and her children _ Nancy Roix of Citrus Hills, and Cindy Allen and Peggy Jordan, both of Columbus, Ohio _ Plagenberg asked which of her daughters loved her enough to go bald with her.

Allen and Jordan said there was no way they would shave their heads.

"After they said no," said Roix, 46, "I didn't have the heart to say no."

After the second chemotherapy treatment, administered just before Mother's Day, Plagenberg began to lose her hair.

"When her hair started falling out, I flew up to Columbus, Ohio, for Mother's Day weekend," Roix said. It was there, after dinner, that they had the big head-shaving ceremony _ removing Roix's 19 inches of curly dark red hair.

"As an act of love for my mom, my sister Cindy shaved my head and my nieces, Nikki Olsen and 6-year-old Lindsey, took pictures," Roix said. The event was also captured on videotape.

Plagenberg was reluctant to watch the actual hair removal, hardly believing her daughter was really going to do it. At one point, she realized she didn't really want her daughter to do it. She stayed in a different room.

Roix said the rest of her family had fun with it. Her sister shaved one side, then the other. During the cutting she fashioned an "old-man sweep over," Roix said, and also a Mohawk look.

They decorated a final fob with braids and beads. Roix put on a multicolored clown wig.

Plagenberg's curiosity overcame her and she joined the revelry.

"At first she didn't want to see me bald," Roix said. But her mother began to accept it and was soon happy about it.

After Roix returned to Florida, her mother called Allen, and told her she thought Roix looked beautiful bald and Plagenberg had begun to think she might not look so bad herself from the chemotherapy's effects. It was bothering Plagenberg that her hair was coming out in clumps and getting all over everything, so she asked Allen to come over and shave her head, too.

Roix said her mother was simply following her own advice. When her daughters were children she had told them it's easier to get into a swimming pool all at once instead of trying to ease into it. Going ahead with shaving her hair off all at once would make this plunge easier, too.

"When I got back here," Roix said, "my husband Earle, son Kenneth, (and) foster son Jesse Jamison all had their heads shaved at Fred's shop and I filmed it to add to the videotape of the head shaving ceremony."

Roix and her husband have a caretaking business for the disabled and have biweekly outings with clients at Beverly Hill Bowl. One of their clients, Scotty Costa, also got into the act.

"When Scotty from bowling heard about the whole family shaving their heads as an act of love for Mom, he also shaved his head, leaving a small tuft on top," Roix said. "When he was added to the tape, he said, "Hi, Nancy's mom! I want you to know I shaved my head to show love for you, too, and if I knew you, I would have shaved it all!' "

The videotape was given to Plagenberg, who recently moved to Florida to live with Roix.

Roix said she considers the move a blessing. Her greatest wish, she said, was to provide daily care for her mother.

Roix now wears a wig and her hair is about a {-inch long. It will be a quite a while before it even approaches its former length, but Roix said she is glad she cut it.

If her mother had wanted a kidney, she said, she would have given her a kidney. If her mother had wanted an arm, she would have given an arm. If her mother wanted anything, she could have it.

"And it's only hair," Roix said. "It grows back."