Hill members shed hair in show of support

  • Published
  • By Beth Young
  • 75th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
As the scissors cut through the long ponytails of Team Hill members Tech. Sgt. Tamara Wass and Chief Master Sgt. Kathy Blake, the smiles on their faces, and those who surrounded them, beamed.

These where no ordinary haircuts, but a way to support their friend, Tammy Smith, Ogden Air Logistics Center employee relations specialist, who recently battled breast cancer.

"You only have to know her for 10 minutes to know why (we did this)," said Mrs. Wass, who is the 419th Honor Guard Flight Non-commissioned officer in charge.

The two friends decided to cut their hair soon after they knew that Mrs. Smith would be losing her hair due to chemotherapy treatments.

"It was within days of her operation on the phone with Kathy that we decided to get it cut," Sergeant Wass said. "It was an easy thing. If Tammy had to lose her hair so would we."

Mrs. Smith said that having support like this has made having cancer not as bad.

"I was quite honored that they would cut off their hair for me," Mrs. Smith said.

The new haircuts are not just a way to show their friend that they care, but will also benefit children who have lost their hair due to illness as Sergeant Wass and Chief Blake donated their hair to Locks of Love.

"The hair may not go to her, but the show of support does," Sergeant Wass said.

Locks of Love is a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces made from donated hair to financially disadvantaged children suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis. Many hair salons, such as the Great Clips in Syracuse, where Mrs. Smith watched her friends get their hair cut for her, offer free hair cuts to those donating to Locks of Love.

"It was actually fun," Chief Blake said, 419th Military Personnel Flight superintendent. "We were all laughing and having fun."

Mrs. Smith laughs easily and makes jokes about her situation, so it's not hard to understand why she would garner such support from her friends and family.

"She is so positive about the whole thing," Chief Blake said. "During the haircut, she ran her fingers through her hair and there where just huge handfuls. That is what made it real for me, because she is just so positive it doesn't seem like she is sick at all."

Because Mrs. Smith began to lose her hair soon after her first chemotherapy treatment, she decided to shave her head a few days after her friends got their haircuts. And although she admits to shedding a few tears over the loss of her hair, she continues to look on the bright side.

"Now I can use my physical fitness time because it used to take 45 minutes to do my hair," Mrs. Smith said. "Now I can just put my hair in the closet, work out and put my hair back on and go back to work. It's not a big deal. It's not the worst thing that has ever happened."

A brunette, Mrs. Smith is already thinking about buying a long blond wig just for "kicks and grins," she said.

It's easier to laugh now that Mrs. Smith has been deemed cancer free, but it was a passing conversation with a co-worker about cancer that may have saved her life.

"I was telling my husband this sad story and decided to do a self breast check," she said. "When I did, I found a huge lump."

Always healthy and with no family history of cancer, Mrs. Smith made a doctor's appointment the next day, but expected that she would be told her lump was normal and not to worry.

"The day after Christmas they called me and told me it was cancer," she said.

Mrs. Smith had surgery in January that removed all of the fast moving cancer.

"From the time I found the lump to the surgery it had already grown," she said.

Mrs. Smith has called this experience just a bump on the road to her goals and has found inspiration in the words of Henry Ford, "Obstacles are those frightening things that become visible when we take our eyes off our goals."

"It has been an inspiration to me along with my family, friends and co-workers," she said. "I look at chemo as an obstacle on the way to my goals that I have set for myself."

Having cancer and seeing the outpouring of support from family and friends, has changed Mrs. Smith's outlook on life.

"It has given me a whole new perspective on what is important and what's not," she said. "Since this happened, I realized that I have the true gift of friends and have been so blessed."

Because it was the story of someone else's cancer that helped her, Mrs. Smith hopes that her story could also help others.

"If I can make one other person remember to check (their breast) -- they should be like gravy and mashed potatoes - no lumps," she said. "You should check them monthly. You know if there is something that shouldn't be there."

For more information about the Locks of Love program visit www.locksoflove.org. For more information about breast cancer self examinations, visit the Susan G. Komen for the Cure website at www.komen.org.