We sat down with Michelle Justice, a Registered Nurse at Highland Hospital and mother of Sky, 10, and Ivy, 8. This winter she went Bald for Bucks with family and friend, Tori. Her story is a touching one.
When I was a senior in high school, my friend Brad Waters was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Brad was quiet, kind, really smart, and we had several classes and activities in common. A small group of us met in the school office every morning to do the daily announcements and one morning Brad shared his diagnosis with us.
I was shocked and knew nothing about this illness or what he was going through because he never complained. He received inpatient chemotherapy at Roswell Park and I went there with a few friends to take Brad’s homework to him and help him get caught up on school work.
Since Brad was nervous about the effects of chemo, a couple friends and I agreed that we would shave our head when Brad lost his hair. He was grateful for the sentiment but also recognized it as a big commitment and made it OK for us to not do it.
One of Brad’s best buddies went through with it but as a 17-year-old girl approaching high school graduation, I was eventually dissuaded from the idea. Brad recovered, graduated as Royalton-Hartland Class of ’95 Valedictorian and we went on to different schools.
But his cancer came back, aggressively, and he passed away the following year. Part of me always regretted not shaving my head, not showing him that support while he was with us.
Fast forward to the first reunion for the Class of ’95 – our 20 year! It was great to see so many familiar faces, but some were missing and we honored their memory. My old promise resurfaced and it was then that I became obsessed with the idea of shaving my head.
But I also wanted it to make an impact, really make it count. I knew there were fundraisers out there where I could shave my head to raise awareness and funds. I started learning about them and what they support. That’s when I discovered that Goin’ Bald for Bucks supports exactly the kind of local programs that would have been a great resource to Brad and his family.”
Brad was a teen battling cancer just like our (13thirty) teens.
Thanks, Michelle, for showing us that even after 20 years, you can still make a difference to honor a friend!