PEC Journeyworker Josh Hanawalt has always been close to his mom. So, when she revealed to her family in 2002 she had been diagnosed with hairy cell leukemia, he grappled for a way he could help.
“It was pretty gut-wrenching, and I wanted to do whatever I could,” Hanawalt said. “I know you lose your hair when you go through chemotherapy, and my mom has always loved mine. I knew that growing it out for her would mean a lot to her and make her feel better about losing hers.”
Hanawalt began growing his hair to have a wig made for his mother, but she was one of the few whose hair remained throughout chemotherapy. Instead, Hanawalt donated his hair to Locks of Love, a nonprofit organization that provides hairpieces to people under 21 years old suffering from long-term medical hair loss.
After a relapse in 2017, Hanawalt’s mom underwent chemotherapy treatment again, and he spent more than a year growing his hair to 10.5 inches in length for another Locks of Love donation on June 1.
“I wanted to donate again because I wanted to raise awareness,” Hanawalt said. “I was asked every question you could imagine about why my hair was so long, and it’s been a great way to share my mom’s story and advocate for others like her.”
Today, Hanawalt’s mom is healthy and doing well, but he hopes to inspire others to get involved for those affected by cancer, too.
“I would just encourage others to think about if something like this happened to a family member of your own. Wouldn’t you do it for them?” Hanawalt said. “If you enjoy giving back, this is a meaningful way to do so. The whole process really grows on you, no pun intended.”