Keri Lawrence never really had a place to call home. She grew up with a mother in the Coast Guard and a father in the Navy. She had to say goodbye to new friends year after year and start fresh in a strange place. It’s hard to imagine home sweet home when you have lived in California, Seattle, Japan and Austin.
As cliche as it sounds, the truth is, her family was the only comfort zone she could rely on, but when cancer hit three of her loved ones, she saw that comfort zone narrow.
One year later, Lawrence, a biochemistry sophomore, has decided to do the same. She will celebrate her birthday Saturday, April 13, by shaving her head to fight pediatric cancer.
“Brave the Shave proves that an illness does not define these children,” S.M.I.L.E. social chair, Nguyen Dinh said.
Lawrence feels angry that the outward appearance of cancer patients who lose their hair in treatment creates an entirely new identity for them centered around the disease.
Lawrence was wandering aimlessly around the tables of the West Mall when she spotted a sign for S.M.I.L.E., the same organization that inspired her tween sister to sacrifice her hair just before starting high school. She decided to sign up.
“After the first meeting, I was hooked,” Lawrence said. “I just stumbled upon it, and now I can’t imagine college without S.M.I.L.E.”
So far, Lawrence has raised almost $2,000 for S.M.I.L.E. and Brave the Shave. All of her donations will go to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which focuses on promoting research for childhood cancer, and she has urged friends and family to donate to her cause so she can reach her donation goal of $5,000.
“Shavees put themselves in a patient’s shoes,” S.M.I.L.E President Katie O’Halloran said.
Lawrence said that by giving up her hair, she will be giving a sense of community to those affected by cancer, especially those singled out for their illness. She has watched her grandfather, her grandmother, her aunt and a young family friend battle not only the physical effects of cancer, but its social impact as well.
One of Lawrence’s main supporters also happens to be her inspiration to fight for this cause.
Moon Morris, her aunt, was planning to start a family with her husband when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Miraculously, Morris survived and was able to conceive Lawrence’s two cousins.
Morris has given Lawrence support and donations and pushed her to be steadfast in her efforts to end cancer.
Lawrence said her mother and father were not surprised to hear she was shaving her head. Her father, a math teacher, had his head shaved by his school principal in front of the entire student body to support Lawrence’s endeavor.
Her young brother, Trevor, on the other hand, is not as convinced.
“After Sian shaved her head, Trevor thought [he and Sian] looked exactly alike,” Lawrence said, “He’s concerned I’ll look like a boy too.”
In the past week, Lawrence’s brown wavy locks have become more important to her than ever.
“This week, of all weeks, so many people have complimented me on my hair — random strangers even,” Lawrence said, “I never thought it would be an issue, but now they have me worried.”
The reality that she will be bald in just a few short days has finally hit her. She mentioned that not being able to stroke her hair when she’s bored will be what affects her most.
“Like it or not, hair is so important to girls,” Lawrence said. “Maybe that’s why giving it up makes such an impact.”
Lawrence knows that there is not much she can personally do to stop cancer. But after the disease put her family to the test, she believed she owed it to them to do her part. She and more than 150 others aim to prove that pediatric cancer patients are not alone.