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'I've never felt so loved'

After Lori Bailey lost her hair during chemotherapy, her 7-year-old donated her ponytail to Locks of Love.

By JANE MADDEN WELCH
Published May 26, 2004

[Times photos: Kathleen Flynn]
Lori Bailey, who has been battling cancer, and her daughter, Jordan, stand in their kitchen in Palm Harbor. For years, Jordan, below, wanted her hair to be long. But the 7-year-old decided to donate her hair to a group that makes wigs for cancer patients. "I could not be more proud of her," Lori Bailey said.


Jordan and Lori Bailey hug after Jordan donated her hair. Jordan says she wanted to get her hair cut, "so Mommy and I can grow our hair back together." Parents and teachers at Westlake Christian School, which Jordan attends, have rallied around to give the family support.

PALM HARBOR - Lori Bailey was surprised when her 7-year-old daughter Jordan said she wanted to get her hair cut. After all, this was the girl who would point at a framed picture of her mother with waist-length hair and say, "I want long hair just like Mommy."

That hair is gone now as Lori Bailey battles breast cancer. She explained the effects of chemotherapy to Jordan. They talked about why people lose their hair. Bailey also told Jordan about Locks of Love, a nonprofit organization that makes hairpieces for children who suffer hair loss. They looked at before and after pictures of Locks of Love recipients online.

That was all Jordan needed to see.

"That's what I want to do," Jordan told her mom.

Together they recently went to the Hair Company in Alderman Plaza where Jordan had her 12-inch ponytail lopped off. It was her second haircut ever.

It takes six to 10 donated ponytails to make one hairpiece, according to Locks of Love. The Lake Worth charity receives more than 2,000 hair donations each week. Eighty percent of the hair donors are children. The hairpieces are provided free to financially disadvantaged children younger than 18 who suffer from long-term medical hair loss.

"Jordan told me she wanted to help children who lost their hair because kids can be cruel sometimes," said Bailey's mother, Brenda Micallef.

Lori and Jordan Bailey live in Palm Harbor with Brenda Micallef and her husband, Paul. Their tidy house is filled with things any 7-year-old would love: a rabbit and four cats, Loving Family dollhouses, a piano, pool table, books and videos. And lots of pictures, mostly of Jordan.

She is a first-grader at Westlake Christian School, where she has had perfect attendance for two years.

"I love school," Jordan said.

Her teacher, Janice Linnert, described her donation as "a very selfless act of love."

"Jordan is a very giving child," Bailey said.

But Jordan had another motivation, too. She wanted to get her hair cut, "so Mommy and I can grow our hair back together," she said.

Bailey was first diagnosed with cancer in 2001 after she discovered a lump in her breast. She was 31, and Jordan was about to turn 5. Bailey and her mother tried to explain the situation to Jordan in simple terms and reassure her that things would be okay.

After chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Bailey's outlook was hopeful. Her hair grew back, her energy slowly increased, and she returned to her job as an internal auditor at Xerox Capital Services.

"I was feeling like I was going to get past the hurdle," she said.

Then last summer, just a month before reaching the two-year cancer-free milestone, Bailey began having vision problems.

When she looked at a spreadsheet at work, she saw wavy lines and bubbles. She got headaches. Tests confirmed the worst: Her cancer had returned.

Bailey began another course of radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

"I have worked with hundreds of cancer patients, and Lori is one of the most mature and strong individuals I have seen," said Linda Stearns, an advanced registered nurse practitioner who has worked in hematology and oncology for 20 years, the last five in the office of Bailey's doctor, Dr. Hitesh Patel at the Powell Cancer Pavilion in Clearwater. "I am so impressed with this young woman."

As Bailey has resumed her treatments, parents and teachers at Westlake Christian School have rallied around to give support, emotionally and financially. They organized fundraisers to help pay the mounting medical bills.

"It's beyond belief how they've reached out to us," said Brenda Micallef, who works part time in the school's cafeteria. People send cards, leave messages, offer prayers.

"It's so bizarre that while I'm having a horrific time, I've never felt so loved in my entire life," Bailey said.

Jordan does her best to help her mother.

"I hug her and kiss her and try to make her feel better," she said.

Bailey finished most of her treatment in March. Recent scans show no sign of tumor growth. She hopes to be back at work by July. She refuses to give up hope.

"I can give up on my other dreams, but not on seeing that little girl grow up," she says, blinking back tears and looking at a snapshot of Jordan holding her freshly cut ponytail.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Locks of Love can be reached at 1-888-896-1588, 2925 10th Ave. N, Suite 102, Lake Worth, FL 33461 or online at www.locksoflove.org The organization accepts hair that is:

At least 10 inches long.

Bundled in a ponytail or braid.

Unbleached and free of damage from chemical processing.

Clean and dry, placed in a plastic bag and mailed in a padded envelope.

[Last modified May 26, 2004, 01:00:46]


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