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December 19, 2007
By Jill Stockton
At four years old, University staff member Ginger Fenwick had to have her mother hold her long hair while she showered. Without the help, she would have toppled over.
At 15, while on a school trip to Tunisia, a man asked her professor if she could be traded for 1,000 camels in order to be the bride of the stranger’s son, all because of her long hair.
Later in life, she got tangled to a man’s jacket button while exiting an elevator. All because of her long hair.
“The elevator door swung open and I stepped out and then was quickly jerked backwards,” Fenwick said. “I turned around to see what the problem was and suddenly turned three shades of red. There were people going into and out of the elevator, all staring at us, while I tried to yank my long hair from his button.”
Although Fenwick’s hair is part of who she is, she courageously said goodbye to 25 inches in memory of the late University graduate Kayla Nebeker Karhohs. Karhohs lost her battle with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) in December 2006.
Glioblastoma multiforme is a primary form of brain cancer. This means that it is a cancer originating from cells that make up the tissues of the brain.
“When Kayla found out she had this rare brain cancer,” Fenwick said, “Kayla would come and talk to me with great sadness about losing her hair. She was grieving before the treatments even took her hair away. It was devastating to her self-image.”
“At the time I hadn’t thought about donating my hair,” Fenwick added. “Then I saw Oprah Winfrey cut (actress) Hilary Swank’s hair and the light bulb turned on. It was then I realized that I wanted to give another woman battling cancer a great holiday gift; the gift of hair.”
Fenwick donated more than two feet of her hair to Pantene Pro-V’s Beautiful Lengths program on Dec. 13 at the Tangerine Aveda Salon at the Summit Sierra Mall in Reno.
Salon owners Ja-Non Barber, Sally Meldahl and Holly Hodgdon as well as salon education director and stylist Amanda Rosales generously donated the haircut and style to Fenwick for free.
“I wanted to be a part of this experience because my mom recently went through the trauma of losing her hair to breast cancer,” Rosales said. “Hair says a lot about who we are as people. If you are having a good hair day you feel confident, like you can conquer anything. On a bad hair day, you feel disjointed and disheveled. I want to see another woman receive this hair from Ginger in the form of a wig. Who knows, maybe my mom will get this wig.”
As the scissors approached Ginger’s hair, electric energy could be felt and not a sound was made. With her mother and father by her side, as well as members of the Kayla K. Brain Cancer Foundation, she took a deep breath and gave the signal for the cut to be made.
“It has been about 13 years since I had a good haircut,” Fenwick said. “I am not sad to see it go, I am sad that Kayla is gone. That is why I am here today. I wish she could come back like my hair will, but it just doesn’t work that way.”
Jazbeen Ahmad, a member of the foundation, said, “I think what Ginger is doing is very inspiring. If Kayla was here she would have fully supported this. In fact, I’d bet that she would have grown her hair to donate it, too. It’s just the kind of girl she was.”
The Pantene Pro-V Beautiful Lengths program is a first-of-its-kind campaign encouraging people to grow, cut and donate their healthy hair to make free wigs for women who have lost their hair to cancer treatment. Once the company receives a donation, it is sent to HairUWear, the leading global producer of real-hair wigs and extensions. Donations are then transformed into high-quality, hand-tied wigs.
It takes six to eight ponytails to make one wig. The free wigs are then distributed through the American Cancer Society’s extensive network of wig banks across the country.
“When people think of me, they think of my hair,” Fenwick said. “I am ready to start the New Year with a new ‘do’ in honor of Kayla.”
Karhohs graduated from Reno High School in 2001 and enrolled at the University of Nevada, Reno. At the age of 19, she was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. After many operations and chemotherapy treatments, she made a full recovery.
In the fall of 2005, Karhohs graduated from the University with a bachelor’s degree in nutritional science with distinction and a minor in gerontology. By the summer of 2006, she had been accepted into UCLA’s master’s in public health program and earned a dietetic internship. Before Karhohs could begin her first semester at UCLA, she suffered a seizure while working at Reno’s Renown Medical Center. She was later diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme in the right side of her brain. Karhohs underwent radiation and drug therapy, but the tumor continued to grow.
Her blood cell count was dropping from the chemo, making surgery to remove the tumor very risky. She was given two weeks to live.
Karhohs was transferred to the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City. While there, 60 percent of her tumor was successfully removed.
One month later, Karhohs died on Dec. 12, 2006.
Jill Stockton is a communications director in University Communications.