AFLAC Cancer Center coworkers shave heads for fundraiser
ATLANTA - Hair is one of those things. It doesn't feel like a big deal, until you're losing it, Which is what's about to happen to Dr. Karen Waselewski-Masker and her coworker Chelsea Key.
"Should I be nervous? Nah, I'm not nervous," Wasilewski-Masker says.
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Not far away, Key, a Children's Healthcare of Atlanta child life specialist waiting her turn to get her long hair shaved off.
"I'm a little nervous because the anticipation is too much, but it's going to be good," Key says.
The story of how these two women ended up in a packed Buckhead pub, on the brink of total baldness, begins a few miles away at AFLAC Cancer Center at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite. Dr. Wasilewski-Masker is the Medical Director, known for her long, thick hair.
"And for most of my life I've worn it in a ponytail," she says.
But, It's been a rough twelve months for both women.
"This past year I've had several patients I was very close to that passed away," says Wasilewski-Masker.
The two women wanted to find a way to honor their young patients: the ones they've lost, the one still fighting, and the ones now cancer-free.
It's Chelsea Key's job to coach kids through their cancer treatments, to help guide them through all the hard stuff, like losing their hair.
"I've been working with kids with cancer for the last 2 years, and they've completely stolen my heart," Key says. "They are probably the bravest people I know."
So, between the two of them Wasilewski and Key have raised nearly $25,000 for the St. Baldrick's Foundation, which funds research into childhood cancers.
Now it's time to seal the deal at Fado Irish Pub, which is packed with AFLAC patients, parents and coworkers here to support the women.
With the razor humming, Dr. Wasilewski-Masker goes from ponytail to bob to bald without ever losing her smile. She has no regrets. This will give "street cred" with her young patients, she jokes.
For Chelsea Key, 19-year AFLAC patient Sarah Barr will be doing the honors.
Sarah Barr, who has late stage cancer, is why all of these people are here. Why childhood cancers must be conquered. Why Chelsea Key does what she does every day.
"There's not really a curative treatment for me," Barr says. "So she (Chelsea) has just been trying to help me with that, just been trying to make my time here special and prepare for what might be next."
But right now, it's razor time. Sarah, smiling, gets down to work. Chelsea's new husband Andrew sits beside her, waiting his turn to get shaved. In a couple of minutes, Chelsea's beautiful hair is gone. Someone hands her a mirror.
"Awesome," she smiles.
"It feels so freeing," Key says. "It's going to be so nice tomorrow morning when I shower."
Baldness never felt so good.