The nine-year-old who cut her hair to help her cousin

Anna Campion (9) has locks shorn to donate to company which makes make wigs for cancer sufferers

 

On Tuesday morning, Anna Campion cautiously raised her arms over her head and ran her fingers through her hair.

For the first time in her life the hairs felt smooth with no early morning knots to battle before school. That evening she would be able to go to gymnastics without having to bunch her thick hair into a tight bun. She could jump onto the trampoline without worrying about the 45 minutes of painful hair brushing that used to follow.

Anna did not cut her hair off to make jumping up and down more enjoyable. The idea of cutting her golden locks had never occurred to the 9-year-old before her cousin got sick.

Last October 15-year-old, Keith Carty from Wicklow, was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer called osteosarcoma. He underwent chemotherapy and quickly lost his hair.

Shortly before Christmas last year, Anna’s father Ray Campion took her to visit Keith in hospital. “The discussion of losing his hair came up and we tried to explain that some little girls lose their hair when they’re sick but could get a wig. That’s when her mum spotted the Rapunzel Foundation.”

Donate

The Wexford-based charity is dedicated to making wigs for people who have lost their hair due to illness or who are living with alopecia areata.

After reading about the charity, Anna surprised her parents by suggesting she donate her hair to the cause.

The decision to cut her hair was easy, says Anna, who is in third class at Gaelscoil Eiscri Riada in Lucan. “None of us actually need long hair so when there’s people with no hair, you should give some of it to them.”

Anna’s father was less certain about his daughter’s generous offer. “We were just trying to educate her,” Mr Campion told The Irish Times the day before her appointment at the hairdresser.

“Part of Anna’s personality is in her hair. We don’t know what we’re going to be left with. It’s so long and thick right now, she can sit on it.

“I seem to be the one who is most reluctant about this,” admits her father. “It’s a part of her. It’s always been a part of her.”

While Keith and his uncle are not blood related, Mr Campion was diagnosed with the same bone cancer more than two decades ago.

“From the moment you’re diagnosed you’re on the clock, you’re thrown right into it and don’t have time to stop,” says Mr Campion, who was diagnosed aged 25. “It’s obviously a harrowing experience for anyone. You’re put to sleep for limb-sparing surgery and wake up not knowing if you have a leg or not. I didn’t have to face and amputation and he didn’t either.”

Mr Campion made a full recovery from the disease and went on to join the Dublin Fire Brigade, where he has worked for more than 30 years.

“The process for me was about a year between chemotherapy, recovery and post-operation chemo. I still get tests and still have the odd worry 20-odd years later. Anybody who has had cancer and has survived it knows it becomes a part of your life.”

Hairdresser

Keith is currently going through a second series of chemotherapy sessions at Crumlin children’s hospital and recently had surgery to replace his knee and femur bones with metal substitutes. It is expected he will need to undergo at least one to two more rounds of chemotherapy to ensure the cancerous tumour has completely disappeared.

On Wednesday, Keith joined his cousin to watch the hairdresser at Pamper Yourself in Adamstown, Co Dublin plait Anna’s hair before chopping off 35cm. Mr Campion was relieved to discover his daughter was left with shoulder length hair.

“We weren’t sure how much he would have to cut off but she had such quality hair she was left with a reasonable amount and is absolutely delighted.”

As well as donating her hair to the Rapunzal foundation, Anna has raised more than €500 for Barretstown and plans to continue raising funds now that the hair cut is over.

“It’s an incredible thing to do and we’re so proud,” says Mr Campion. “She’s the softest, most honest little girl I’m every met. She’s so considerate all the time, it’s a rare trait.”