by ANA OLVERA
In honor of the October 17 anniversary of her sister Barbara Liggins’ death from leukemia, Beth O’Donnell of Rockford was motivated to cut and donate her hair to enable children with hair loss a chance to use hers.
Liggins of Kalamazoo was diagnosed in May 1991, the same day as her youngest son Gregory’s birthday. She was admitted into the hospital that very same day. Liggins’ sons Greg, Steve and Tim were 6, 8 and 10, respectively, at the time. She passed five months later on October 17 at the age of 37.
“My family was great and helped the boys get back up on their feet,” said O’Donnell. “Now they’re three young nice boys.”
Liggins had actually made it through chemotherapy.
“Our other sister, Carol McCracken, had been Barb’s bone marrow donor, and complications from that transplant is what had actually killed her. She had a hemorrhage in her brain.” explained O’Donnell. “We were hoping she would make it.”
Liggins was divorced at the time of her diagnosis, making her death even more painful for her sons.
“I can’t imagine being in their position. I just cannot imagine losing a mom at such a young age. After her death, the boys became a lot closer with their dad and were reunited. Thankfully some good did come out of the ordeal,” said O’Donnell.
Children with Hair Loss was the best choice because it is “specifically for children, free for those receiving the hair, and it’s local,” O’Donnell explained.
Surprisingly, she did not feel any sad emotions while having her hair cut on October 15 at Supercuts in Rockford.
“During the holidays we think of Barb, so it is sad. But it’s exciting to remember my sister in such a unique way and celebrate her life instead of being sad,” said O’Donnell.
“Two of my sisters had cancer and they both said the worst thing about it was losing their hair. Especially for women and children, it’s an ugly reminder on a day-to-day basis that they are living with cancer,” said O’Donnell. “I encourage others to donate hair if they can stand growing it that long. It doesn’t take a lot to do and it brings joy to those who are not able to grow their own hair. Barb’s boys were definitely touched by the gesture,” she continued.
O’Donnell donated eight inches of hair to Children with Hair Loss, 12776 S. Dixie Hwy., S. Rockwood, Mich., a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness of the emotional and physical effects of hair loss. Children with Hair Loss is a resource for all children who have medically related hair loss and may be financially challenged to obtain the hair they want and need. The organization can be found online at www.childrenwithhairloss.us.
After having a scare herself, O’Donnell stresses the importance of being tested for early detection of any cancers.
“I had felt a lump, but I wanted to get tested so I could move on if it indeed was cancer and feel relief if it wasn’t,” she said. “It’s important to get tested if it [cancer] runs in your family, like mine. Two of my sisters had cancer; Barb passed and my sister Pat Eve did not. She is now a 21-year breast cancer survivor. So do not be afraid to get tested. Knowing and being able to treat it is much better than giving cancer the time to grow if you delay. Knowledge is empowering,” stressed O’Donnell. “You never know what turns will come in life, so you have to be thankful for each day.”