Mia McCoog is a 7-year-old who, until recently, had long, thick, Rapunzel-like blonde hair that fell down her back. She started growing her hair long last year in kindergarten.
But Mia wasn’t growing her hair long because of any fanciful visions of Disney’s princesses. She grew it for charity.
Mia donated her hair in January to Pantene Beautiful Lengths, an organization that makes and donates wigs for women who have lost their hair in their battles with cancer.
Mia, a first grader at , now sports a classy bob, and she loves it. “It’s not that heavy anymore,” she said. And she is very proud, because she knows exactly what happened to her donated hair.
“It got shipped off and got made into a wig for people that don’t have hair, like my mommy didn’t,” she said.
Trust a first grader not to keep any secrets. But it’s true—Mia spent the past year watching her mother, Lynly McCoog, battle breast cancer.
Lynly’s ordeal began in October 2009, when Mia had just started kindergarten. Lynly was diagnosed with breast cancer, and for the next year, endured 20 weeks of chemotherapy, three surgeries, and a long stay in the hospital because of a post-surgical infection.
She lost her hair in the process.
“The biggest thing for them,” said Lynly of Mia and Max, Mia’s 5-year-old brother, “was when ‘Mommy lost her hair.’ Any other thing didn’t faze them at all. But your hair goes fast.”
Lynly fell back on advice she was given at the very beginning of her treatment—she was always as honest as she could be with her two children, to prevent them from losing trust with her down the road. So Lynly and her husband Kevin prepared the kids, and said, “Mommy’s hair is falling out, so we are going to shave it off this weekend.”
Mia and Max were home when Kevin “did the ole G.I. Jane” on Lynly, to use her words. But they were skittish about the process and didn’t want to take part in it.
“When the kids first see you, it’s shocking. So for them, that was the hardest thing,” Lynly said. “That initial [hair loss] was the hardest and the most shocking thing for them. But then after that, they didn’t skip a beat.”
Mia started wearing a Livestrong anklet and educating her classmates about cancer. She was very open about what her mom was going through. “She did beautifully with the whole scenario,” said Lynly. “They both did.”
But Lynly added, “It was just the hair thing that really just threw them both off.”
Lynly had wanted to donate her hair, since she was going to lose it anyway, but Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths and Locks of Love both have rules about color-treated hair. And Lynly was guilty of blonde highlights. So she thought of Mia.
Mia was on board with the idea immediately.
“So she grew it out,” said Lynly, who is now in remission and is cancer-free. “It was a good solid year or so before we could cut her hair. But it was a lot of hair for a long time. So for her, the whole time, she knew they were going to be cutting, and they were going to take her hair and make a wig for a girl or a mommy.”
Mia pulled the plug with dealing with all her long, thick hair when she was still one inch shy of Locks of Love’s length requirement, but her donation fell easily within Pantene’s Beautiful Length’s requirements.
But Mia is happy to start the extra brushing and shampooing all over again. As of right now, she is growing her hair out for the second time, to donate it once more next year.
Congratulations and kudos to the other Lutherville students and staff members who have also donated their hair, or who are soon about to!
- Jillian Bartholomew
- Lori Sappington
- Tonia McCarthy
- Joe McCarthy
- Keira Levy
- Sara Comaromi
- Audrey Zagurski
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