Monday, June 13, 2016

Adventure ranges up to 97 degrees, down to 29

Cross-country biker looking for volunteers to help cancer patients cope with hair loss

Nina Huston on cross-country trip.
Nina Husen's on a two-month cross-country bicycle trip filled with heart.

She's almost midway through a two-month adventure to the East Coast on her bike, which will be followed by a leisurely trip home with her crew (sons, Blake and Spencer) — by car.

Husen, 52, one of the owners of the NH2 Salon in Novato (along with Nicole Hitchcock), hopes to recruit 500 volunteer hairstylists nationally who'll "provide pro bono services to patients with cancer experiencing hair related side effects from treatment."

In a June 2 blog item, she succinctly summed up her mission: "I am riding across the country to bring awareness to Hairdressers with Heart" — which, she wrote, is a network of 50 hairstylists in Marin and Sonoma counties known as Style Heroes who connect with cancer patients and shave their heads, help style their wigs "or take them through one full year of complimentary clean up services as their hair grows in."

The trip — which she's never attempted before (though she's previously ridden "100 miles at a stretch") — has hardly been easy so far.

The Corte Madera resident already has "encountered 97-degree weather all the way down to 29-degree weather."

She left San Francisco at 6:30 a.m. May 18 with the intention of riding through "Nevada, Utah, Colorado, then on to Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and finally Virginia."

On May 24, she noted, "I've had cramps, sun sickness, fatigue, skin loss in places unmentionable, tears and, well, a few sore muscles. The joys? Support from my sons…Their faces at each stop with smiles on them and hands waving, food and water ready for me. Lakes, trees, birds, the sun, the moon, clouds from heaven, and the landscape changing as quickly as my emotions."

She added, with great honesty and poignancy, "I climb out of the shower, a moment of usual reprieve…burnt nose and slits of eyeballs, I burst into tears…Feeling better now after water, ice, smoothie and rest, I have to mention that (A) No one is making me do this (B) I am enjoying myself much of the time, but if you did not hear the challenges it would simply be a pictorial of me riding and smiling and that would be a snoozer."

Hairdressers with Heart, "100% volunteer run," was formed seven years ago after Hitchcock's sister, Brandy, died at age 37 from heart failure while undergoing chemotherapy for acute myelogenous leukemia.

Earlier, Brandy had been upset when her hair started to fall out. So Nicole found her "a long, sexy, blonde wig" — which changed her attitude.

The Hairdressers with Heart foundation was created not long after Brandy's death.

Promotional materials for Nina's trip noted that "over a million people will be diagnosed with cancer this year in the United States. Individuals afflicted with cancer that suffer from unappealing hair loss often find the experience emotionally crippling. Hairdressers with Heart highlights Style Heroes that choose to share their gift of hairdressing with cancer patients across the nation."

To read how other organizations help folks with life-threatening diseases, check out "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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