Meet Maya

by Jessica Ekstrom
on September 03, 2013

My name is Maya, I am 11 years old, and I have cancer. I was diagnosed in October 2012 with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and I am in my eighth month of treatment. I live by the motto of Bob Marley’s song Three Little Birds and believe that ‘Every little thing is gonna be alright.’

Even though I am still going through treatment for my own cancer, I am already working on ways to support other kids with cancer. I have everything I need and I want to bring a little sunshine to other kids at the hospital.

Since I’ve had cancer and lost all of my hair, I was afraid people would look at me differently. But with headbands, I’ve gained confidence to go out in public bald, and I’ve gotten lots of compliments.

My very favorite headband is the one I received from Headbands of Hope. It means even more to me that they donate money to St. Baldrick’s for every headband they sell. Helping other kids with cancer made the idea of losing my hair a lot easier to take. Thank you to Headbands of Hope for bringing a little sunshine to me and other kids dealing with cancer.

Sarah's Story...

by Jessica Ekstrom
on April 02, 2013

 

"My story begins at fourteen years old, fresh out of 7th grade, and being told that I have Leukemia. Of course at that age, all I was worried about was my long beautiful curly hair. I wouldn’t lose it right? But of course, I would. As devastated as a fourteen-year-old could be, I held onto my hair until there were only wisps left. Then I shaved the remains off. There aren’t a ton of things I remember from those days, but I do remember being mistaken for boy quite a few times. I convinced my mom to buy me a wig, but soon found out that they were horrendously uncomfortable. Eventually, I embraced my bald head (and turned on my sassy attitude) and saw it as an opportunity to educate people.
     The year that I was diagnosed (2003) was the year my family first heard of The St. Baldrick’s Foundation. That spring we participated in the local St. Baldrick's Day. It was amazing for me to see the love and dedication friends, family, and sometimes complete strangers had for the children who were fighting for their lives. That event made me realize and believe fully that bald is beautiful. Since that first event my family and I have participated in St. Baldrick's Day bringing in about $50,000 dollars for life saving childhood cancer research. Little did we know how important that research would be in the future.
In 2010, three months after I shaved my head for St. Baldrick's Day raising almost $12,000, I relapsed with Leukemia at 20-years-old. I had just finished my sophomore year in college, I was anticipating my future and all the plans I had, that were now put on hold for chemo to get me into remission for a Stem Cell transplant. It's amazing to go almost 7 years, participating in a fun event hoping that it is actually making a difference in someone's life, and then it ends up making a difference in your life.
    The chemo that I received when I relapsed was a trial chemo that was solely funded by the St. Baldrick's Foundation. My only other option was a chemo I had when I was younger that would have damaged my body so severely that I most likely would not have survived my transplant. So, I think it is appropriate to say that the St. Baldrick’s Foundation is the reason I am now 23, back at school, living my life, and loving every moment of it!
    Last year I received the honor of being one of the five St. Baldrick’s National Ambassadors. This is when I first heard of Headbands of Hope. A St. Baldrick’s representative contacted me to get involved in this amazing organization that gives a headband to a girl with cancer for every one they sell AND $1 of the proceeds go to The St. Baldrick’s Foundation! How awesome is that? Unfortunately, I was just “turning the corner” of the healing process and was not ready to actively participate.  
    However, feeling better then ever I am ready and excited to be a representative for Headbands of Hope! Being that I was older when I relapsed I had a more developed fashion sense and headbands were kind of my thing. I don’t think there is a single picture from the past 2 years where I wasn’t wearing one! Headbands made me (even though I know bald is beautiful) feel pretty and fashionable, but most of all they gave me strength and hope. I’m looking forward to providing this strength and hope for someone going through a subject I am all too familiar with: cancer."  

xoxo- Sarah

Meet Kathleen

by Jessica Ekstrom
on March 19, 2013

 I was 20 when I was diagnosed. I went into the hospital, after much persuasion from friends and my boyfriend, in December because of a golf ball sized lump in my neck. At the hospital I was told I had Hodgkin's Lymphoma. I was transferred to another hospital and within 24 hours was rushed into emergency open heart surgery. The cancer had caused my lymphnodes to squeeze out the liquid they hold and it had form around my heart and was literally crushing it. 

I was told I would have lived maybe two more days if it had not been found. I would have died before my daughter's 2nd birthday. I was told I would never have any more kids after my treatments. 

I spent Christmas and New Year's in the hospital (a total of almost 3 weeks). I went through chemo treatments every other week. I spent a whole day getting my treatments. When my hair first started to fall out I decided I was going to have control of the situation for once and I had it shaved off. I hated wearing wigs and my only other option was scarves (headbands weren't as popular back then). I wore my baldness with pride because I was a warrior and I was going to be a survivor. Five months after my last treatment I found out I was pregnant. I had two children after my cancer, beating the odds I had been given.

Cancer is harder than anyone can imagine. You don't completely understand how someone feels until you've gone through it. After I was feeling better I decided to help bring a little joy to cancer patients. I bring cookies to the cancer floor in the hospital during Christmas and I volunteer at every opportunity I can. I have only been able to reach out to older warriors because my town is too small for children's cancer. 

After finding out about Headbands of Hope, it has inspired me to do even more, especially for children. You give little girls a gift of more than a headband, and that's what amazes me. Your headbands can give them pride in being a warrior and in being bald. I want to pass that message on in my community too.

Kathleen's Shave

by Jessica Ekstrom
on March 16, 2013

 As you know, our research partner is the St. Baldrick's Foundation. The foundation was started by 3 guys who decided to shave their heads for kids' cancer on St. Patrick's Day. Therefore, the St. Baldrick's Foundation fundraises through head shavings. Here's the story of a beautiful girl and her experience with her shave...

My name is Kathleen, and I am a senior at Saint Louis University studying public health and psychology. I recently applied to several occupational therapy programs for graduate school.  As part of this application process, I completed observation hours at outpatient clinics and hospitals. 

I had the opportunity to meet patients with cancer recovering from side effects of both the disease and treatment. In order to better understand rehabilitation from the patient's perspective and to establish a familiar connection with patients, I decided to sign up for a St. Baldrick's event. In my future career as an occupational therapist, I will meet people working to adapt to a new lifestyle due to disease, disability, and injury. If they should be frustrated by their situation, I want to at least begin to understand their perspective of missing something that is important to them and overcoming that hurdle. 

Shortly after signing up for the shaving event, I bought myself a Headband of Hope. Wearing it before and after the shave, it is an important reminder that, even with no hair, I still want to maintain my female identity. Being bald does not mean I have to miss out on some of the fun parts of being a girl, like dressing up my hair and accessorizing. In fact, now I can have my hair fixed in a fraction of the time while still showing the world that I'm ready to fight like a girl against cancer!

Your purchases giving back...

by Jessica Ekstrom
on January 07, 2013

What better way to start 2013 than spreading hope?

Thanks to your purchases, our recent donations have gone to:

- Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital
- Boston Children's Hospital
- Seattle Children's Hospital
- Riley Children's Hospital
- Philadelphia Children's Hospital

As always, your purchases are helping fund life-saving childhood cancer research with the St. Baldrick's Foundation.

We're off to a great start in 2013, let's make this a year of giving back to kids' cancer in style! :) 


XO, 

Jess

Colts Cheerleaders

by Jessica Ekstrom
on December 26, 2012

Recently, two cheerleaders from the Indianapolis Colts, Megan M. and Crystal Ann, shaved their heads to show support for coach Chuck Pagano, who has been away from the team battling leukemia during much of the season.

The rest of the squad wanted to pitch in their support by wearing customized Colts' colored Headbands of Hope! Above is a picture of the girls sporting their headbands at practice.

We'll cheer for them! 


xoxo, 

Jess

 

Operation Beautiful

by Jessica Ekstrom
on December 03, 2012

Recently I received a letter from a mother whose daughter received a headband during her treatment. She says her daughter has been battling cancer for two years and has lost her hair four times. The mother said that after her daughter got her headband she’s worn it everyday and, “she finally feels good about how she looks.”

As girls grow and develop, their overall sense of self-esteem and personal worth grows and changes. Experiencing cancer is hard enough; the last thing girls should worry about is their image during this hard time. That’s why Headbands of Hope is pleased to announce their partnership with Operation Beautiful.

Operation Beautiful was started in 2009 after the creator, Caitlin, had a really bad day.  She posted a note that read, "You are beautiful" in a public bathroom for a stranger to find, and the rest is history.  Since blogging about her note, she has received over 12,000 notes from people all over the world.  The mission is to post positive messages in public places for strangers to find, and although these notes typically encourage a healthy body image, they also include messages of hope, strength, and well-wishes for any trial someone may be experiencing.  There are also two books about the Operation Beautiful movement, which you can learn more about here, including a NEW book for tweens and teen girls.

On the Operation Beautiful Headbands (made by Twistband), are the words that would be found on these notes such as beautiful, vibrant, hope and courage.

Operation Beautiful is pleased to collaborate with Headbands of Hope in their important and worthy mission to bring joy to young girls and women undergoing treatment for cancer.

xo-

Jess

Choose to Shine.

by Jessica Ekstrom
on November 14, 2012

One of the most popular questions (and favorite questions) I'm asked is, "what advice would you give to someone who wants to start something like you did?" 


Here are my answers:
  • Find your passion.
  • Be curious and explore around you. Whether you’re starting a company or a charity, find a gap or a need that you want to fill.  If you find something that fuels your fire, no obstacle will be too big to conquer and working won’t feel like working. No matter how many times I donate a headband to a girl in the hospital, seeing her face light up makes me melt every time. All the long hours and hard work build up to that moment when you see your dreams come to life.
  • Go for it and don’t look back!
  • I started my company in college when I was just about to turn 20. Now, one year later, I look back and am so grateful that I had the courage and support to just pour everything I had and make Headbands of Hope what it is today. If I started the company and let myself get consumed with doubts, then my hesitations would have turned detrimental to my company.
  • Enjoy the moment.
  • Running your own organization comes with a lot of responsibility that can be stressful. It’s important to stay on top of your work, but don’t forget to enjoy the good moments, whether it’s your first sale or a letter from a fan. Take a moment every day to absorb what you’re doing and the difference you’re making. Those stresses won’t seem so big anymore!
  • Choose to shine.
  • For any of this to happen, you have to make the choice to do something great. Understand that building something, no matter what it is, is a process. Find it in your heart to step outside your comfort zone and build an organization that changes people’s lives. Who knows, one day maybe you’ll be asked to give advice for aspiring entrepreneurs!

Thank you all for your support and making Headbands of Hope possible. Together, we can conquer kid's cancer...one headband at a time!

Home is where the heart is...

by Jessica Ekstrom
on October 29, 2012

 

Lauren Athey, one of our fabulous Hope Campus Reps, came home for a weekend to spread hope at her old high school. Here is her touching story:

"Recently I traveled back to my hometown for an exciting Football Friday Night at East Lincoln High School in Denver, NC. However, this was a very special football game for the entire town. It was 'Pink Night' for breast cancer awareness and they welcomed Headbands of Hope with open arms. Being an East Lincoln Alumni, I wanted to spread awareness to my hometown community for childhood cancer and Headbands of Hope. Also with being a former cheerleader, I thought that getting the cheerleading squads to wear the pink glitter bands would be a great opportunity to spread hope.

 
The crowd was full of pink, supporting breast cancer and their fellow Mustangs. Before kick-off, I made my way to the press box with butterflies in my stomach because I knew I had to speak in front of the entire stadium. However, with many familiar faces, I made the announcement on who I was, what I was doing, and what Headbands of Hope is all about. Afterwards, our table became very popular with many people of the community interested in our mission.
 
The cheerleaders glowed as they danced in their pink glitter bands. Once halftime came around, I made my way back to make yet another announcement. However, this one was different because I spoke to the crowd about childhood cancer in hopes of raising much needed awareness.
 
Even though that night was dedicated to help raise money for breast cancer research, after my speech, people took time out of their evening to come to our table and allow us to better educate them on childhood cancer and what we do at Headbands of Hope. I was truly moved by the amount of support I received from the community.
 
Knowing that the simple words I spoke moved others and influenced them to join our fight against childhood cancer reminded me that Headbands of Hope is making a true difference. Cancer is terrible, no matter what kind.
 
In that football stadium on that Friday night, the focus was not about how many touchdowns were scored, but rather how the community can come together as a whole and help the fight against cancer.
 
A special thanks to the town of Denver, NC, Headbands of Hope appreciates all your support and because of your purchases, many beautiful girls will receive headbands. Let’s continue to spread hope together, one headband at a time!”
 

- Love,
                                                   Lauren

Why Headbands?

by Jessica Ekstrom
on October 24, 2012

 

I've always loved headbands. It's a simple way to add a little style to any outfit. But after my internship at the Make-A-Wish Foundation, I realized that headbands could be more than just a way to keep your hair back...



For girls and women everywhere, their hair is a part of their feminine identity. Wigs can be uncomfortable and unappealing, especially to younger girls.
 


Many girls fighting childhood cancer lose their hair during their rigorous chemotherapy treatments. Headbands are the perfect way for these girls to keep their feminine identity and have a constant reminder that they're not alone. 

 




However, throughout this journey, I've learned that these headbands are just as important to girls with hair than girls with hair loss as well.

I've distributed headbands to girls who are about to start their treatment and haven't experienced hair loss yet and I've also given headbands to girls who are starting to get their hair back after treatment. 
 


With or without hair, Headbands of Hope provides a movement to spread hope in all girls and fight in the battle against childhood cancer, one headband at a time.



As always, for every headband purchased, one headband will go to a girl with cancer and $1 will be donated to the
St. Baldrick's Foundation to fund life-saving childhood cancer research.



Keep up the great work everyone!


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