The Gift

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a ballerina.

Every year before Christmas, my parents would take my sister and I to see the Nutcracker.  I loved it.  So, my mother signed us up for ballet.  I was really little, and while I don’t remember very much about my actual classes, I do remember my ballet teacher.  Her name was Dina and my sister and I adored her.  My parents adored her too, so much in fact that they are still the best of friends to this very day, decades later.

I remember when my Mom told me that Dina had breast cancer.  We were young and had a hard time understanding exactly what was going on. I remember my Mom telling us how confident she was that Dina was going to be okay, but I also remember not believing her.  I know that my Mom was afraid.

Dina fought breast cancer and won.  She got married to the most AMAZING guy ever and they have been happy ever since.  She is the most graceful, classy, sophisticated woman I have ever met.

Then, a few months ago my Father sent me an email letting me know that Dina and her husband’s trip to Spain was delayed. The doctors had found cancer again, this time it was somewhere else and she would have to undergo chemotherapy and radiation. I did not reply to my Father’s email.  My heart broke into thousands of small pieces.

This is Hanna.  She is our oldest daughter and she is very brave. Hanna’s hair is also very long.  Hanna is a big goober.

Portland Family Photographer Veronica Gillas

You might be asking what Hanna has to do with this.

I mentioned in passing to Hanna that she needed a haircut.  Her hair was down to her bum.

Portland Family Photographer Veronica Gillas

Giving her a blue slushy before taking her photograph might not have been the brightest idea I have had this year, but I digress.

I asked Hanna how much of her hair she wanted to cut off and she said she wanted it up to her shoulders.  I told her that if she wanted to cut off that much, that we could donate it to a place where they could make wigs for people who lost their hair because of their cancer treatment.

I told her about my ballet teacher, and she told me that she wanted to help. My big, brave girl.

Portland Family Photographer Veronica Gillas

We cut off a total of 14 inches, packed it away and sent it to Pantene Beautiful Lengths.  Hanna was sad at first because her hair was gone, but after our amazing friends and family saw her photograph and reassured her about how beautiful she looked and what a wonderful thing she had done, she was okay.

Portland Family Photographer Veronica Gillas

Cancer sucks. I stopped trying to figure out why bad things happen to good people all the time.  It makes my heart hurt to know that someone I love is hurting right now. I realize that this gesture is small, but to this nine-year-old girl, it is how she can make her mark on the world and feel like she has made a difference.  It is a gesture that helps her feel not quite so helpless when she’s up against forces that she cannot see or control.

Portland Family Photographer Veronica Gillas

We love you Dina. Keep fighting.  We are all standing beside you.


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