BREWER, Maine — When family and friends of Velma Caron learned that she would probably lose her hair in a fight against liver cancer, they decided to support her by shaving their heads.
“They wanted to do something,” her daughter, Beverly Caron, of Bangor, said on Tuesday.
Velma, 71, is a mother of six, and “memere” to 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren who live in and around Bangor. She and her husband, Valier Caron, 77, who both speak French at home, spent their lives in Fort Kent — she working as a cook and he for the state — before moving to Holden six years ago to be closer to children and grandchildren now living in this area.
She found out in December that a lump on her side is cancerous, and two weeks ago, on Jan. 13, she had her first round of chemotherapy. Her second treatment was Tuesday.
“It was just that fast,” her husband of 53 years said Tuesday of the diagnosis and start of treatment.
Velma Caron knows the battle for her life will not be easy. She has lost her father and two siblings to the “C” word and has a sister who lives with the disease. It was her sister who told her not to wait for the chemotherapy drugs to steal away her hair.
“My sister, she said, ‘Cut it yourself,’” Velma Caron said on Tuesday as she sat in a room at the Lafayette Family Cancer Center in Brewer while attached to a machine slowly pumping her with drugs designed to kill her cancer.
So the cancer patient did just that and shaved her head on Sunday.
“I cut my hair before it could fall out,” she said wearing a wig similar to her natural hairstyle. “I knew it was coming.”
“She took control,” Beverly Caron said of her mother.
Then, “My brother, Gregory Caron, said, ‘Mom, I’m going to shave my head too,’” she said. “Then, everybody said let’s do it and it kind of snowballed from there.”
Twelve of Caron’s relatives and friends on Monday shaved their heads, colored their hair, or cut their hair and made donations to Locks of Love at Brewer hair salon Designs by Donna, which is owned by Velma Caron’s daughter Donna Papa. Another daughter, Elaine White, of Eddington, who is a hair stylist also helped.
“Brothers, sisters, sons-in-laws, grandkids, nephews and nieces,” participated, along with family friends, said Beverly Caron. “Cancer is just devastating to families. We’re all doing our part.”
Brewer High School senior Travis Wood, a grandson, cut off around 4 inches of his hair, which “almost was enough to donate to Locks of Love,” which takes donated hair and makes wigs for cancer patients, she said.
The youngest to shave his head was grandson Logan White, 10, of Eddington.
“Now we feel like we’re doing something,” said daughter Rena Toomey, who lives in Holden but works as a nurse for Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.
During her chemotherapy on Tuesday, Velma Caron, who was too sick to attend the Monday hair cutting extravaganza, was shown photos of the event.
“They all look so different,” she said, wearing a crystal angel on her blue sweater and a smile on her face. “I have a very supportive family.”
“You’re not alone,” her husband said.
A second hair shaving event in support of Velma Caron’s fight against cancer — this time by family and friends in Fort Kent — already is in the planning stage.