Editor’s note: This Sun Journal column is about Camden Bryant of Eddington, featured in the Bangor Daily News on Jan. 26, 2013.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: “By golly, Mark. You work so hard and do so much for the community. How do you find the time to keep your hair so shimmering and full-bodied?”
Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful. Hate me because I’m stupid.
You know who else has great hair? A nice young lass named Renee St. Jean, and you know what she’s doing? She’s planning to shave every last strand of it to help raise money for an ailing boy.
Whenever a person announces he or she will shave his or her head, the anticipation is unreal. You never know what kind of lumpy, misshapen scalp may be beneath those flowing locks. You never know if your noggin is a dense road map of blue veins and hideous scars that will frighten the elderly and cause general unease in the community.
Of course, that won’t be the case with Renee, but it happens. The head that holds your thoughts may be as grotesque as a knobby, malformed pumpkin that horrifies even the farmer who grew it. You just never know until the razor comes out and your glorious mane is reduced to puffy piles on the floor.
But enough about my high school picture. The story here is Renee St. Jean and the loving gesture she has made to help the child of a friend. Just when you start to think that people suck, someone like this comes along and puts generosity on display.
“My friend Sheri Bryant’s son [Camden] was diagnosed last summer at the age of 21 months with leukemia. He faces over two more years of chemo,” Renee tells me. “Sheri and her husband, Dan, have two other daughters, Carmen and Sienna. Sheri’s mother was also diagnosed with brain cancer last fall, so they are fighting this fight together. When her mother was diagnosed, it was the only time I have heard Sheri speak one word of slight despair by saying, ‘When is it OK to say ‘uncle?’ Those words have always stuck with me.
“I am organizing a fundraiser for Camden on May 4 at Joshua’s in Brunswick to help with medical expenses and other costs,” Renee says. “I was trying to come up with ideas that would bring in the most money possible and I toyed with the idea of shaving my head. I passed it by a few friends, who I don’t think thought I was serious, and on Saturday March 9 I decided that if I raised $1,000 in donations I would shave my head at the fundraiser.”
You know what’s cool about people? Most of them want to help. You think people do nothing but sit on their hands and complain, but when push comes to shove, many will rise to the occasion.
“I posted it on Facebook and within a half-hour I had already raised $300,” Renee says. “After several friends urged me to increase the amount, I did, to $5,000, and in six hours I had $650. I am currently at $1,380 and all but $110 has come in via Facebook friends.”
Renee is a pretty lady and unquestionably a kind one. She also has her priorities lined up just right. When I asked her how she felt about the prospect of living with a denuded head, she shrugged it off. What’s a little cool air on the bean compared to the suffering of a child?
“I personally think it’s a little silly, the reaction I get from people, because it’s JUST hair,” she says. “It’s hair and it will grow back and so will Camden’s. … Camden is the true hero in all this. He just spent eight days in [the pediatric intensive care unit at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor] due to his liver being enlarged from the chemo treatments and causing his belly to fill with fluid and put pressure on all his organs. After two weeks in the hospital, he was released on March 12.”
Cancer has taken her grandmothers and her grandfather, and her father was diagnosed three years ago with kidney cancer.
“He is now cancer-free, but his life will never be the same,” Renee says. “He will need to be monitored the rest of his life for recurrence. I can’t help my dad and I couldn’t help my grandparents, but I can help Sheri and Dan not have to worry about bills for a little bit. Being a single mom, I don’t have the extra cash to give them myself, but I can shave my head.”
Here is one instance where it doesn’t matter at all what lies beneath all that hair. Renee St. Jean could have tentacles in there and she’ll still look like a hero. It’s a bet she can’t lose.
Although, how cool would it be if she has tentacles?
The fundraiser for Camden is noon-4 p.m. May 4, at Joshua’s Restaurant and Tavern in Brunswick. There will be a Chinese auction and a DJ. All proceeds will go directly to Sheri and Dan. Anyone wishing to donate can do so by check. Make checks payable to Five County Credit Union and mail to Kicking Cancer With Camden, P.O. Box 845 Brunswick 04011, or by Paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer, code name “Goldilocks.” Email him at email@example.com.