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Sarah's Story...

by Jessica Ekstrom 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





Jessica Ekstrom
Jessica Ekstrom

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