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Posted by Maya Chivi
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Defining Bravery

For my 30th birthday this year, I decided months in advance that, although I didn’t normally celebrate the occasion, I wanted to give back by donating my hair. By chance, a conversation with a daycare director about my upcoming plan made me learn about an incredibly brave young boy named Reuben. Reuben had his first heart attack when he was around 20 months old. Tests showed he had an advanced stage of aggressive form of neuroblastoma cancer, and so he spent the most of 2012 undergoing several surgeries and cycles of chemotherapy. His family received wonderful news in August 2013 that he had won his battle and is thankfully now in remission.

After hearing this story and talking to his lovely mom, I decided, why stop with a hair donation? Why not donate in Reuben’s honour, send him a custom tinysuperheroes cape, and fundraise for Leucan, the organization that assisted for his parents? I brought this up with my hair dresser Marie-France, an incredible woman whom I have known for years. She didn’t miss a beat in offering to cut my hair for free after we were to chop off the minimum 8 inches required to donate for a wig. Finally, I set my fundraising goal at $300 as I felt it was a reasonable amount I could raise.

Now there were a couple things I expected, like a few ‘good job’ comments or to be asked about how short I was going to cut my hair. But the last thing I expected was to hear about how ‘brave’ I am, or even worse, that I’d be ‘ruining my beautiful hair’ and whether the target I set ‘for kids with cancer’ was enough to ‘justify’ this action. Not only am I shocked that we’re measuring bravery with cutting 8 inches off our hair – which can grow back in months – when children like Reuben face the challenges they do in hospitals around the world. But I’m even more shocked that any dollar amount raised would determine whether cutting our hair is a justified act or not!

I think we need to re-evaluate how we define bravery, if not for ourselves, then at least for the children around us who hear our conversations and learn the true meaning of words through our actions and the beliefs we impart on them. Cutting my hair is anything but brave. And so while I’m thankful for all the emotional support I’ve received, I think it’s sadly misdirected. It’s children like Reuben who need our support. My hair will grow back, as it has for 30 years. Too many of theirs won’t.

So with 18 in mind, let’s talk to our children about the real brave ones among us and the acts of courage they take every time they walk into hospital for yet another surgery or chemotherapy treatment.

To support them through Leucan, please visit my fundraising page.

Thank you,

Maya

Image: Reuben’s Battle

N.B.: 18 in Mind is a blog about the day your kids turn 18 and the parenting years in between.