This Friday, something magical will be happening at The Wicket at Cricket Square in George Town: residents of the Cayman Islands get together to have their heads shaved for a great cause.
What began as a movement by two parents to raise awareness of childhood cancers, has turned into an extraordinary annual event. Gaylene and Nigel Meeson, mother and father of Hannah Meeson, started Hannah’s Heroes as part of a fundraising initiative for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. The foundation is a non-profit organization focused on research and finding a cure for childhood cancers.
Each year, the number of volunteers willing to go bald increases. They get sponsorship from family and friends, who often attend the event to give their support.
Host James Bebarfald gets on the microphone to encourage people to donate, and the atmosphere is electric. It is rare to find so much goodwill in one place.
An extraordinary amount of money has been raised since Hannah’s Heroes began in 2013. The St. Baldrick’s site states that US$1,687,276 has swelled the coffers thanks to Cayman’s efforts, and, of course, the organizers are hoping to break the yearly record this year.
British ex-pats Gaylene and Nigel Meeson live between the Cayman Islands and Hong Kong with daughter Hannah, who is a brain cancer survivor.
The Meeson family’s nightmare began in 2012 with a visit to the pediatrician to discuss 4-year-old Hannah’s serious balance issues. Within a few hours, a CT scan revealed a tumor on the cerebellum with hydrocephalus and Hannah was airlifted to Miami for surgery, later diagnosed as anaplastic medulloblastoma.
From July 2012 to May 2014, Hannah was based at MD Anderson Children’s Cancer hospital in Houston, Texas and spent only a few weeks at her home in Cayman. She completed six weeks of proton radiation with sedation to her brain and spine, followed by six months of triple drug chemotherapy. In early April 2013, Hannah’s MRI showed disease progression and she began another triple drug chemotherapy treatment.
After nine cycles of the new combination of drugs, the MRI in May 2014 showed that the tumors had disappeared and the disease was finally stable.
With no known protocols to follow that work for relapse, Hannah’s treatment was little more than an educated guess. Funding is desperately needed for new trials, new drugs and treatment options for all pediatric cancers.
To make a donation or get more information, visit www.stbaldricks.org/hero-funds/hannahsheroes.
The Big Shave is scheduled for 5 to 9 p.m. at The Wicket, Cricket Square, in George Town on Friday.