Granby woman helps cancer patients access resources they need
August 1, 2008
“I’m telling you, I’m one butt ugly bald woman,” Jody Archinal says with a laugh, standing in the Shear Design hair studio.
Today she wears the whitish locks she calls her “Carol Channing” look.
Depending on her mood, she alternates between Channing, the red one for “funkier” days, or the more conventional and professional “grandma” look for other occasions.
She admits she has fun switching up her wigs on a whim.
“I’m a natural redhead,” she said. “I’m going to miss my alter egos if I ever get any hair back.”
Archinal is fighting a lung cancer that spread, causing two tumors on her brain.
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She was diagnosed last March and within a three-month period, she endured 30 days of a barrage of radiation treatments and chemotherapy ” a series of clinical visits that stripped her of pride when she lost her hair and the physical strength she is working to regain. The radiation also caused burns to her face and ears.
Something as simple as a wig, she said, boosted her self esteem at a time when she needed it most.
“It’s devastating to lose your hair, especially for a woman,” she said. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, what am I going to do?”
It was nail technician Tawnya Bailey of Shear Design, Granby, who linked Archinal to wigs provided by the American Cancer Society.
Archinal is a client of Bailey’s, and while getting her nails done, she had heard, “I know you have a problem, and I’m here to help.”
“There were a couple of wild ones,” Archinal recalled the mix of a dozen wigs that arrived to the salon for her to try on.
“Some were long and shaggy. I’d try them on in the back and then come out here, and we’d all laugh.”
Bailey became an active volunteer with the Society after taking part in the Relay for Life last year, the American Cancer Society’s signature event in which teammates take turns walking around a track throughout the day into the night to raise money for cancer research.
“My grandmother died of cancer,” Bailey said. “I always wanted to do something, but wasn’t sure what it was.”
At the relay, Bailey walked with cancer survivors and family of those who suffered from the disease. “As I talked with them, I knew I wanted to be involved with the organization,” she said. “By getting involved with the American Cancer Society, I realized that I can help a lot of people in the community. We have men’s wigs as well as women’s.”
Bailey said she usually discovers someone isn’t feeling well and in need of her help through relationships she’s established through work. “It’s an intimate, close, touchy-feely business,” she said. “There’s power in the human touch. Touching of the hands is just so personal. We’re usually a foot away from each other… Or, it’s the power of a stranger. A lot of times people feel safe in telling you.”
The synthetic wigs through the Society are free. Bailey also helps Grand County cancer victims gain access to gas cards through the Society to help ease the cost of driving to Denver for treatments. There are also programs that help with lodging, local counselors and local support groups. The American Cancer Society also provides hats for patients, and through Bailey, additional hats are available from a square-dancing group in Denver that knits them for the same cause.
“What we’re trying to do at the salon is put a local face to the organization,” Bailey said. “Some people don’t want to go to the American Cancer Society because it’s such a large organization, and they don’t realize in a small town that we have the ability to give the same services through the same organization,” she said. “I just knew we needed this service in Grand County.”
This year’s Grand County Relay for Life takes place this Saturday at the Middle Park High School from sundown to sunrise. Ninety percent of the funds raised on Aug. 2 will stay in Grand County. The Relay for Life committee has partnered with the Grand County Rural Health Network, Heart of the Mountains Hospice and the local cancer survivors support group to determine distribution of the funds.
“You know the tears that surge to the back of the eyeballs and you can’t hold back?” Bailey said about her first experience taking part in the Relay. “I knew when I was walking around the track last year, those men and women ” and seeing how strong they are ” I just knew I wanted to help them continue that.”
If she feels up to it, Archinal may be taking part in the event this year on wheels.
“I just want cancer patients, especially for women, I want them to feel good about themselves,” Bailey said. “I want to give them the opportunity to look in the mirror and see the beautiful them that they always were.”
” To reach Tonya Bina, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-887-3334 ext. 19603.