'It sure fills your emotional cup,' the grateful mother of six said of her son's selflessness.
In his effort to support his mom through her cancer battle, a devoted son found a unique and heartwarming way to ensure her comfort. For Melanie Shaha of Gilbert, Arizona, it all began with a sudden onslaught of dull headaches in 2003. After seeking medical advice for the inexplicable headaches, she learned that they were symptoms of a benign brain tumor of the pituitary gland, which regulates hormones related to growth, stress and metabolism. The plum-sized tumor was affecting the functioning of this tiny gland located at the base of Shaha's brain.
"I had surgery to remove the tumor and I had a really great outcome," she told TODAY. Unfortunately, the mother of six had to go through a second surgery in 2006 when the tumor returned and again in 2017 due to a third reoccurrence for which radiation was prescribed. "I asked (my doctor), 'Will I lose my hair?' and they said 'No,'" Shaha recalled. "Three months later, I had a big shed and started losing hair. I was surprised." According to the National Cancer Institute, radiation therapy can cause hair loss on the part of the body that is being treated.
"Not having hair, you stick out like a sore thumb and well-meaning people can say things that break your heart. I don't mind being sick but I mind looking sick," Shaha shared. "I'd rather blend in and not stand out at the store." Luckily, her 27-year-old son Matt came up with a solution to his mother's distress over the hair loss in 2018. It started as a joke during a family lunch. "I said, 'Why don't I grow out my hair to make a wig for you?'" he recalled. Matt explained that the joke came from his relief to once again have the freedom to grow out his hair since he'd just graduated from a university with a dress code that limited hair length.
Although he'd said it as a joke, Matt said, "something clicked" and he decided to actually grow out his own hair and cut it to make a wig for his mother. But Melanie Shaha didn't want to burden her son. "I would tell him, 'I love your hair' and he’d say, 'Coming soon to a head near you!'" she said. Earlier this year, Matt measured his long locks and discovered that he'd managed to grow 12 inches of hair, which is a sufficient length for a wig. On March 21, he and a few of his co-workers went to his mom's home for the big event: Matt's long-awaited haircut.
"We were super pumped and when they started cutting, we bawled," said Shaha. After the haircut, they sent Matt's hair to Compassionate Creations, a Newport Beach, California-based company that "specializes in building beautiful, natural, custom wigs for anyone experiencing hair loss." In June, the business delivered a hand-tied wig made from her son's hair to Shaha. "The family was such a joy to work with," said Compassionate Creations co-founder Veronica Balch. "When someone selflessly shaves their head for a family member, it makes what we do even more special."
Shaha loves the wig. "The color is spectacular and we had it cut and styled with a hairdresser," she said. "Matt said it looks great on me." She admitted that Matt's gift will be hard to top. "It sure fills your emotional cup," the grateful mother said.