Adrienne Chancey refused to look in the mirror as the nurse began to shave away her long brown locks of hair. If she chanced even a peek at her reflection she knew wouldn't have recognized the person looking back at her anyway, she recalled.
Her normally green eyes had been overtaken by the color of blood after the blood vessels in her eyes had burst; her skin was bruised black and blue and refusing to heal. In an astonishingly short time, the rare blood disorder hemophagocytic syndrome had ravaged her 16-year-old body. And now, with the necessary chemotherapy treatments, she was losing another part of her identity - her hair.
"It was traumatizing," said the now 28-year-old. "I really feel like I lost a lot of myself when I got sick."
Although Chancey has been in remission from her disease for 10 years, talking about that period in her life still brings tears to her eyes - green now once again.
Patricia Cooper, owner of The Salon on 58, has cut and styled Chancey's hair since she was 9 years old. When Chancey got sick Cooper was in the hospital with her during the worst and then later in the salon as Chancey's hair slowly grew back.
"Being a 16-year-old kid and going from having long beautiful hair to having nothing ... Adrienne closed almost completely down," said Cooper.
The once-sick teen explained how, after some very dark days, Locks of Love provided her with something that gave her the courage she needed to begin the healing process: a wig made of real hair.
"It helped having a wig to put on and being able to say I felt like a girl again," said Chancey.
Her experience with Locks of Love brought the stylists at The Salon on 58 to the realization that they wanted to give back.
"We wanted to do something for the community ... to give back as a group," said Cooper. "Having Adrienne come in here and going through what she did ... we decided we needed to do a benefit."
And they did. The salon hosted its first Locks of Love Cut-a-thon in November 2010 during which the stylists collected 26 ponytails and $700 for the organization. At the second annual cut-a-thon in 2011, the salon almost doubled its collections by gaining 46 ponytails for Locks of Love.
Cooper said the stylists plan to continue the progression this year at the third annual Locks of Love Cut-a-thon Nov. 10 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at The Salon on 58. Those who donate receive a free haircut that day.
"We like to up the ante," said stylist Crystal Jones. "We want Chattanooga to be in our door."
Cooper explained that it takes six to 10 10-inch ponytails to make one of the very expensive Locks of Love wigs. Through sponsorships, kids who have lost their hair through a disease or traumatic experience can get the wigs for free or on a sliding scale depending on the family's income.
On Nov. 10, anyone with at least a 10-inch ponytail is encouraged to walk into The Salon on 58 and donate their hair to Locks of Love. The hair needs to be clean, dry and free from bleach, although colored or permed hair is acceptable.
The event will include door prizes, refreshments from Coca-Cola Company and Little Caesars, a bake sale, sidewalk sale and plenty of activities for the kids. For any monetary donation to Locks of Love, kids can have their faces painted, and the Highway 58 volunteer firefighters will be present to show off the fire engine.
"[If I met those that donated their hair for my wig], I wouldn't be able to thank them enough," said Chancey. "Donate as often as you can. It doesn't seem like a lot ... but for some people it means the world."
For more information call The Salon on 58, located at 4421 Highway 58, Suite 1, at 855-7572.