Earlier this year, February 6th to be exact, I met an amazing new client. It was a typical Saturday for me – busy with back-to-back clients, nothing I’m not used to. Little did I know, this Saturday would be different – in a great way.
What made this Saturday a little more special was my new client, Vara. I walked up front to greet Vara, as I always do. I brought her back to my chair, and we talked about her hair. Vara wanted something new and fun – let the cutting begin! As I worked through her service we talked, a lot. I could barely keep up with her questions. I laughed about halfway through saying “this is quite the game of 20 questions”. I loved every minute of our conversation. She was so interested in what I was doing and about me, as I was her. Throughout her service, I could see Mom and Grandma peeking around the corner checking things out every so often. Didn’t bother me any, most parents hang out while their children get their hair done. When I was done with her hair, we took pictures (she was quite the animated model) and walked up to the front desk to check out. She loved her hair! Mom and Grandma did, too.
Before they left, Mom told me she left a “little” note along with my tip. I said ok! I appreciated everything and had a great time with Vara. Now, I couldn’t wait to see what this note inside my tip envelope said, so I had to open it on my next break.
The note read,
“Thanks for taking care of Vara. We’ve had a lot going on lately, and the two women you saw watching over her as you worked are Mom and Grandma. We haven’t been able to make her smile in a while and today, you did”.
What an amazing compliment to receive! How great is it that I can make someone smile. That just made my great Saturday even better.
Fast forward three weeks, and I see Vara on my books again. I think, well, I hope her haircut was alright, I wonder why she’s coming back so soon? Reason was, she got to school and everyone else had the same haircut! She’s cooler than that, she tells me. We decided to take it shorter. Get more spunky with it. That’s just what we did. Again, I loved my conversation with Vara throughout her service. She’s a great kid. We took pictures of her great new style, and off she went.
Four weeks later, I get a call at the salon from Vara’s mother, Emily. She says ‘Hi’ and proceeds to tell me Vara has been diagnosed with kidney cancer. My heart sank. This sweet, rocking-cool nine year old, Vara, has cancer. This is awful, I think to myself. All I want to know is what I can do to make it better – well, easier, at least. Emily said that I was one of the first people Vara wanted to see after her diagnosis. They both wanted to get some fun hair done. Once again, how amazing it made me feel that she wanted to come and see me.
We set up an appointment for Mom and Vara to come in and get their hair done. I remember them coming in, Vara all loopy from the medication from her surgery just a few days prior. We were laughing with her about they funny things she said. We put some orange in Vara’s hair (the color of kidney cancer awareness).
We made Emily’s hair blue. From top to bottom. It was quite the long process – 6 hours – but she was a trooper. Everyone loved the hair, and again, off they went.
Not even 10 days later, Vara’s hair started to fall out, and she just wanted to get rid of it. So she comes in, and we shave away. There were no tears from mom. No tears from Vara. Just laughs. It was by far the coolest and hardest thing I’ve done as a stylist. I shaved a nine year old client’s hair because of cancer. That day was a touching day for me. I think of this young lady as one of the strongest people I know. She is nine years old. She doesn’t care she’s losing her hair. She doesn’t care about what she looks like. She just said “Oh my god”, smiled, and laughed the entire time.
Vara isn’t in the salon quite as often lately. She stops in to say “hi” when she’s checking out Tiny Lions Cat Cafe down the plaza from us. She is never far from my thoughts, though. I follow her every step along her journey through a Facebook page Mom has set up for her. I wear the bracelet she gave me every single day as I told her I would do until she’s done. I always think about how we’ll do her hair when chemo is over.
We often hear about how hairdressers help touch the lives of their clients. We do their hair, give advice, recommend a new restaurant to check out. But not often enough do we hear about how our clients touch our lives. Vara is just one of the many clients that have touched my life in a special way. I wouldn’t be here without the support of my clients. Their thoughtfulness makes me grateful every day. They make me feel just as great as I hope to make them feel.
Through Vara’s journey from just 14 weeks ago when I met her for the first time to today, I’ve made a new friend. Someone I aspire to be like, and love life as much as she does.
Addison James Foote