For years, Mindy Swayne avoided participation in the fundraiser.

For years, Mindy Swayne avoided participation in the fundraiser.

Swayne is the practice manager at the Lee’s Summit KCCC. She’s worked with the center for 20 years.

The fundraiser, called “Shave to Save,” had people raise money for the Kansas City chapter of the American Cancer Society. The people who raised the money, in turn, got their heads shaved at an event May 6 in Kansas City.

Never in the event’s 10-year history did Swayne participate. Until this year.

“Every year for the last few years I thought I was going to do it but every year I chickened out,” Swayne said.

She had good reason to take part this year.

Last December, lung cancer killed a close friend she had known for 40 years.

Kim McKay, a breast cancer survivor, was killed in a car accident on Interstate 435.

“She was my best friend,” Swayne said.

Also, her sister is a 45-year kidney cancer survivor.

She was thinking of the two lost friends when deciding to participate.

“I wanted to do it to honor them,” said Swayne, whose husband is an eight-year cancer survivor.

Steve Swayne, the husband, was the first person who took the inaugural swipe with the razor to her hair.

Swayne raised $6,622.50. Her friends, family and colleagues donated to that amount. A benefit concert was held to raise the money.

In total, the 23 shavees raised $145,772.62.

“Everybody kept saying ‘you’re so courageous to do this,’” Swayne said. “I didn’t feel courageous at all. I felt like our patients are courageous for what they go through. This is just a hair cut.”

She said her hair has been “the one thing I’ve been vain about. I’ve always wanted it to look just perfect. I was always doing different things to it.”

She did not realize how vain until she got it shaved.

Her hair was relatively short before the shave, unlike some of the participants who got their long locks chopped off.

The hair clippings were donated to Locks of Love, an organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children suffering from long-term medical hair loss.

Now, she gets the feeling when she’s in public that people stare and wonder if she has cancer.

“I get the sense that people notice but they don’t want to stare,” Swayne said. “I get a little flicker of sympathy. I do feel like I understand a little bit more.”

Cathy Jennings is the quality assurance manager for KCCC. She audits patient charts for safety and billing issues.

That means she does not have direct patient contact. “I don’t see the patients but I read their charts,” she said.

So she reads their cancer struggles.

“That’s part of the reason why I participated,” Jennings said.

She never heard of the event until last year.

“But the minute I heard about it, I was considering participating.”

Jennings said she has been lucky not to have had immediate family stricken by cancer.

“But of course, nobody gets by free from this,” Jennings said. “Lots of aunts and uncles cousins and friends and friend’s parents.”

Jennings said the KCCC held in-house fundraisers to raise some money.

Jennings raised $6,934.96. She hopes to reach $7,000.

The American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge in Kansas City is a free, 24-hour temporary residential facility that offers a home for cancer patients and their caregivers while receiving outpatient treatment. Patients at KCCC use Hope Lodge.

Every cent raised from the event went for Hope Lodge.

“We just really love Hope Lodge,” Swayne said. “They provide a service that nobody else provides, especially patients who have to come from out of town for extended treatments where they have to stay close to their physicians. They do wonderful work.”

A friend who is a 14-year breast cancer survivor took the first swipe at shaving her head.

“I knew she would be happy to be involved,” Jennings said, of Bonnor Springs, Kan.

 Donations are still being accepted until August. To donate, visit www.shavetosave.org.