Tribute to a Great Grandmother

As you have read in this issue about local leaders in the Conejo and Santa Rosa Valley communities leading the fight against cancer, you may reflect how cancer has personally affected you or those you love.

It was not until I made my weekly visit to Facebook — weekly because I am not a Facebook aficionado — that I remembered how cancer impacts people across the generations. As these days, Facebook is the only way I can get a regular “photo fix” of my two granddaughters, who live 3,000 miles away in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, I check in weekly to get a regular window into their lives, chronicled by their mother, my daughter Tia Malkin-Fontecchio. Oh well, I surrender to social media.

It’s a good thing I did, as last week, Tia posted photos of my granddaughter Sophie donating about 9 inches of her incredible long, wavy “Malkin Mane” (it runs in the family) to the Pantene Beautiful Lengths program. Pantene, a division of Proctor & Gamble, started the program as a way of giving back, in this case healthy hair to be made into wigs that are donated free of charge to women fighting cancer.

In their words: “We created Beautiful Lengths because healthy hair means a lot to us, and the appearance of healthy hair means so much to women battling cancer. We want to be there for women when looking and feeling healthy is so important to them. As one breast cancer survivor put it, ‘It was very hard when my hair started falling out. It really takes away who you are when you look in the mirror.’ Many of the women we help say that putting on a wig makes them feel like themselves again. And when you donate your hair to the cause, you’re helping make that happen.”

Nine-year-old Sophie and her 11-year-old sister Zoe live in an affluent, beautiful community in the Brandywine Valley in Pennsylvania. In their young lives, they have not yet been touched by the tragedy of cancer or other cataclysmic illnesses. When she volunteered to donate her hair (Tia is engaging her and Zoe in other public service activities as well), Sophie was not really aware that many years ago, her great grandmother, Laura Malkin, was stolen from us by breast cancer when she was only 47 years old. She did not live to see her three grandchildren or her increasing cadre of great grandchildren. She was a passionate and loving woman who at that point in her life wanted nothing more than to be a grandmother. It never happened.

When Sophie made this small but important donation, she honored Laura Malkin and all those past and present who are fighting back. Bless you, Sophie.