For 24 years, Fernando Trujillo was getting his hair cut every two weeks when he was in the U.S. Navy. After he left the service, he waited 6 years before even coming close to a barber’s chair. It was no ordinary haircut.
Grabbing a hank of Trujillo’s now-graying hair, the Ladies and Gents Downtown Hair Co. tonsorialist snipped off a full 28 inches. As the barber brushed off Trujillo’s shoulders, the veteran asked for his hair back.
He’s got plans for it.
Trujillo, 49, was diagnosed with salivary gland cancer in 2012, Military.com reports.
“Your heart just kind of drops and you have that bad feeling, like ‘damn, how bad is it?’” he said. “The first thing the doctor did was try to calm me down and let me know that everything should be fine. It was just a matter of how much they were going to have to cut out.”
A small bump on the roof of his mouth turned out to be a gumball-sized tumor, which doctors were able to remove with some success. Trujillo had to wear a mouth guard for months, and was unable to eat anything but liquid foods for some time, but his cancer was in remission.
“I never ate so much pumpkin soup in my life,” he laughed. “You really can’t eat meat. I had a lot of protein drinks.”
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Though he initially got his hair cut to attend his younger brother’s promotion in the New Mexico National Guard, he’s also hoping it will provide hope for others who are going through the same thing.
“I’ve lost some friends and family over the years and also had some acquaintances that have had battles with cancer who lost their hair going through radiation,” he said. “I figured my hair would be something that someone could benefit from.”
Trujillo connected with the nonprofit, Hair We Share.
“I looked at their website and they said they would take light gray hair,” he said. “So I sent an email and told them I had over 20 inches of hair to donate.”
Hair We Share will turn Trujillo’s hair into wigs, which will be used by cancer patients.
“It’s more about not drawing attention from people who constantly ask questions and feel sorry for you,” Trujillo said. “Hopefully that little bit will be able to help them retain a little dignity out of the whole situation they are facing.”
Michael Duggan, senior biomedical equipment specialist and a former coworker of Trujillo’s, told U.S. Army Medical Logistics Command that the veteran was, “a kind and compassionate person.”
“Fernando is the kind of person that would give you the shirt off his back when you are in need,” Duggan said.
Or, in this case, the hair off his head.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.