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Doctor Makes Heady Decision for Kids with Cancer

When Joanne Porter, MD, an oncologist/hematologist at the Melodies Center, decided to grow her hair long a year ago, she never imagined that she would one day be desperate to shave it off.

“I got sick of it pretty fast,” said Dr. Porter. “It wakes me up when I’m sleeping. It gets in my face. It was just time for it to go.” 
 
She had made a hair appointment, but when the day arrived, she changed her mind. Not about getting a haircut. She was getting it all cut, going full Demi Moore/”G.I. Jane.”

Her “buzz cut” gives her the same look as many of her patients, and benefits cancer research through the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.

Dr. Porter and cancer survivor Jordan Glover at the St. Baldrick's event.
Joanne Porter, MD, right, with Melodies Center patient Jordan Glover at the St. Baldrick's Foundation head shaving event.
Click HERE to watch a video of Dr. Porter getting her head shaved.

“What began as a grassroots effort 13 years ago has now raised millions of dollars for cancer research,” Dr. Porter said. “Equal to that is the advocacy and support for children who are on therapy right now.”

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, Dr. Porter climbed into a chair at Graney’s Stout in downtown Albany and said goodbye to her hair; one of dozens to take part in the St. Baldrick’s head shaving event. The clippers buzzed as row by row, Dr. Porter’s handpicked hairdresser Mike swept hair from her head off to the floor.

“It’s amazing,” Dr. Porter said during the cut. “It doesn’t hurt. It actually feels cooler already. Talk about wash and wear.”

Every swipe of the clippers was watched closely by the huge crowd on hand to cheer on all of the “shavees.”  One particular person never stopped watching Dr. Porter.

“For the first time in 14 years, I’m out without my wig,” said Jordan Glover, a Melodies Center patient who lost her hair during cancer therapy. “Joanne (Dr. Porter) is shaving her head. It’s about time I show off mine. Spike it up and do it!”

Jordan hair recently has grown out about two inches. When Dr. Porter’s shave was finished, she proudly stood next to her patient and exclaimed “for the first time ever, my hair is shorter than hers … and hers is cuter.”

A huge grin immediately crept across Jordan’s face.

“It really is all about the kids. How can I put a smile on a child’s face today?” Dr. Porter said. “To see me sitting there with a bald head, this is a big kick for them. The symbolism is huge, and that’s the point of doing it.”

In 2008, fellow Melodies Center doctor Jennifer Pearce, MD made that same point. Allowing children and young adults to see their doctors sans hair can be reassuring.

“Changing my appearance was just one way to show my support for these families and it means the world to them,” said Dr. Pearce after her 2008 shave.

April 14, 2013 was Dr. Porter’s turn.

“It’s a real statement of how much we support and care about the children at the Melodies Center,” Dr. Porter said. “To be able to help raise funds for research while at the same time raise the spirits of our young cancer patients is just a win-win.”

To learn more about the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, please click HERE.