In the midst of the global pandemic, 36-year-old Dana McSwain received some troubling news. Though she was unaware of anyone else in her family who ever had it, McSwain was informed that she had stage 2 breast cancer that had spread to her lymph nodes, plus the BRCA2 gene mutation that increases the risk of several other types of cancers.
“It was a complete shock,” McSwain told Good Morning America. “It’s not just you have stage 2 cancer, it’s you have stage 2 cancer with this genetic mutation that makes you susceptible to even more cancers. It’s a battle for the rest of my life.”
A few weeks after her diagnosis, McSwain began chemotherapy. Eventually, the mom of two young daughters started to lose her hair as a result of the chemo — and though she knew she’d lose it eventually, it was a tough pill to swallow.
“You kind of accept the cancer diagnosis and move on to the next step. So now I’ve accepted cancer and prepared myself to go through chemo, which means losing my hair,” she said. “As a woman, your hair may not define you but it sets you apart. I’ve always had long hair and I started to mourn that even before it was gone.”
Once her hair started to fall out, McSwain decided to shave her head. Afterward, she searched for an affordable wig that made her feel beautiful, but she couldn’t find one.
“Finding a wig is an extremely hard process, especially not knowing where to begin because this has not been anything that I ever thought that I’d go through,” she said. “Every wig I put on I couldn’t get it off fast enough. I thought, ‘This is not me. This doesn’t work.’”
In that group was Carol Daley Cook, a fellow mom and registered nurse who came up with the idea to make a custom wig for McSwain.
“I got to thinking, ‘I have this really long hair, like down to my waist, and my poor friend is losing her hair to cancer,'” Daley Cook explained to Good Morning America.
Eventually, Daley Cook found “a woman in Tampa who custom makes halo wigs.” She received donations to pay for the wig, plus hair for the wig from “five women and one seven-year-old girl.”
On July 20, McSwain made a Facebook post about the “amazing gift,” noting that she was “overwhelmed” and “thankful.”
“On Saturday, I received an amazing gift from a special TRIBE of women – ranging from best friends to virtual friends to some I’ve never spoken to before; all through the coordination of Carol Daley Cook and my local moms Facebook group,” she said. “Some donated their hair, some donated their children’s hair, some donated money … but it came together and I am still a sappy ball of tears over this this morning.”
“This wig, from these ladies, makes me feel pretty again,” she added. “So when I say the love, support, check ins, prayers, positive vibes, dinners, etc are getting me through this – please believe me.”
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