October 22, 2021

BY JESSICA PETTalexandsara

“I’m sorry, it’s cancer.”

Those four words changed Sarah Cinelli’s life forever. The mother, sister, wife and friend immediately started counting the ways.

“The kids need me, who’s going to plan the birthday parties, who’s going to do everything a mom does, am I going to die, what’s going to happen?” she thought. She was shocked, like anyone would be in her situation, but she immediately began to plan her next steps.

She and her husband (who battled leukemia before the kids were born) broke the news to their two young children right away.

“After she came home from school I told her, ‘You know mommy’s lump? It turns out it’s bad and it’s called cancer,’” said Cinelli.

She had been diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer.

Despite the devastating news, the family tried their best to go on with their normal lives. It was important to Sarah and her husband that cancer didn’t change their children’s lives. They went on a camping trip, enjoyed the summer with their friends and family and even held a “hair cutting party” for Sarah.

One day while she was sitting in the car, Sarah’s six-year-old daughter Alex heard a commercial promoting the #nohairselfie, a movement that promotes support and solidarity for cancer patients around the world. Alex, who at one point had long flowing hair, decided that she wanted to support her mother by participating in the #nohairselfie movement.

So, her father Mike registered her on the campaign’s website and by the next morning she had already raised over $400 in donations. What was Alex’s reasoning?

“I thought about it and I really wanted to do it, so I did it,” she said. It was as simple as that. “She (her mom) looked pretty and I like how she looked.”

Her mother was worried that being just six years old, Alex didn’t understand the possible consequences that could follow, specifically the way the other kids at school would react.

“I was almost being mean. I would say, ‘Kids can say this, they might call you a boy,’ because I just wanted her to understand,” Sarah said.

Despite her mother’s hesitance, Alex continued to push for her hair to be removed. She even convinced her father and her little brother Kent to join her. On Feb. 4, known as World Cancer Day,

Alex shaved her head in support of her mother and in support of all cancer patients undergoing treatment.

The next day at St. Matthews Catholic Elementary School, Alex had the opportunity to speak to her entire class about what she had done and to answer any questions her peers may have had. One of her classmates came to school the next day with his head shaved to support her.

The school also allowed kids to wear their hats all day to show support of cancer patients who often wear hats when undergoing chemotherapy and invited them to bring a donation to school. That day, the school donated $1,002 to Alex’s cause.

Now, 18 days later, Alex is happy with her beautiful new hairdo. She even calls herself and her #nohairselfie teammates the Fuzzy Hedgehogs because that is what her hair feels like now that it is cut.

As of Feb. 9, Alex and her team had raised a total of $12,187, surpassing their original goal of $10,000. Donations can be made directly to Alex’s page until March 31 at www.fundraising.nohairselfie.ca/Pledge/Participant/Home.aspx?seid=10592&mid=9&pid=2534881. One hundred per cent of the proceeds go to the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation.

When Alex was asked what advice she had for other kids whose parent may have cancer, she had this to say: “Don’t worry about it. It might be OK because the doctor will fix it and then you won’t have to worry about it anymore.”

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