Come Walk With Shari and Ava

Meet “Ava.” With lustrous long blond locks, the high-quality synthetic wig helps breast cancer patient, Shari Cooley, feel like herself again.

Shari first found her way to Ava through the donor-funded complimentary wig program at the Dr. Richard C. Ostenson Cancer Center following her triple-negative breast cancer diagnosis. In September 2020, she was diagnosed with breast cancer following her annual mammogram.

“My 93-year-old mom is a breast cancer survivor, but I just never thought it was going to happen to me,” Shari says. “In October, I met with an oncologist, and I went over my options. I slept on it, and I let her know I’m ready to do a double mastectomy. Chemo started in December and I lost my hair about round two. I would wake up, and it was in my mouth, it was on my pillow and it was coming out in patches in the shower. At that point, the social worker at the hospital where I was getting treatment gave me this (MultiCare Good Samaritan Cancer Resource Center) flyer.”

Services like the Good Samaritan Cancer Resource Center’s complimentary wig program are made possible through community fundraisers like MultiCare’s Come Walk With Me. Pierce county’s largest breast cancer walk is held every year in downtown Sumner on the first Saturday of October. Funds raised support breast health programs at MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital. Last year, the virtual event raised nearly $88,000.

This year Come Walk With Me returns to an in-person event on October 2, 2021. Organizers, committee members and community leaders hope to come out of COVID with a bang and raise $250,000 to help fulfill the growing needs of people diagnosed with breast cancer.

For Shari, her appreciation of Come Walk With Me donors runs deep.

“I didn’t know such a program existed; I emailed, and it was so easy. MultiCare and the donors made it possible for me to have this beautiful wig that makes me feel like I can go out in public,” Shari says. “I was on furlough from my job, and with COVID, I wasn’t sure how to go about getting a wig, especially with finances being tight. This program made it so simple, and I can’t express my gratitude enough.”

Shari is also thankful for the center’s community consultant, Tamara Miller who conducted a virtual wig consultation, selected possibilities based on photos Shari provided, mailed Ava and offered curbside trims. Along with one free wig, patients like Shari receive custom color matching, a wig liner and education on proper wig-fitting techniques, styling tips and care.

“Tamara was there to help me every step of the way with grace and compassion and kindness,” Shari says. “There are a lot of women I know that when we lose our hair, we lose our identity. I always had my long blond hair, and I didn’t know what I was going to do. Around the house, I will go bald, but when I put Ava on, I’m like, ‘Yes, Shari’s back!’ Every time I put it on, I got a piece of me back.”

As this year’s Come Walk With Me approaches, Shari plans to virtually participate, standing with those going through a breast cancer diagnosis or treatment, honoring those who have survived breast cancer and remembering those we have lost too soon.

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