Shine On

Woman who shaved her head to support cancer-stricken sister quits job after boss told her to wear a wig

When Melanie Strandberg’s sister, Marisa Lowe, was diagnosed with Stage III ovarian cancer for a second time, the Spokane, Wash. woman decided to show solidarity with her younger sibling’s brave battle.

After another round of chemotherapy, Lowe’s hair was sure to fall out again, so to make her feel more comfortable and show her unconditional love, Strandberg shaved off her own locks.

Melanie Strandberg, before and after she shaved her head to support her cancer-stricken sister. (Facebook)Melanie Strandberg, before and after she shaved her head to support her cancer-stricken sister. (Facebook)

Strandberg is not the first person to go bald for a loved one fighting cancer – the list of awesome humans who have publicly showed their support this way is as long as it is heart-regenerating.

And she would know. As reports, Strandberg recently overcame her own bout of cervical cancer. If there is anyone who understands the road that lies ahead for Lowe, and how much this gesture of solidary can mean to someone, it would be her.

Also see: Philadelphia mall ejects mourning sisters for wearing 'F--- Cancer' hats

But the twist in this particular story is that Strandberg works as a hair stylist and, according to her supervisor at La Rive Salon and Spa, her hair was a requirement in order to effectively style the hair of others.

“I was told I could possibly offend guests and would not be able to market hair sales without hair,” she writes in a post on Facebook. “I believe none of this to be just nor true in the least bit.”

There’s a saying amongst stylists (OK, by one stylist who cut my hair once in the late '90s), that if you look at the footwear of a shoemaker, his shoes will often be in rough shape because, after a day of skillfully administering to his customers’ boots, he has little time or inclination to keep his own in perfect shape. It doesn’t mean he’s incapable of fixing shoes. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The same can also apply to any skilled tradesperson. Busy stylists in high demand may have fantastic tresses; some just as well may not because after a 10-hour day on their feet making their clients look fantastic, their own hair is their last priority.

Strandberg’s ability as a stylist wasn’t called into question, but she says her boss told her to wear a wig to the salon in order to do her job. While it’s within the rights of an employer to demand a certain dress code, Strandberg felt she couldn’t “go 50 per cent” for her sister by covering up her symbolic gesture at work.

Also see: Former Hooters waitress forced to quit because of post-brain surgery appearance

“I feel I would inspire and do our community proud in showing my support. . . I can only hope that someone fighting cancer never gets told that they may offend someone due to their appearance,” she adds.

Her supervisors didn’t quite see it the same way and Strandberg told Today that she felt no other option but to quit her job. She can always find work in another salon, but she only has one sister.
Since Strandberg’s follicular fight first gained international attention, her former place of employment has launched an investigation into the incident.

One of La Rive’s general managers, Phil Haugen, tells NBC that he was concerned by what happened as it doesn’t conform to the company’s values and that employees have shaved their head for similar reasons in the past without any issue.

"We have no policy that prohibits this. If there was a violation of any of our policies then we will take the appropriate action," he says, adding that Strandberg’s job is still hers if she wants it.

No doubt that Strandberg will find herself on the receiving end of a deluge of job offers from other salons that like their employees to bring a bit of integrity along with their talent.