In 2017, Melanie Shaha of Gilbert, Arizona, started undergoing chemotherapy to treat a recurring brain tumor that affected the functioning of her pituitary gland. Previously, she had surgeries to successfully remove the benign tumor. This time, however, chemotherapy was prescribed, and Shaha started losing her hair.
"Not having hair, you stick out like a sore thumb and well-meaning people can say things that break your heart," she told the outlet. "I don't mind being sick but I mind looking sick. I'd rather blend in and not stand out at the store,” Shaha told TODAY Parents.
A year later, her son Matt Shaha, then 23 and just having graduated from a school with a strict dress code, joked that he should grow out his hair and make a wig for her. And then “something clicked” and he decided to continue growing his hair out.
Melanie added that she didn’t want to burden her son in any way, saying, “I would tell him, 'I love your hair' and he’d say, 'Coming soon to a head near you!'"
“Soon” came just about two and a half years after Matt first thought of growing out his hair to make a wig for his mother. On March 21, 2022, Matt had 12 inches of hair, enough to make a wig. He headed to his mom’s house with some friends for the big cut, and photographer Mercedes Berg was there to capture the magical mother-son moment.
"It's a no-brainer," Matt told Fox 10 Phoenix of donating his hair. "She gave me the hair in the first place."
"We were super pumped and when they started cutting, we bawled," Melanie told TODAY. His lopped locks were sent to Compassionate Creations, a California-based wig company that creates hand-threaded wigs for people experiencing hair loss. According to Fox 10, Matt also paid for the wig, which runs around $2,000.
“The family was such a joy to work with," Compassionate Creations co-founder Veronica Balch told TODAY Parents. "When someone selflessly shaves their head for a family member, it makes what we do even more special.”
"You know, I've lost my eyebrows, lost my eyelashes, I lost my hair, so it's just been such a tremendous gift to be able to have a more normal appearance, to go places and not stand out because you look unusual, but to fit in and be beautiful," Melanie said to Fox 10. "It's really great."