Thursday, 20 June 2019

Symbolic Support

Cancer is a family affair - that's the realization Dave Harm made three days after Christmas in 1999, when his wife, Betty, was diagnosed with breast cancer. "Cancer affects the whole family," he said. "The whole family gets cancer. So, this year, the whole Harm family is also fighting it. Harm, through "Dave's Dare," is giving up one inch of his "pride and joy," which is his 12-inch long hair that hasn't been cut since his wife began chemotherapy, for every $100 he can get people to contribute through the family in their fight against cancer.

Their daughter, 12 year old Lisa, began last weekend going door to door collecting money to fight cancer and cut Harm's hair, while Mrs. Harm will do the actual cutting at the sixth annual Gage County Relay For Life. The Relay For Life will be held from 6PM-8AM on Friday and Saturday. This year's American Cancer Society fundraising event carries the theme "Racing for a Cure." The theme this year for the Harm family is hair, because Harm remembers when his wife's hair fell out as a result of the chemotherapy.

"The chemo doctor told her that in 13 or 14 days she would lose all her hair," he said, "so we thought it would be a gradual process. But after 13 days it all fell out at once. That really brought it home. It's real." That was the last time Harm had his hair cut. "When my wife lost her hair, that was the last time I cut mine. It was symbolic support," he said. Mrs. Harm had eight chemotherapy treatments three weeks apart back in those uncertain days.

"After the chemo, the first week she'd be violently ill. Then the second week would be better, but then by the third week, when she had to do it all over again, she was almost in tears. She knew what was going to happen," her husband said. By the seventh or eight treatment she had no hair left on her body," he said, "but then about a month after that, she had to shave her legs. That was the ultimate high! We felt we'd really turned the corner." Mrs. Harm has been in remission for three years, but the Harms have been fighting cancer ever since the original diagnosis. And daughter Lisa is also getting involved. "She felt left out," Harm said, "and decided she would go door-to-door to help. She's got me two and a quarter inches ($225)." Helping feels good, Lisa said. "I like that I'm helping people by getting donations to people that need the help," she said. The Harms said help is important when families are struggling with cancer.

"The message is, don't refuse help," Harm said. "Grandma's (Bake Shoppe, Harm's employer) was very helpful. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it." Dave's coworkers had their own weekly food drives, and included items such as detergent and toilet paper, and even vouchers for gas for Mrs. Harm's frequent trips to Lincoln doctors.

Sue Bauer, human resources manager at Grandma's, said their employees were happy to help.

"It's something we've lived with along with him," she said, "and we appreciate the outpouring of feelings the employees had for him, his wife, and his whole family."

Bauer said Grandma's employees are donating to Dave's fundraiser and the company itself will be making a donation this week.

That should put him very close to his goal of raising $1,200, she said.

Mrs. Harm had to quit her job and was off work for more than 10 months as a result of the cancer, which put a lot of financial stress on the family and eventually led to her taking a new position at the Beatrice Good Samaritan Center.

"The football moms threw a benefit to raise money," Harm said. "There comes a point where you have to swallow your pride and let people help."

Harm said their pharmacist, their doctor, his employer, their bank, their small town, "everybody worked with us."

"At times, you take people for granted. Not after something like this,"he said.

Mrs. Harm said education about cancer is also important.

"One thing that helped us more than anything, was we did a lot of research. We knew what we were walking into, and knew what the outcomes could be," Mrs.Harm said.

She also said she feels lucky she got into a research study.

"She's doing it for some victim who does not have cancer (yet)," her husband said about participating in the study.

"For past, present, and future survivors. They'll have data from Betty and people all over," he said.

That study is being conducted by the American Cancer Society, and Mrs. Harm got involved in it through her Lincoln doctor.

Harm still needs about $600 to cut off all his hair, and hopes to raise it by the April 30 deadline.

Mrs. Harm will cut her husband's hair on Friday night at the Gage County Relay For Life, and the hair will be donated to "Locks of Love," a group that uses the hair to make wigs for children in chemotherapy.

"She trusted me when she was ill," Harm said. "The least I can do is to trust her to cut my hair. I might be going to the barber Saturday morning, though."

Article from the Beatrice Daily-Sun by Richard Kujath - 29 April 2003

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