By Michele J. Kuhn
RED BANK – Michele K. Lawson isn’t the type of person who volunteers for a short time and then goes onto something else.
Lawson, a hair stylist at the Hair Company on White Street, has been a volunteer for the American Cancer Society (ACS) since 2001, giving her talents to women needing wigs and a lesson in makeup for the organization’s Look Good …Feel Better program. Last year, she was awarded the cancer society’s Sunshine Award, which recognizes an individual in the state who has “displayed exceptional dedication and outstanding volunteer leadership” with the program. She was lauded for “going the extra mile” to meet with patients at the ACS office, hospital and the salon where she works and enthusiastically promoting the program which helps patients learn beauty techniques to manage “appearance-related” side effects of cancer treatment.
The impetus for Lawson to become a volunteer came about while she was visiting her stepmother in Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City when her stepmom was being treated for colon cancer. Lawson saw a session of the Look Good…Feel Better program being held and knew immediately she could help others. She contacted ACS in Monmouth County and began first as a program facilitator and then – putting her talents to use – as a wig stylist. She now holds wig clinics on a regular basis, helping women keep their wigs in good condition and in style and stresses that every female cancer patient should know that they can get a free wig through the ACS.
The 45-year-old attributes her longevity in the program to the deep emotion she felt when her stepmother, who was “like a mother” to her, died at age 55. “It totally changed my life forever. Cancer has made a great impact on my family,” Lawson said.
Lawson said she felt “completely out of control” when her stepmother was diagnosed with cancer. “I couldn’t help her. I couldn’t change anything … This is where I can help.”
Even though she is a single mother of three boys, ages 18, 16 and 14, “works every day in this economy” and doesn’t really have extra time to volunteer, Lawson “can’t imagine quitting … I can’t imagine not helping these people,” she said. “Instead of volunteering less, I think I actually volunteer more now.
“Personally, I love what I do as a hair stylist and makeup artist … It’s my forte. Being able to help people with my craft is an easy way of giving back,” Lawson said.
Her sons also give back to the American Cancer Society. They have been volunteering their time for many years, loading or unloading trucks, participating in Making Strides For Breast Cancer walk and doing whatever they can to assist.
The salon where Lawson works also is in involved in the fight against cancer. The Hair Company is one of the Red Bank businesses that supports the Paint the Town Pink effort by Meridian Health Systems, Lawson said. The salon’s windows are decorated to help women remember to get their mammograms and a pink piggy bank is located in the shop to accept donations to help fund the diagnostic tests for those who are uninsured or underinsured.
In the next few weeks, when she is scheduled to get her mammogram, Lawson expects to be one of the people helped by the Paint the Town Pink campaign. “I have my doctor’s appointment coming. I don’t have health insurance and I will be using one of those vouchers for my next mammogram,” she said. “I have to or I will be skipping my mammogram and I don’t want to do that.”