It started with a tingling of the scalp then, within a couple of days, Betty Retzer's hair was falling out by the fistful. But instead of waking up next to clumps of hair on her pillow, Retzer - who is undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer - had her head shaved.
And earlier this week, so did her husband and her closest friends at the Prophecy beauty salon in Dayton.
They were showing support for Retzer and raising money for the new cancer center at Carson-Tahoe Hospital.
Shirley Allen, whose hair fell down to her hips, had it cut to an eighth of an inch. "I almost couldn't do it," said Kathy Green, the hairstylist who cut Allen's locks - which will be donated to making wigs for cancer patients.
Allen, who's been growing her hair for four years, said she already feels cooler. "It's going to be a great summer-do," she said. "Betty's a remarkable person. She's been really strong and has remained optimistic throughout."
Willis Lamm said his hair was cut as short as you can without using a razor. "It looks like I got drafted into the army and the barber went crazy," he said.
Retzer, Allen and Lamm are all involved with Least Resistance Training Concepts, a wild-horse mentoring group based in Lyon County. So now, in addition to their love of horses, they are also united by bald scalps.
"We got plenty of stares at the restaurant where we went for brunch afterward," Lamm said.
But instead of being a grim affair, humor and goodwill prevailed at the beauty salon. "I put out a bunch of Kleenex, thinking there would be a lot of crying, but the people whose hair I cut were a lot of fun," Green said.
For Retzer - who did cry - the tears were a mixture of pain and joy.
"All the time I was thinking, 'I can't believe I've lost my hair', but also, 'I can't believe my friends and husband are doing this,'" said Retzer, who was diagnosed with cancer in March.
"You try to put on the best face even in a scary situation," said Lamm. "The whole place was laughing."
Apparently, the mirth was contagious. One patron who was coming in for a haircut but did not know Retzer had his head shaved, too, donating the $10 price of his haircut to the new hospital.
"I've been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from my friends," Retzer said - even from total strangers.
"One woman left a gift for me at the shop with her number," she said, and a note saying she had been through the same treatment and to call her.
Retzer, who says she's had her ups and downs, tries to take it one day at a time. If she has one piece of advice for other women battling cancer it is, "Don't do it alone."
The Dayton chapter of Soroptimist International - a nonprofit organization devoted to women's issues - organized the fund-raiser at the salon.
The group is raising $100,000 over the next five years for the new cancer center. The organization also maintains a crisis fund for families unable to pay their bills and a scholarship fund for high school students.
Donations can be made at the Prophecy salon.
n Contact reporter Dan Moreau at firstname.lastname@example.org or 887-2430 ext. 351.
You can help
The Dayton chapter of Soroptimist International, a nonprofit women's group, is raising $100,000 over the next five years for the new cancer center at Carson-Tahoe Hospital. Donations may be made at the Prophecy beauty salon in Dayton at 755 Highway 50 E.. For more information, call (775) 246-9300.