Fighting cancer with compassion

As a 10-inch ponytail of chestnut hair was cut from Mia Faulkner’s head, her cousin, Olivia Bearden, gave her a quick peck on the cheek — the moment was just as special to Olivia as it was to Mia.

“She (Olivia) has been fighting cancer since she was 5–years–old,” Mia explained.

Mia, 10, climbed into the salon chair at Splash Hair Studio in Pelham to cut her hair for Locks of Love, an organization that provides hairpieces to children suffering from medical hair loss. That same day she handed over $1,000 dollars she had raised to a representative from Camp Smile-A-Mile, a camp that provides a getaway for children (and their families) who have or have had cancer.

Though Olivia, 18, never felt the need to wear a wig over the 13 years she has spent fighting cancer, she realizes it boosts the self-esteem of others fighting the disease.

“I thought it was really sweet,” Olivia said of her cousin cutting her hair for a child in need. “I’ve always known she (Mia) was there for me.”

Olivia said that the donation to Camp Smile-A-Mile also meant a lot since the camp provided her with her own special memories.

“It has been very important in our lives,” Olivia said. “I love camp, I met people (at camp) who knew exactly what I was going through.”

Olivia, who graduated third in her class from high school even after missing 70 days of school for treatment and is currently a freshman at Auburn University managing a 15-hour course load, has been an example not only for Mia, but her entire family.

“She sets an example,” said Tami Bearden, Olivia’s mother. “It (Olivia’s fight) has inspired us.”

Kris Faulkner, Mia’s mother and Olivia’s aunt, agreed.

“It (brain cancer) doesn’t slow her down,” she said.

Olivia said she never wanted to give up on her dreams.

“I have always wanted to go to Auburn,” Olivia said. “To me being sick is no excuse not to dream and have goals.”

Mia has taught her family and friends a lesson through her efforts.

“A 10-year-old can do a lot when they set their mind to it,” her mother said. “(Mia has shown) that the best thing in life is giving to others.”

Mia said she is thinking about raising the money to donate again.

For more information on Locks of Love and how to donate, visit www.locksoflove.org.

For more information on Camp Smile-A-Mile, visit www.campsam.org.