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Dr. Rina Meyer

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Northport High School hosted a head-shaving event Friday, March 11, with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, raising funds and public awareness for childhood cancer. 

St. Baldrick’s Foundation is a nonprofit organization that funds research for potential cures of childhood cancers. According to its website, St. Baldrick’s has raised over $314 million in research-grant funding since the first fundraiser in Manhattan in 2000. 

This year’s Northport event included a variety of festivities, with several individuals voluntarily shaving their heads in solidarity with childhood cancer patients. The head-shaving program, a staple of the foundation’s public awareness campaign, is designed to reduce stigma surrounding the disease and to show compassion.

Nora Nolan has been involved with St. Baldrick’s events in Northport for 17 years. She said that the people who put on the event every year include an array of volunteers, students and charity workers throughout the Northport community.

“We have volunteer barbers and everything else is volunteer — grassroots, volunteer-based,” she said. “All of the students that are in the honor society volunteer here. They’re the boots on the ground making it all happen.”

Nolan originally became involved with St. Baldrick’s because she believed in its mission. 

“My first St. Baldrick’s event was at Napper Tandy’s in Northport, and it was just a really wild time with people having a lot of fun for a great cause,” she said. “I just got more and more involved. We’ve been affected in our community by children with cancer diagnoses. There’s definitely a need for more research and that’s one thing that the St. Baldrick’s Foundation supports.” 

Dr. Rina Meyer is a pediatric hematologist/oncologist at Stony Brook Cancer Center. She treats kids, teenagers and young adults with cancer and blood disorders. Meyer shared her own experiences treating patients throughout the years.

One of Meyer’s patients, Matthew, came to her when he was only 6 months old. It was discovered that he had an enlarged tumor in his kidney.

“Little 6-month-old Matthew underwent surgery, he underwent radiation therapy and chemotherapy and really struggled a lot,” Meyer said, adding, “Now I want to tell you that Matthew comes to see me. He’s 6 years old, he’s in first grade, he’s doing wonderfully and he’s really a healthy, normal kid that goes on and lives the rest of his life.”

Meyer shared the story of another one
of her patients, Patty, who was 9 years old when she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. 

“The interesting thing about that is that in the 1950s, children with that kind of leukemia didn’t do too well,” Meyer said. “Then, if you fast forward a little bit to the 1980s, children with leukemia did a little bit better, but still not perfect, not great.”

Meyer marveled at the rapid advances in leukemia research over just the last few decades, which have helped to save Patty’s life. 

“Children with leukemia are surviving and they’re thriving, and about 90% to 95% of them are doing extremely well,” Meyer said. “The reason for that is because of the research being done all over the country and all over the world to study children and teenagers with cancer and to try to come up with the best and safest treatments. St. Baldrick’s is really an integral part of that.”

According to Meyer, during her treatment Patty felt comfortable walking through the halls of her school without wearing a hat because of the support she received from her peers and community. Meyer believes head-shaving events, such as those administered by St. Baldrick’s, help to support children with cancer and remove social barriers. 

To make a charitable contribution to St. Baldrick’s Foundation, visit www.stbaldricks.org/donate.