When a mom lost her hair due to a benign brain tumor, her son grew out his own hair and cut it to make a wig for her.
In 2003, Melanie Shaha of Gilbert, Ariz., started having dull headaches which doctors later concluded were symptoms of a benign brain tumor of the pituitary gland.
The tiny gland located at the brain base regulates hormones related to growth, stress and metabolism.
Melanie's tumor — the size of a plum — affected the functioning of her pituitary gland.
"I had surgery to remove the tumor and I had a really great outcome," the mother of six told TODAY Parents.
The tumor returned, which required a second surgery in 2006 to remove it, followed by a third reoccurrence in 2017 for which radiation was prescribed.
“I asked (my doctor), 'Will I lose my hair?' and they said 'No,'" Melanie Shaha recalled. "Three months later, I had a big shed and started losing hair. I was surprised." According to the National Cancer Institute, radiation can cause hair loss on the areas being treated.
"Not having hair, you stick out like a sore thumb and well-meaning people can say things that break your heart," she added. "I don't mind being sick but I mind looking sick. I'd rather blend in and not stand out at the store."
In 2018, over a family lunch, Melanie's 27-year-old son Matt made a joke.
"I said, 'Why don't I grow out my hair to make a wig for you?'" he told TODAY Parents. Having just graduated from a university with a dress code that limited hair length, Matt was enjoying the freedom of growing it out, but "something clicked."
Melanie Shaha, however, didn't want to burden her son. "I would tell him, 'I love your hair' and he’d say, 'Coming soon to a head near you!'" she said.
By March 21, Matt had grown 12 inches of hair, a sufficient length for a wig. He and and a few of his coworkers went to his mom's home where they chopped it all off.
"We were super pumped and when they started cutting, we bawled," said Melanie.
Matt's hair was sent to a Newport Beach, Calif.-based company called Compassionate Creations which delivered a hand-tied wig to Melanie in June.
“The family was such a joy to work with," co-founder Veronica Balch told TODAY Parents. "When someone selflessly shaves their head for a family member, it makes what we do even more special.”
Melanie loves her wig. "The color is spectacular and we had it cut and styled with a hairdresser," she said. "Matt said it looks great on me."
Matt's gift will be hard to top, admitted Melanie. "It sure fills your emotional cup."