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So long to Lexi's locks

Lexi Freese, 7, is shown before the haircut that trimmed off about 12 inches of her hair Friday at The Neat Top Beauty Salon in Fulda.1 / 2
Lexi Freese, 7, is shown after the haircut that trimmed off about 12 inches of her hair Friday at The Neat Top Beauty Salon in Fulda. Lexi, who is in remission from leukemia that was diagnosed at age 3, planned to donate her hair to Locks of Love, which makes wigs for cancer patients.2 / 2

FULDA -- Just a few years ago, Lexi Freese was a bald little girl, having los most of her hair as a side effect of chemotherapy treatment for leukemia.

But -- blessedly -- she doesn't remember much about that time in her life. And on Friday, Lexi was anxious to cut off the glorious mane of hair that grew back-- the shorter the better, in her opinion.

"Because it's always snarly," was her reasoning behind the haircut, and, as she told her mom, "I'm a boy kinda girl," referring to her tomboy tendencies.

The daughter of Marc and Dawn Freese of rural Avoca, Lexi, now 7, recently completed the first grade. She had just turned 3 years old when she was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia.

"She and (younger brother) Nick had viruses. He recovered; she didn't," explained Dawn about why she took Lexi to see a pediatrician at Avera Worthington Specialty Clinics. "She had also started to get these bruises in odd places -- in her ears, on the bottoms of her feet. ... They knew instantly from the blood work (that it was leukemia)."

By 10 o'clock that night, the Freeses were at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, where Lexi underwent evaluation and a treatment plan was developed that could be implemented at the Avera McKennan cancer center in Sioux Falls, S.D. As a registered nurse, Dawn could administer some of the treatments at their home, too.

Although Lexi maintained her spunk through the process, the chemo took its toll, zapping the tyke of her strength -- and her hair.

"Before she got sick, her hair was long as it was now," recalled Dawn. "Six months into chemo, it began to fall out. She went bald three times. ... I pull out the pictures now, and all the memories come flooding back. She was such a sick little girl."

Although there were some setbacks, the treatment went largely according to plan, and the Freeses are grateful that the leukemia shows no signs of returning.

"They call it 'in remission,'" Dawn explained about her daughter's cancer-free status. "It's one of the few cancers they call cured if it doesn't return. We've been going in (to see the doctor) every two months; now we can go every three months for the next year. Then the next year it will be every four months. They check her blood and do a thorough exam. It will show up in the blood before it shows up in any other symptoms."

It's been two years since her last chemo treatment, and prior to Friday's haircut, Lexi's hair reached well down her back. But the lustrous locks cramped her tomboy style.

"We have a fight every morning, every night, over brushing her hair," sighed Dawn, who for that reason went willingly along with Lexi's request for a short cut, although she reported that dad Marc was harder to convince. "She's been begging for a long time."

Besides creating a carefree style for Lexi, there was another purpose behind the visit to The Neat Top Salon in Fulda. Lexi's hair was long enough to donate to Locks of Love, an organization that accepts donations of hair to be made into wigs for cancer patients.

So on Friday morning, stylist Coleen Bui gathered Lexi's tresses into two thick pigtails before cutting them off with a big shear. The two bundles of hair were placed into an envelope to be sent to the organization. The floor around the barber's chair was soon covered with smaller pieces of hair, and a becoming pixie style took shape on top of Lexi's head.

The short cut seemed to please the young girl, although she quickly grabbed a brush in attempt to remove the curls that Bui had carefully styled for the after-cut photograph. And she made it clear that she would have liked the stylist to have gone even shorter.

"She wanted it like Nick's," Dawn explained, referring to her son's haircut. "Nick has a buzz."

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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