Angelina Co. 4th grader donates hair to freshman battling cancer

Pollok Central 4th grader donates hair to freshman battling cancer
Published: May. 25, 2023 at 6:10 PM CDT|Updated: May. 25, 2023 at 9:55 PM CDT
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POLLOK, Texas (KTRE) - Cancer and a grand gesture brought two students together at Central ISD.

Rylee Brooks was starting her freshman year at Central High School and had just made the varsity basketball team when she started feeling pain in her lower abdomen.

“I was playing basketball for fall league when I started cramping really bad, and during practice I got hit really hard in my stomach and from there everything just went downhill,” Brooks said.

The pain continued, and her mother believed it was her appendix. She was taken to the hospital for scans and they were told it was a ruptured cyst, but the pain still persisted. Brooks knew something was wrong and wanted to be looked at further.

“I went and got an ultrasound and there was a big tumor, I think 17 centimeters,” Brooks said.

After more testing Brooks was diagnosed with Embryonal Rhabdomyosarcoma and Sertoli-Leydig. She first had surgery to remove the tumor and other spots and began chemo and radiation treatments. During the treatments, Brooks lost all of her hair.

A fourth grader at Central, Hadassah Schroeder had heard about Brooks’ journey through her mother, who teaches at Brooks’ high school.

Schroeder decided she wanted to cut off her hair and donate it to Brooks to make a wig.

“I went to Great Clips and went in there and I cut off I think about 15 inches,” Schroeder said.

Melissa Benjamin Shepherd, owner of Hair Kiss Studio in Lufkin, has made Brooks two wigs already. She will be making this one as well.

“I was really amazed that a little girl would think so much of another person that’s going through what she is going through, and to be so selfless to chop 15 inches of hair to donate to someone, I know growing hair takes time and so for her to do that... I thought it was the most selfless act that I’ve came across along my journey of doing hair,” Shepherd said.

Schroeder said this experience taught her she wants to continue doing this for other people.

“I really wanted to do something for someone,” Schroeder said.

Brooks said she was touched by the gesture.

“I was just like wow, someone did that for me and I just appreciate it a lot,” Brooks said.

Brooks has completed her first round of chemo and has completed radiation. She will continue the last round of chemo every three weeks throughout the summer, and it will end in September right before fall basketball starts.