An Arizona mother lost her hair while undergoing radiation treatment for a brain tumor, so her son grew out his hair and had it made into a $2,000 wig.
In 2022, Melanie Shaha, a 61-year-old mother of six, told “Today” that doctors discovered a benign brain tumor in her pituitary gland in 2003.
Matt (right) is one of Melanie’s (left) six children.Courtesy of Mercedes Berg Photography
According to The National Cancer Institute, the pituitary gland is a small organ attached at the base of the brain that makes hormones that control the body’s functions like growth and fertility. Around 10,000 pituitary tumors are diagnosed annually in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society.
Melanie had surgery to remove the tumor, which grew to be the size of a plum, according to “Today,” but in 2006, she underwent a second procedure after it returned. In 2017 when the tumor returned for the third time, she was prescribed radiation treatment.
Per The National Cancer Institute, radiation therapy can cause hair loss on the body part being treated. Hair typically grows back in three to six months, but receiving a high dose of radiation may cause hair to grow thinner or not at all, according to the institute.
Melanie said she lost her hair after undergoing radiation treatment.Mercedes Berg Photography
“Not having hair, you stick out like a sore thumb and well-meaning people can say things that break your heart,” she told “Today.” “I don’t mind being sick but I mind looking sick. I’d rather blend in and not stand out at the store.”
According to “Today,” in 2018, Melanie’s 28-year-old son Matt made a joke that sparked an idea during a family lunch.
“I said, ‘Why don’t I grow out my hair to make a wig for you?’” Matt told the outlet, adding that at the time, he grew out his hair because the university he attended had strict rules about hair length.
Matt (middle) got his hair cut after growing it our for nearly three years.Courtesy of Mercedes Berg Photography
Although Melanie initially didn’t want to take her son up on his offer, he persisted and grew 12 inches of hair by March 2022, “Today” reported. KSAZ, a local news station in Phoenix, Arizona, reports that Matt grew his hair for two and a half years.
With the help of his coworkers, Matt chopped off his long locks that month, “Today” reported.
Melanie and Matt shipped the hair to California.Courtesy of Mercedes Berg Photography
“We were super pumped and when they started cutting, we bawled,” Melanie told “Today.”
Then, they shipped the hair to Compassionate Creations in Newport Beach, California, where it was assembled into a hand-stitched wig, “Today reported.” KSAZ reports that the wig cost $2,000.
Melanie (left) and Matt (right) had a hairdresser cut and style the wig.Courtesy of Mercedes Berg Photography
“The color is spectacular and we had it cut and styled with a hairdresser,” Melanie told “Today.” “Matt said it looks great on me.”
“It’s a no-brainer,” Matt told KSAZ. “She gave me the hair in the first place.”
As of May 2023, it’s been almost a year since Melanie and Matt’s story went viral across the internet, and the pair told Insider they were both surprised it resonated with so many people.
“I am very surprised our little story traveled far and wide, but I am so happy that such a kind son could be recognized,” Melanie said.
Matt added: “The whole process was super rewarding for me in so many ways and it was nice to share that good news with the world.”
When asked if she still wore the wig Matt created for her, Melanie replied, “Absolutely.”
Melanie (left) said this photo of her and Matt (right) was taken on Christmas Day last year.Courtesy of Melanie and Matt Shaha
“The coloring is a remarkable match to my complexion, as you might imagine, as we are family and share the same coloring! The wig is soft to the touch and so beautiful,” Melanie said. “Matt sacrificed so much to give such a thoughtful gift! Two years was a long time for him to have long hair. And then he paid for the custom wig to be made!”
Matt said the Shaha family plan to celebrate Melanie and her accomplishments on Mother’s Day this year.
“I’m going to spend Mother’s Day with my mom,” Matt said. “We’re going to get lunch together, run errands, chat, and maybe even get some ice cream, and hopefully my mom can put her feet up at the end of the day and think about the family that she did such a great job raising.”