The 10-year-old smiled and giggled as a team of hairdressers ran clippers over the seven boys’ heads and clumps of hair blew off the school verandah. Lani, wrapped in the love of a school community rocked by her cancer diagnosis two months ago, posed for photographs and at one point took the clippers herself to classmate Max Fallon.
It was a welcome few hours with friends after weeks of chemotherapy had taken her own hair and confined her to a medical world of drips and hospital beds.
“It was fun,” Lani beamed when asked by school principal Sidonie Coffey what she thought of the day.
Fallon, Taj Michilis, Cooper Stevenson, Sam Ebrill, Mitchell Rogers, Hugh Buggy and Jai Marshall shaved their heads to make Lani feel more comfortable on her visits to school between treatments.
“We don’t want to leave her out because other people have long hair and she has short hair, so we’re trying to make her not feel lonely,” 10-year-old Hugh said.
Lani’s mother, Rochelle, said the children’s gesture was typical of the support she had received at the school.
“I think she’s just getting a huge kick out of it, especially that it’s the boys. That’s a bit cute,” Mrs Fear said.
“Losing her hair was a little bit confronting when it first happened, so it just makes it a little bit easier knowing that they’re so supportive, that they’re willing to do it themselves. They’ve got her back.
“Until something like this happens you don’t realise there is that lovely sense of community. I haven’t cooked a meal in a month.”
Lani was diagnosed with bone cancer in late March and secondary tumours in her lungs. She has had lung surgery and starts another round of chemo this week.
She completed her recent NAPLAN tests on a drip and won her class’s regular maths Olympiad from her hospital bed last week.
Mrs Coffey praised her students for acting on an instinct to support their friend.
“That’s a brave call for kids to do,” she said. “We often talk about things, but it’s about action. We can never walk in her shoes, and we don’t pretend to try to know how she’s feeling, but what we can do is make sure she’s not doing this on her own.”
Parent Jacqui Mejia said she had known Mrs Fear since they were both pregnant with their daughters.
“The boys are really sweet doing this for her, just to make her not feel alone,” she said. “She has said that it’s quite hard people looking at her head sometimes.”
The boys received certificates from the Mark Hughes Foundation and the thanks of Knights star Trent Hodkinson, who was on hand to witness their show of support.
Story originally published by The Newcastle Herald and can be read here.
Photograph courtesy of Simone De Peak