DENVER — When Cole Weinman stepped into a small barbershop on Broadway this week, it was, in many ways, a long time coming. He’d had trims and tune ups, but hadn’t had a full hair cut in three and half years.
It had gotten “unwieldly,” Weinman said, but in many ways, that was the point. He had been toying with the idea of growing out his hair for a while, and the start of the pandemic provided the opportunity to do it for a good cause.
“I didn’t want to try to do the COVID cuts at home, and my head is not shaped well for a buzz cut,” Weinman laughed. “After a while, it got to this length, and at a certain point, you’ve got to get rid of it and, you know, get to the donation part.”
A donation checked two boxes: it would let Weinman put his pandemic growth to good use, and it would schedule an opportune haircut prior to his wedding in June 2023. A coworker recommended the charity Wigs For Kids, after he casually mentioned his plans to donate his hair. She had donated herself, she told him, and believed in their mission and process.
“It goes to children who lose their hair because they have cancer,” Weinman recalled her explaining. “I figured that was about as good a reason to grow this thing out as any.”
This “thing” — his brown, wavy locks — provided ample to donate. He elected to have more than a foot cut off, and still had hair to spare. After waiting three and half years, he ironically had a sharp deadline to meet: Friday morning, he’s scheduled for brain surgery.
“About three years ago, I started having, like, little bouts of vertigo — kind of like a buzzing, almost like a cicada sound in the inside of my head,” Weinman explained. “I went through a number of doctors to try to figure out what’s going on. I thought I had like TMJ, because I had jaw pain and tooth pain. And essentially, I was kind of getting nowhere. So I found an ENT who was like, ‘Yeah, we should probably get a brain MRI. There’s this off-chance it could be this small tumor between your brain and your ear.’”
That intuition proved correct. It was right after Thanksgiving that Weinman got his test results back, showing a tumor growing in his brain near the base of his skull.
In the course of a day, Weinman went from planning his wedding to planning for brain surgery. He also gained a whole new appreciation for his pandemic project of growing out his hair. While his tumor, called a “vestibular schwannoma," is not cancerous, it will require brain surgery to remove and about a month of recovery post-operation.
“It kind of, you know, put it all in perspective,” Weinman said. “I mean, at the end of the day, I’m lucky because mine’s operable… I don’t have to do chemo, and I don’t have to lose what I’m going to keep of my hair. [I feel] gratitude, you know, I’m not going to be in a situation where I’m going to need somebody to do what I’m doing now to, you know, get to feel normal in my day to day.”
Weinman will have to relearn his sense of balance, and his right hearing in his right ear will likely always be blunted. But he’s got his summer wedding to look forward to, and now, he can also look forward to knowing that somewhere, his pandemic project is helping to make another patient’s day a little brighter.
“I hope it serves them, and I hope that whatever they’re going with, they will get through as easy as I’m about to get through what I’ve got going on,” he said, holding up his bag of hair for donation. “I think the fruits of the labor were worth it.”