Michael Gary, 15, had a personal connection to a Thursday event at Austin College as he went through pediatric cancer about two years ago. In December, 2017, Michael was diagnosed with a form of osteosarcoma — a bone cancer — at age 12. August will mark the second year that his cancer has been in remission.

Showing support for pediatric cancer research, members of the Grayson County Rotary Club and the Austin College Rotaract allowed their heads to be shaved in solidarity with children who have been diagnosed with cancer. The shave was part of the organizations' annual St. Baldrick's Foundation fundraiser Thursday, where organizers hoped to raise more than $7,000 for cancer research.

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“When he (the doctor) was talking about it to my parents, he was saying a lot of big words and trying to make it where I couldn't figure it out,” Michael said. “In a way, I think he was trying to sugar coat it.”

Michael said he asked the doctor directly if it was cancer, and was told it was. Early on, he said he was excited when he learned his diagnosis as it meant he would be a cancer survivor. In hindsight, he said it was too early to celebrate.

“I have to give it to God, of course, because it is through his grace and mercy that I am still here,” he said.

During his treatment, Michael said he had a lot of support from friends and family. His mother stayed with him throughout his treatment at Medical Center Dallas. While his father was unable to be there as frequently, he shaved his own head throughout his son's treatment. The service at the hospital was amazing and Michael said there were few issues throughout the treatment.

However, he knows not everyone is as fortunate as him. This is the reason why he feels the need to support organizations like St. Baldrick's, he said.

“A lot of children there don't have there parents (with them), or they don't get as great of care,” he said.

One of the more painful parts of his treatment involved having a port installed in his chest to allow access for blood draws, medicine to be injected. Michael said this was the most painful experience in his life. Even years later, he has no feeling at the spot where his port was installed.

It was a few weeks into his treatment that his hair started to fall out, which is common in some forms of treatment. Michael said he would find patches of hair on his pillow after waking up, or on the inside of his hoodie.

“I could walk into the bathroom, look into the mirror, and reach up and pull out clumps of it,” he said.

Even after his recovery, Michael said his hair comes in as a mixture of blonde, brown and his original red.

Meanwhile, other side effects of his treatment do affect his daily life. A portion of his peroneal nerve, which helps control his foot, was removed during surgery. As a result, he has to wear an attachment on his shoe to keep his foot in an upright position.

Additionally, a six-inch segment of his fibula was removed from his leg during treatment. While the bone mostly serves as support, Michael said he tries not to over exert it.

Among the first to have his head was Rotarian Norman Gordon, who challenged the members of the Rotary Club to raise $1,000 in order for him to shave his head.

“Here I am, first up, and we did our thing,” he said, with a freshly shaved head.

Gordon said the event was also personal to him, following a cancer scare in 2018. While he didn't have to go through chemotherapy for his treatment, he decided to give up the hair that he didn't have to lose in 2018 in support of those who were less lucky.

“I was very fortunate. I wouldn't say it is in remission — the surgery I had and the radiation seem to have done its thing for me, but we have people here who are not as fortunate.”