Two From Surgical Oncology Cut Hair to Benefit Cancer Patients

By: Jennifer C. Yates

When Laurin Bucki started working for the Division of GI Surgical Oncology in 2012, she realized quickly that she wanted to do something to help patients.

“We interact with cancer patients from the time they are diagnosed through remission and follow-up,” Bucki said. “You get to really know them, their families and develop a relationship with them and all the treatment they go through from chemo to surgery. I knew that I wanted to do something to make an impact, if not on them, on others going through the same process.”
So this year, on one of her trips to the Hillman Cancer Center to deliver surgical paperwork to oncologist Herbert Zeh, M.D., Bucki passed the Hair Enhancements Salon and stopped in to ask about hair donation. On Nov. 4, she returned to the salon and had eight inches of hair cut; it will be used to make wigs for pediatric cancer patients.

Bucki specifically wanted to make her donation during November, since a majority of Dr. Zeh’s patients have pancreatic cancer. November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. 


“It’s definitely taking some time to get used my new short haircut, but knowing that someone else could benefit from it feels good,” Bucki said. “Hair is something that can grow back, but for these patients, however much time they have left, it’s something that gives them confidence to make it through another ‘normal’ day.”

Just a handful of people donate hair every year at the salon, located on the second floor of the Hillman Cancer Center in Shadyside. The salon offers custom wigs and hair solutions for those experiencing hair loss. Those who want to donate hair must have a minimum of eight inches that can be cut and make an appointment in advance so a professional stylist can be on hand to make the cut.

“We get young girls who just want to do it because someone in their family was affected by cancer,” said Debbie Mancuso, who operates the Hillman salon and owns the original Hair Enhancement Salon in Dormont. Sometimes patients will donate their hair before treatment starts, she said, since they’d rather cut it themselves than have it fall out.

In addition to the hair donation service, the Hillman salon also sells wigs, headwear and skincare for cancer patients. Mancuso has partnered with the Ladies Hospital Aid Society for about eight years to occupy the space and offer these and other services to patients.

About a week after Bucki donated her locks, surgical scheduler Melissa Mulholland took notice and was inspired to do the same. Her long hair fell past the mid-line of her back and she had worn it that way for years, but it didn’t take much convincing to have her cut it off.

Melissa Mulholland in mid-haircut.

“I have worked with Dr. David Bartlett and his GI surgical team for more than two years treating everything from colorectal, melanoma and appendiceal cancers. When I found out the salon took donations it was hard to say no,” Mulholland said. “What I liked most about the idea of donating was that my hair would be made into a wig for a child with cancer free of charge. It feels good to give back.”

On Dec. 16, Mancuso is partnering with staff at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC for a hair donation drive. She’s recruited stylists from local beauty schools who will be cutting hair that day. No appointments are necessary.

To find out more about the Hair Enhancements Salon, you can call 412-623-3777 or visit their website