Cary firefighters shave their heads for cancer-stricken comrade

aspecht@newsobserver.comOctober 28, 2013 

— It was no secret among Cary firefighters: Fire Chief Allan Cain had good hair.

But last week, Cain sat in a chair at J&F Gemelli Salon in Cary and got it all shaved off.

“Anyone wanna see a mohawk?” hairstylist Amber Jackson asked the crowd of 20 or so who had gathered.

On Thursday, Cain became the latest among dozens of Cary firefighters who shaved their heads to show solidarity for fellow firefighter Shane Austin.

Austin was diagnosed Sept. 13 with two brain tumors associated with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

More than 100 people shaved their heads during an Oct. 12 event, but Cain’s haircut seemed more anticipated.

“He’s like Sam Malone from ‘Cheers,’” said Starr McDowell, whose husband, Craig, helped organize the head-shaving effort. “He’s fond of his hair… and a lot of people wanted to see him shave it.”

Cain said it was necessary to keep his locks for so long because he has “a not-so-pretty head.”

But Cain announced that he would part with his waves if his firefighters raised $2,500 by the end of the month.

They did so and more, raising $7,400 and bringing the total donations to $16,000 since Austin was diagnosed. The money will help pay his medical expenses.

“It’s very important that we look out for each other,” said firefighter Craig McDowell. “It’s what we do.”

Austin, who lives in Johnston County, said he couldn’t put his appreciation into words. He’s had to take leave from work to begin chemotherapy treatments, and he misses his job.

The head-shaving alone was enough to buoy his spirits, but fellow firefighters also have visited him in the hospital.

“Somebody to talk to is all I want,” Austin said. “It helps things go by so much easier.

“The show of support and brotherhood has meant just as much as any money,” he said.

So there Cain sat: gobs of his dark hair tumbling to the floor while firefighters snapped photos with their cellphones.

Austin sat on a couch with his wife and two young children, Tucker and Madelyn.

When Cain’s scalp had a shine, Austin shook his hand.

“I have a lot of respect for him,” Austin said. “I was gonna tell him he didn’t have to do it, but he insisted.”

As for Cain, there were no regrets.

“I’m not saying it’s good, but it turned out better than I thought it would,” he said.

Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht

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