2009-08-27 / Features

Cookbook Mixes Recipes With Lessons From Cancer

By Kat Bergeron THE SUN HERALD

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) - JoAn Niceley believes short hair cuts and shortcut recipes mix well, especially for those like herself who can face zapped energy and hair loss from cancer treatment.

Her second book, æShort Cuts for Cooking Or Hairæ is ostensibly a cookbook with fast recipes but expect heaping servings of humanity.

Stories of fighting cancer are sandwiched between laughter, an important Niceley ingredient.

There is no book that I know of that combines food and hair,æ' said Niceley, a Long Beach hair stylist who last year underwent a bilateral mastectomy. æBut mostly, people tell me this inspires and gives insight into what goes on around us.

If you're into the food, think "Fried Hair" (rabbit) or French Twist (bean casserole)? "Razor Cut" is pork chops and "Flounder Rolls" reflects Coast seafood.

The recipes come from can cer survivors or from family and friends in their honor or memory.

Hair models are also survivors, friends, family plus local stylists.

Nicely is founder of Pink Heart Funds, formally organized after Hurricane Katrina on the Mississippi Coast. PHF offers free wigs, breast prosthesis and lymphodema sleeves for cancer patients who cannot afford them. The Pony Tail Club collects hair for children's natural-hair wigs.

"God spared my life for a reason after seven surgeries in six years. I can relate to our clients like a recipe for recovery with the first ingredient to remain upbeat."

Niceley says a difference between PHF and better-known national programs are the word "free," a short turnaround time and no third degree about income. PHF helps those who don't have insurance coverage for those items.

Several months ago, PHF's 21 volunteers moved into a donated building on Railroad Street. They created attractive rooms, such as the Hope Boutique for fitting wigs, prostheses and bras. Another, the Pony Tail Kids Stable, is for kids who come to donate their hair. The Healing Therapies room is where clients get 15- minute free massages.

Among the volunteers is John Fitzhugh, a Sun Herald photographer who shot the haircut images for the new book.

"JoAn and I worked for several years at the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life and every time I asked her to help she said yes,"said Fitzhugh, whose own mother faces a second round of chemotherapy. "So when she asked me to help her I didn't hesitate. JoAn wanted to have fun with the photos and be a little goofy, so that made it easier."

The cover is of Niceley cutting a wig with a potato peeler.

The PHF story begins 14 years ago when one of Niceley's salon clients, Lynn Morrison, was diagnosed with cancer and couldn't find a well-fitting wig.

"Lynn's dying wish was for me to move forward to help women find comfortable, natural looking wigs." Nicely did but the real push came after Katrina, when so many Coast cancer patients struggled with both finances and treatment.

Today, children's clubs, schools, businesses and organizations help raise money and donate hair.

Return to top