- Cullman, Alabama

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May 12, 2013

‘There is joy in all this’

Family supports mom through cancer battle

After being diagnosed with breast cancer, Cissie Conn’s first concern had nothing to do with chemotherapy, hair loss, or sickness; she was worried she wouldn’t being able to attend an upcoming mission trip to Haiti.

“Anyone who knows my mom, knows that she’s been a missionary to Africa for 10 years,” Conn’s daughter Tanya Massey said. “When she found out that she was sick, she wasn’t thinking about the cancer, she was upset because she couldn’t go to Haiti for missions.”

Conn was diagnosed with breast cancer two months ago and recently had a double mastectomy. Her three daughters Tanya Massey, Rachel Holland and Jessica Pettus decided they were going to shave their heads to support their mother as she battled hair loss from the chemotherapy. Massey said the gesture is their way of demonstrating the same kindness they learned from their mother.

“Mom’s hair was thinning from the chemo and she was afraid to wash it, that it would all fall out,” Massey said. “I told her that I would shave her head and shave mine too. Cancer wasn’t going to take her hair, I would. My sisters wanted to shave their heads too and it wasn’t even a sad thing, it was about happiness. We were having fun together and just got a bunch of free haircuts.”

Massey, 36, is the eldest of the three sisters and a brother, who will also be shaving his head after a wedding this weekend, but they weren’t the only ones to take part in showing ‘beauty is within.’ Conn’s three son-in-laws, Frankie Massey, Kevin Holland, and Joe Pettus, and Conn’s husband, Joseph, all participated.

“I had long hair, braided it and then let my husband cut the braid off,” Massey said. “We all did it in the backyard at mother’s house. You should have seen all the hair in the yard. It is so funny, my mother, three sisters, and three husbands are all bald, and my brother will be bald next week, so my father said, ‘heck if everybody’s doing it, take mine too.’ We did it to support mom, if she was going to wear a wig, we would too. We didn’t realize it would be such a big deal. We were just having fun together.”

The youngest of the siblings, 23-year-old Jessica Pettus, said she would shave her head multiple times for her mother.

“We’ve always been close so when we first found out she was going to lose her hair, we said if she had to shave, we would all shave,” Pettus said. “When the night came to shave her head, she wasn’t upset because we all did it together. I would do it a 1000 times again.”

 Conn previously battled ovarian cancer, and has been in remission after having lung cancer almost 14 years ago, causing her to lose a lung, but not the fight with cancer.

 “When mom was 37, they were preparing us for the worst because she had a rare form of lung cancer,” Holland said. “We were told we’d be lucky if she made it, and she did. They took out a lung and a bunch of ribs, but she made it. She didn’t lose her hair before and we told her if she ever did we would all shave our heads with her.”

 Conn said she will receive chemotherapy every three weeks until September as a precaution. The cancer was removed when the double mastectomy was performed, but she is thankful for her children and husband’s support.

 “There is joy in all this when you have a family who stands behind you every step of the way,” Conn said. “My husband is with me for every chemo session and my kids are there for everything; I want people to know it can joyful. This is just one more mountain to climb and I’ll come over it again. If God is for you, then who can be against you?”

 “We’ve found fun in all this, and decided the slogan for our family is, ‘the family who shaves together-stays together,’” Holland said.

Lauren Estes can be reached at or 256-734-2131, ext. 270.

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