Saiya, now 11 years old, has just a few memories of her older cousin, Siona. She remembers being 3 and seeing the tubes and patches taped to her 6-year-old cousin’s chest, and playing with each other in Siona’s hospital room. She remembers asking her mom why Siona didn’t have any hair, and her mom explaining that the medicine to treat her leukemia made her hair fall out. Her last memory of Siona was a sweet one – she gave Saiya one of her favorite stuffed animals before passing away months later.
Leena, Saiya’s mom, asked Saiya if she wanted to do something special in honor of her cousin and donate her hair to make wigs for other kids who lost their hair to cancer. Since then, Saiya has donated her hair twice and helped tell Siona’s story in the children’s book “Today’s The Day!” which features two friends who stick by each other through cancer and bullying.
We asked a Saiya a few questions about donating her hair and how she has helped carry on Siona’s legacy.
What inspired you to want to grow out your hair and donate it to kids fighting cancer?
When Siona passed away, my mom talked to me about the bad news and asked me if I wanted to do something really special in her honor. She asked me if I would like to grow my hair out and donate it to a place that makes wigs for those who have also lost their hair because they were sick. I know that I cannot give it to my cousin Siona anymore, but I can maybe help another little girl or boy feel happy. I’m really happy that I did it. I feel bad for those kids who have lost their hair and are getting made fun of at school. They already have a hard time with their sickness, and so having some hair might make them feel more like themselves again.
How did you feel while you were growing out your hair? How did you feel when you went to get your haircut to have it donated?
To be honest, I had mixed feelings. I was sad, happy, nervous, scared and excited all at the same time. I was happy to do something for others, but I also knew that I was going to miss my long hair. In the end, I love my new haircut, and I know someone else will hopefully love my “hair”!
Today’s The Day is based in part on Siona’s experience with cancer. What’s something you remember most about Siona?
I didn’t get a chance to spend that much time with her because she got sick when she was 4 years old. She fought cancer for two years, and I know that she was very brave. She had a list of 12 life lessons that she followed and shared with others:
- Live with a smile.
- Never give up and always try your best.
- Be kind and accepting of people.
- Don’t complain about things that aren’t fair.
- Be happy with small things in life, such as hot cocoa or going to lunch with Daddy, Mommy or Mr. Lampy (Siona’s nickname for her brother, Sohil).
- Be positive and laugh out loud.
- It’s ok to fly into the sky as long as you have lived with a purpose.
- Always be kind to spiders, because they too have a mommy and daddy.
- Always be truthful and tell it like it is.
- Always enjoy moments – big or small.
- Be “just the way you are.”
- Make a difference in people’s lives.
What is your favorite part of “Today’s the Day?”
I love how Siona’s friend, Juliet, is so loyal and supportive. She is an upstander (someone who speaks out in support of someone being bullied) by making sure that Siona was not made fun of when she returned to school. Juliet showed compassion and was very patient with Siona.
What part of the book do you think Siona would like the most?
I think Siona would have liked the same part because she was an upstander herself. The whole book beautifully displayed all of Siona’s life lessons! She would love Juliet’s “I heart spiders” shirt, the purple bandana (her favorite color), and all of the butterflies throughout the book!
What advice do you have for another kid who wants to help people around them but doesn’t know where to start?
Take your sad energy and turn it into something positive. Find a buddy who will do it with you – that will make it more fun, too! Also, think about how you would like to be treated if you were in another person’s situation.
You can find “Today’s The Day” on Amazon – 100 percent of the proceeds from this book go to Children’s Cancer Research Fund to help fund lifesaving cancer research!
Don’t forget to read about Juliet, the other star of the book in our Q&A: Meet Juliet from “Today’s The Day!”