The cnn.com headline was compelling: “Boy who grew out hair for cancer patients faces stage 4 diagnosis.” And the true story lived up to the headline.
A 7-year-old named Vinny Desautel had indeed let his red hair grow long — shoulder-length — with the blessing of his parents. His hair would benefit cancer survivors. That’s pretty compassionate for a 7-year-old.
Earlier this year, the California youngster began developing medical symptoms himself. His right eye became swollen. When he began complaining about an aching knee, his parents noticed his hip was swollen.
At first, Vinny’s parents assumed the eye problem was allergy-related and tried prescription eye drops and allergy meds. But when they noticed his swollen hip, it was off to the local emergency room for an X-ray that showed a significant growth on his right hip.
His pediatrician sent the family to another hospital with a hand-written note. Blood tests, MRIs and a CT scan revealed tumors on his hip and in the bone around his eye. At the time the story was published, the family was awaiting final confirmation from physicians that Vinny is dealing with Ewing’s sarcoma, a type of tumor that forms in bone or soft tissue.
The second-grader was scheduled to begin treatment right away, starting with a bone marrow biopsy and chemotherapy, according to his father Jason. “We know it’s cancer, stage 4, because it spread in two different locations and it’s aggressive,” he told a reporter.
Understandably, the story has touched people from all across the country, especially after they learned about Vinny growing his hair for two years to benefit cancer survivors.
Vinny’s grandparents initiated an online fund-raising campaign for their grandson, and it raised $50,000 in a single week. “We’re very thankful but I don’t want to lie to people,” his dad explained. “The circumstances are terrible; I’d rather have a healthy kid.”
No one knows exactly how this story will end for Vinny, but there is little doubt that many people are not only lending financial support to help the family manage treatment and related expenses, but praying for him, too.
Cancer survivors are benefitting from the hair he grew and donated. His example likely has encouraged others to consider doing the same. Others have been moved to practice renewed benevolence to benefit others, probably in dozens of ways.
Vinny’s simple act of kindness — like most such acts when they become known — is having a ripple effect.
Personally, I am moved to pray for this young man’s recovery from cancer. And I pray that stories like his will not go unnoticed but will take root in the hearts of others and play out in live-changing ways as the ripple gains steam and continues.