Debbie Ciani and Janice Nicoletto have been friends since before kindergarten. Forty-five years later, Ciani still is doing Nicoletto's nails out of her Craig home.
When Nicoletto was diagnosed with cancer in her hipbone, the two joked over manicures about shaving their heads together, but Nicoletto thought she'd let her friend down easy.
"She told me I didn't have to chop it off but if I did to donate to Locks of Love," Ciani said.
Locks of Love is a nonprofit organization that accepts donations of real hair to make wigs for children who have lost their hair for medical reasons.
Since Ciani couldn't help Nicoletto physically by making her cancer go away and couldn't help her financially because she already had good insurance, she wanted to do "just a little extra something" for her friend.
Ciani had long black hair that reached below her mid-back. She had a perm, and her dark curls were layered so that the shortest hair was 11 inches.
Last week, she clipped off her long locks and ran clippers across her scalp until only black fuzz remained. The piles of hair she donated to Locks of Love would be enough to make an entire wig, Ciani said.
Nicoletto also had shaved her head but because she wanted to take action against the clumps of hair falling out because of her chemotherapy. She didn't know that her longtime friend, Ciani, wanted to go through hair loss by her side.
She walked up to Ciani's house one day to get her nails done with the intention of surprising her friend.
Instead, she was treated to her own surprise.
"She walked around the corner and whipped off her hat, then I whipped off mine and we hugged and cried," Ciani said. "I think it meant a lot to her."
Ciani did her friend's nails, as always, and the two talked about their new hairdos.
"A woman's hair is really something," Ciani said. "It's really part of a woman, and to lose it would really suck."
Nicoletto was told her hair would grow back after her chemo, and she wears a scarf over her head in the meantime.
"She doesn't have a choice if her hair falls out," Ciani said. "Me, I had a choice and it wasn't a difficult one. I don't think it's that big a deal. She'd be there for me if I was going through something."
Although she is without her long locks, Ciani said her pride in her new style is growing.
"The difference between a bad haircut and good haircut is two weeks," she said. "It's just hair, and hair grows."
Some people are curious about her buzz cut, she said. She wore a cap her first few days at work but eventually was comfortable enough to take it off and explain to others what she had done.
She said she is in awe of Nicoletto's unrelenting "go-getter attitude," and now understands the importance of friendship during rough patches.
"We talk about laughing about this when we're old," she said. "We tease that I'll still be doing her nails in the nursing home and how we'll laugh about that time she went bald and I shaved my head. It was a nice moment we had together."
Nicole Inglis can be reached at 875-1793, or firstname.lastname@example.org