DANVERS — Cancer survivor and expectant mom Kezia Fitzgerald giggles infectiously and flashes a bright smile as she talks about why she plans to have her blond hair buzzed off on Sunday at the fourth annual Kid’s Cancer Buzz-Off at Gillette Stadium.
The event benefits children and families dealing with pediatric cancer at Boston Children’s Hospital.
She smiles and laughs even though she and her husband, Mike, know all too well what those families are facing. Though Kezia, 28, survived her own battle with cancer, the Danvers couple lost their 18-month-old daughter, Saoirse (pronounced “Seersha”), to neuroblastoma on Dec. 13, 2011.
Sunday’s event, which features New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, aims to raise $1 million for a nonprofit childhood cancer foundation called One Mission.
“The nice thing about what One Mission does is they support the family services at Boston Children’s. We got so much support from family services at Boston Children’s,” Kezia said, including child life specialists in the play room, music therapy and parking services, among other things.
Family and friends of cancer survivors raise pledges, then join Gronkowski in getting their heads shaved. Several other North Shore residents will be part of the event, including Lucia Rebelo of Salem and her great niece, Victoria Silva, and Kathy Tracy of West Newbury, a training specialist at Northeast Arc in Danvers.
Saoirse was just 11 months old when she was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a cancer of the central nervous system that starts on the adrenal glands. It is the most common form of cancer in infants, Kezia said. Usually there is one primary tumor, but by the time it is found, it has metastasized, because infants don’t have the ability to say what they are feeling.
Kezia’s normally independent baby became clingy and whiny at 10 months old, and her face became swollen and bumpy. She once woke up with two black eyes. Pediatricians and emergency room doctors struggled for three weeks to come up with the diagnosis — and then started treatment within 24 hours, because her cancer was so aggressive. She was already at Stage 4.