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Cut-Off benefits cancer survivor
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Kristi Toscano
PALM HARBOR – The event offers free haircuts and a 50/50 raffle for a donation to support the cause.

Just months from her 25th birthday, Kristi Toscano received the news – she had stage three colon cancer and would probably not live out two weeks. At 24, doctors speculated that Toscano may be the youngest Floridian ever to have contracted this deadly form of cancer usually associated with older, predominately male patients.

Toscano however is a survivor. Now almost four and a half years following her diagnosis Oct. 27, 2007, she recalls the date in a voice that can’t disguise the impact of the moment.

“I had been feeling bad for a while” she said. “I lost weight, I had a pallor.”

Without insurance and having just closed on the purchase of her new business, Shear Wonders Hair Salon in Palm Harbor, Toscano had very few funds to spend on a long series of diagnostic procedures.

Her doctor ordered the colonoscopy that saved her life.

“I guess that’s why they call it the silent killer,” she said, determination filling her eyes.

Toscano said she applied for Medicaid on three occasions and was never approved.

“I was too young or I had no dependents,” she said. “One counselor told me I should have a baby. I thought to myself, I can’t even work, how can I have a baby?”

Toscano is now cancer free after months of treatment, hospitalization and therapy but the emotional scars linger and the memories and the debt.

“Easily over $100,000’” she said, “One chemo drug alone was $32,000, another $28,000. She started chemo the week of her 25th birthday, Jan. 21.

The chemo induced severe neuropathy in her hands.

“I couldn’t touch anything cold, the pain was so bad,” she said.

Working as a hairdresser was out of the question.

Her mother and stepfather live nearby and with their support and that of a close group of friends, as well as her boyfriend of seven years, Chase, Toscano endured the emotional storm that cancer and cancer treatment triggers. With her doctors, she managed the pain and fear. Now there is just one hurdle left, she needs a final surgery to remove the chemo port through which her cancer fighting drugs were administered.

The surgery will cost $2,500.

One day while enjoying a rare carefree afternoon with friends another hairdresser suggested a cut-a-thon to help pay for the upcoming surgery.

“At first I thought it was crazy, how could I have a charity event to help myself,” she said. “Even before the cancer as a group we had always supported events like Saint Baldrics to raise money for kids with cancer.”

The idea quickly grew as coworkers and other friends volunteered to help.

The first “Cut-Out” will be held Sunday, March 25, noon to 4 p.m., at Shear Wonders Hair Salon, 31822 U.S. 19 N., Palm Harbor, in Twin Oaks Plaza across from Outback.

Stylists will be giving free haircuts to those making a donation. A minimum of $20 is suggested.

There also will be a 50/50 raffle and bake sale as well as a silent auction. Call the salon at 786-2700 for additional information.

Toscano and her friends plan to make this an annual event.

Each year the group will choose a young person with a life threatening condition and donate the proceeds to make a difference, one patient at a time.
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