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Local student's generosity fueled by personal experience

By KATRINA SMITH, Story Reporter
By SPENCER DAVIDSON, Web Writer

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - A local high school senior donated 14 inches of her hair to benefit cancer patients.

Jessica Burline donated her locks to the charity Pantene Beauty Lengths, in honor of two of her family members who have been affected by the illness.

In just the last two years, Burline has had to witness her Grandmother, and cousin go through the process of dealing with cancer, both suffering from Breast Cancer.

"It was tough, but we helped out with a breast cancer walk and we really did everything we could," said Burline. "But it seemed like [my grandmother] just got better, and my mom came in and told me [my Cousin] was diagnosed.

"It's like, you don't expect it to ever happen to your family."

Her grandmother, "Mimi," dealt with the news in a very courageous way, taking control of her situation before she let it take control of her.

"When I started losing my hair, I said I am not going to wait until I have lost it all," said Joan "Mimi" Payne, Breast Cancer Survivor. "I'm going to take charge and have it shaved off."

Just one year after Payne was diagnosed with the illness, Burline's cousin, Tija Marcello, a 29-year old new mother was diagnosed as well, causing the family's courage to be tested even more.

"It ended up being stage one, which is the best that you can hope for," Marcello said.

However, despite batting with difficult circumstances, neither Payne nor Marcello gave up hope. Their courage was exemplified as they both beat the illness that has claimed so many lives over the years.

Just this past week, Marcello went for her last chemo treatment. She opted to undergo a double mastectomy, and just like "Mimi," chose to shave her head before losing it to the treatment.

Jessica Burline and her family have had to deal with a very difficult couple of years, but Burline was always there to offer her support.

When Burline told her Payne and Marcello about her donation, her generosity brought the two brave women to tears.

"My mom contacted the local American Cancer Society, and they suggested Pantene Beautiful Lengths," she said. "So there's a chance that my hair will be local, and that's comforting because I want to help people around here."

For more on the story, click on the video above.  

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