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Great-nieces give Hubbard woman a brand new hairdo

Bonnie Clemente of Hubbard, who is battling pancreatic cancer, examines the latest artwork that her great-nieces painted on her head, which is bald from chemotherapy. Clemente lost her hair to chemotherapy as she is battling pancreatic cancer. She started having her two great-nieces, Megan, 12, and Morgan Haynie, 14, paint her head to make it more colorful as she receives her treatments. Photo by R. Michael Semple

HUBBARD — A Hubbard woman’s colorful painted head has caught the attention of many people — and also that of a curious hummingbird.

Bonnie Clemente, who was diagnosed in March with pancreatic cancer, has been undergoing chemotherapy and has lost her hair.

“After the second chemotherapy when the pain started to subside, I decided I needed to do something fun so I enlisted my two great-nieces to help me,” Clemente said.

Her two great-nieces, Megan Haynie, 12, a seventh-grader, and Morgan Haynie, 14, a ninth-grader, both of Mineral Ridge, have helped brighten her life during her chemotherapy by painting her head with colorful ocean, stars, flowers and garden scenes with butterflies and flowers.

“They started with markers and then went to paint. They really got into this. They painted a flower garden on my head, which was gorgeous,” Clemente said.

She said the flower garden was so detailed and realistic that one day on her back patio, a friend who was sitting across from her said, “Don’t move!” A small hummingbird buzzed around her head.

“I could remember hearing a humming sound near me and then I saw the hummingbird. I wish I had a picture of that,” Clemente said.

Clemente said when she first lost her hair she wore a scarf or a baseball cap.

“I noticed when I was at the grocery store, people saw me with the scarf or baseball cap and did not look at my face. They do not know what to do. When my head was painted, people come right up to me and look at my face asking me about my painted head.

“I am the same person, just without hair,” Clemente said.

“I tell people if my head makes people giggle and laugh, that positive attitude will come back to me. I may be battling cancer, but I am still approachable,” Clemente said.

Morgan said that she and Megan select nature scenes when painting.

“Aunt Bonnie really likes the outdoors and we feel nature designs are beautiful and relaxing,” Morgan said.

“We try to get as colorful as we can and want the brightness of the colors to really stand out,” Megan said.

Morgan said she believes doing the painting gives Clemente confidence when she is in public and makes people smile at her and ask her questions about the artwork.

“I know how happy it makes her feel and how excited she is whenever we pick a new design. She is always so excited to see the finished product,” Megan said.

While Morgan said she liked the ocean scene they painted, Megan preferred the butterfly scene.

Clemente said, “Morgan and Megan are as important to my cancer treatment as my chemo.” The laughter and fun of being with her great-nieces is great for her, she said.

“I wanted it to be fun for all of us. I call them maybe every 10 days to see if they are doing anything. It is so fulfilling to me to spend an hour with them as they paint my head. I wish the scenes lasted longer, but the paint does get crunchy. They want to do Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night,’ graffiti and tie-dye,” she said.

She said the magic marker did work but the washable acrylic paint lasts longer and is brighter. She said the paint does wash off, but the painted scenes last three to four days.

Since March, the retired elementary physical education and preschool teacher whose 35 years in education include Hubbard Local Schools, has topped 17 chemo treatments.

“My oncologist said I am stable but I won’t get any better. I know I am in the fight of my life. It has been (six) months and some people do not make it that far,” she said.

Clemente said what has surprised her is that three years ago she had her pancreas, spleen and part of her stomach removed.

“I do not have a pancreas but I have pancreatic cancer. My doctors were surprised and shocked that it was pancreatic,” Clemente said.

“I am not doing this to be a hero. I want to be a heroine of my own life and not be a victim,” she said.

Patrick Clemente, Bonnie’s husband, said he knows his wife is happy having the painting done and has a very positive attitude each day.

“She has made a positive impression on a lot of people. She does not want anyone to put their head done because she has this condition or not make eye contact with her,” he said,

He said his favorite painting is the ocean scene with a seahorse and octopus.

Clemente said she was in a parking lot and a woman walked by and commented on her beautiful painted head.

“When I was in the elevator at the clinic, one lady saw me and said, ‘You are rockin’ that look.'” The woman was outfitted in a wig and told Clemente that she hated wearing it.

She said the director of nursing at the clinic came up to her about all the people talking about the woman with the painted head.

She said she hopes this changes the way people look at people with cancer.

Clement said too often when she had the scarf or hat no one would look at her.

“I want people to know you can talk to a cancer patient or enjoy their company. I want people to be happy when they see me. I love it when they talk to me and we all giggle,” she said.

bcoupland@tribtoday.com

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