Before becoming friends with someone who had cancer, Franki Anderson didn't even realize the Tri-Cities had a cancer center. Today, she is one of its biggest supporters.
Anderson, owner of Franki & Co. hair salon in Kennewick, began cutting Terry Bailey's hair in 1999.
The longtime Tri-City radio executive was diagnosed with prostate cancer, which had metastasized. He also was on the board of the Tri-Cities Cancer Center and encouraged her to help raise money for the cause. So she launched Cutting for Cancer, a "cut-a-thon" event at her salon. It raised $5,000.
Soon after, Anderson's mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and began treatments at the cancer center. A week after that, one of her best friends was diagnosed with lung cancer.
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Anderson, 45, knew she had found her calling. She soon began adding cancer-related services at her salon, including wig fittings.
Last year, she moved her business from Clearwater Avenue to a building on Kennewick Avenue. The main reason was to make it easier for her clients with cancer who had trouble walking up a flight of stairs, but she also made use of the additional space.
She added private rooms for wig and prosthetic breast fittings, and now she is adding a massage therapist who specializes in lymphatic drainage, which can provide relief for breast cancer patients.
Soon after her mother was diagnosed with cancer, Anderson began volunteering at the cancer center. She is there for two hours every Thursday, providing complimentary hair styling and wig fittings.
More than 100 breast cancer patients go through the cancer center each week, and Anderson will end up helping most of them.
She continued her fundraising efforts for the cancer center after Bailey died in 2002. Anderson ran Cutting for Cancer in her salon through 2006 before she decided to do more.
She launched In Step With Hope, a brunch at TRAC in Pasco during the annual Women's Expo. The first year, it raised $12,000, and the proceeds were split between the cancer center and Lourdes Health Network, where it helped pay for mammograms for women who couldn't afford them. By last year, In Step With Hope was bringing in more than $20,000.
Two years ago, Anderson met Michelle Wallin, who launched an event called Kiss Cancer Goodbye in 2009. The two decided to merge their fundraisers in the hope they could build them into something even greater.
They named it Healed With A Kiss, and the inaugural event was two weeks ago at Goose Ridge Estate Winery in Richland. About 500 people attended, and it raised more than $40,000 -- all of it for the cancer center and Lourdes.
"All the money is to support patients," Anderson said. "It's amazing how many women who are uninsured will get mammograms with that money."
Though she has never had cancer, Anderson's life was touched by it in a profound way, and she is motivated to help those caught up in the disease.
"The most precious part of being a volunteer is having a story to tell," she said. "My story goes back to Terry Bailey. I have so many fond memories of being his friend and getting to know him before he passed away. Terry got me started in this, and I'm still doing it. Mom went through treatment, and now she's a survivor 12 years later."