Fernando Trujillo grew out his hair, like many sailors do when they retire. About six years later, he finally cut it — about 28 inches of dark, graying hair — and donated it to make wigs for cancer patients.
“I just decided to let it grow — one less expense,” Trujillo, 49, said in an Army news release. “In the military, I pretty much had to get my hair cut every two weeks to stay within regulations.”
The 24-year Navy veteran decided to part with his waist-length hair Jan. 18 so he could participate in his younger brother’s upcoming New Mexico National Guard promotion ceremony. But Trujillo, who was diagnosed with salivary gland cancer in 2012, didn’t just want to throw his locks away.
“I’ve lost some friends and family over the years and also had some acquaintances that have had battles with cancer who lost their hair going through radiation,” he said in the release. “I figured my hair would be something that someone could benefit from.”
Currently a contractor at Fort Detrick in Maryland, Trujillo’s been in remission since an operation removed a 10-millimeter tumor from the roof of his mouth. While the treatment was fast, he said the initial cancer diagnosis scared him.
“Your heart just kind of drops and you have that bad feeling, like ‘Damn, how bad is it?'” he said in the release. “The first thing the doctor did was try to calm me down and let me know that everything should be fine. It was just a matter of how much they were going to have to cut out.”
Trujillo lost about 20 pounds after the surgery because the only thing he could eat was pumpkin soup and protein drinks.
Other than some tenderness around the surgical spot in his mouth, he said his life has pretty much returned to normal, which is something cancer patients long for and wigs can help.
“Hopefully, that little bit will be able to help them retain a little dignity out of the whole situation they are facing,” Trujillo said in the release about his donation to Hair We Share. “It’s more about not drawing attention from people who constantly ask questions and feel sorry for you.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.