5473 N. US Hwy 41, Apollo Beach, FL

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 Rachel's Hair Salon, Apollo Beach, Florida

Rachel Mushow sheds lovely locks of love

Rachel Mushow went for a haircut recently and left shorn of almost a foot of hair. It's the second time she has lost her tresses, which she donates to Locks of Love.

The nonprofit organization provides hairpieces to people battling cancer who have lost their own hair as a result of chemotherapy. It's a cause that's dear to her heart.

Five years ago, Mushow had the scare of her life when her husband, Bob, was diagnosed with cancer. Shortly after, the former paving contractor had his kidney removed, and a less stressful lifestyle was needed.

He had always wanted to retire from New Hampshire to Florida; but his wife, who owned a successful hair salon, had no such inclination.

The year before his diagnosis, Mushow had put a deposit on a home in Harbour Isles, which at that time was a new development in Apollo Beach. It was a joke, she said, to placate her husband's talk of moving.

"I figured he'd get over it," Mushow said.

But two months after the couple received the bad news, Mushow received word that KB Homes was ready to build.

"I panicked," Mushow said. "Bob was still in the hospital, and I had a home, salon and his paving business to sell. The joke was on me now.

"But once I learned my husband was in the clear, I just went with it."

Since moving to Florida in 2008, Mushow has immersed herself in volunteer work benefiting cancer patients and survivors. Her business, Rachel's Family Salon, annually sponsors Bob's Angels, a Riverview Relay for Life team. She also chairs the relay's survivor tent team, and began donating hair in 2009.

Last year, her team raised $13,531, the second-highest amount for the relay. Mushow personally raised $3,475 of that amount, the highest individual total.

"I don't do any of this for a pat on the back," she said. "I do it in gratitude that my husband is still with me and to help others struggling with the disease. He has had to continually go to Moffitt (Cancer Center) for evaluation ever since we moved here. We learn this month if he will be considered in remission."

As for her hair, "it will grow back," she said.

"People with cancer don't have a choice. Most lose their hair during treatment, so if my small donation helps someone in need, it's well worth it."

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