Life is measured moment by moment.
In August, Anne Kennedy married the love of her life. Three weeks later, she was admitted to the hospital for a stomach ache that ended up being an infection in her gall bladder. In February, she found a lump in her side breast and learned that she had cancer.
And last weekend, she cut 17 inches off her long golden hair that she proudly wore past her waist since high school.
“This is really difficult for me,” Kennedy said. “I haven’t had hair this short since I was a freshman. But the doctors said I probably won’t keep my hair past my second session” of chemotherapy.
Although this was an emotional time for Kennedy, she had the support of her husband, her friends and Kerri Creed, a salon owner who was brought into Kennedy’s life at the right time.
Creed owns Beautiful Reflections, a hair salon in the South Kitsap Mall off Mile High Drive in Port Orchard. Kennedy learned about the salon from nurses at St. Anthony’s Hospital, where she had been receiving her treatments. Beautiful Reflections is the only place in Kitsap County that offers free help for patients who are battling cancer, Kennedy said.
“This industry can be very vain,” Creed said. “People share their world with you when they’re not presenting themselves for the public. This is just a small way I can give back.”
Although the small shop was filled with supporters for Kennedy on May 14, she wanted it to be known that the person who really needed to be honored was Creed.
“She’s been amazing,” Kennedy said. “There’s a lot that people don’t know about cancer. I wasn’t able to wash my own hair, or even lean back in a chair so Kerri helped me.
“She’s a great resource for (people in) Kitsap County and Port Orchard to know there’s someone here who cares about cancer patients.”
Creed is a single mother of four who opened her salon doors in January. Having grown up in Port Orchard her whole life, she finished beauty school and started working at a salon in Seattle before coming home and opening her own.
Along with doing people’s hair, she has a community closet in the back for women and children, and she has a wig closet for women who lost their hair during their fight against cancer.
When Creed and her husband divorced, she said she didn’t have clothes for job interviews or people she knew to do her hair for her. So she wants to make life easier for women facing traumatic transitions and has made it her duty to help and leave a legacy of loving people.
“I’m just a hairdresser,” she said. “I’m not going to find a cure. But I get to give people back their dignity. When they feel like they are losing everything, I get to give that piece of themselves back to them.”
Which is exactly what she did with Kennedy.
It was easy to see Kennedy was nervous, stroking her hair and telling stories about when she cut off her hair before high school and people calling her a “boy” because of how short it was. With every new friend who came in to wish her well, she’d turn in her seat and introduce them to everyone else in the room.
And although her repeated introductions of new visitors made make cutting hair a tad difficult, Creed continuously told Kennedy to stop apologizing because “this was about her.” That also was the consensus in the room.
Close friends who just had their second child brought their whole family to wish her well.
Some friends of Kennedy and her husband, Keith and Lisa, also went through a similar experience when Lisa was diagnosed with breast cancer. But they chose to come and share their stories of triumph. And Kennedy’s husband Robert circled the room, taking photos and telling the couple’s love story.
They met 13 years back when their sons played on the same soccer team. Both were married at the time, but they were always the parents who went to every practice and games, and the two quickly became good friends.
Years later, both eventually divorced and the two would run into each other at sporting events or once a year on the ferry. Then, as Kennedy said, “Fate brought us together.”
They started talking more frequently when one night they were on the phone and Kennedy’s heart started beating irregularly. She could feel something wasn’t right, and Robert told her to hang up and call 911.
“He saved my life that night by talking me into (calling), because the men in the ambulance said if I had waited even a half an hour, I would have died,” she said.
After hanging up, Robert realized he didn’t know what hospital she was being taken to.
When he called emergency response, the woman on the phone told him she couldn’t say because he wasn’t family.
“Her kids are away at college, and she doesn’t have any family here,” he said.
That’s when fate stepped in once again. “Well, I can’t tell you where she went, but I can tell you where she didn’t go,” the hospital receptionist said over the phone. The woman listed all the hospitals Kennedy wasn’t at so Robert could show up a the right one.
“He’s been with me ever since,” Kennedy said.
Robert stayed with her during her hospital stay for a heart problem. During one of those days, he was playing with the wrapper from her straw and tied it around her finger. While Kennedy remembered the moment as endearing, Robert downplayed it, saying he did it out of pure boredom.
However, Kennedy kept that straw ring on her bookshelf for the three years they were dating until one day, Robert spotted it. And when he got down on one knee, that ring of “boredom” was sitting in the jewelry box.
“The look on her face — she had no idea,” Robert said with pride.
“I don’t know anything about jewelry so sure enough, I got down on one knee and used that until we could pick out a real one together.”
Kennedy described her husband as the “most giving person she’s ever met,” which Creed said is the most wonderful thing about the two because cancer is such psychological warfare.
“You go to the doctor to feel better, but these treatments make you feel so much worse,” she said. “It’s scary, but I’m happy to help in anyway I can.”
Creed knits breast inserts for woman to wear if they haven’t had reconstructive surgery yet. She learned how to make wigs in beauty school and is working tirelessly to have a wig closet for women, even if it comes out of her own pocket. Donations, however, are greatly appreciated. But when Robert and Kennedy’s friends tried to pay Creed for all she had done, she refused to accept their money until they made it clear it was a donation for her closet.
Life is measured by moments. You’re born, you live and if you’re lucky, you won’t face challenges like Kennedy and millions of other people. However, chances are you’ll know somebody who will. And, like Creed, it’s our duty to love and help those who do.
“I want to be known for loving people,” Creed said. “Regardless of who you are or where you come from, the only big stand to make is that we need to love people and we need to be nice.
“I think when we choose to love people, you teach other people to love people as well.”
You can find Beautiful Reflections — and learn more about Creed and her business — on Facebook, or by calling 360-865-1677.