North Bay hairdresser embarks on cross country bike ride for a special cause

A North Bay hairdresser is about to embark on a cross-country bicycle ride, for a special cause. 

52-year-old Nina Husen wants to recruit others in her profession to become "style heroes", and take on clients who have cancer.

"People ask me, have you trained?" Husen told KTVU, as she completed a last training ride before her departure Wednesday.

"I've done 90 miles, 100 miles," she explained, "but this time I'm going to be sore in more places!"

Her cross-country ride will require stints of about 75 miles a day, maybe a little less when she's climbing mountain ranges between coasts.

"This is a literal, visual, spreading of the goodwill of "Hairdressers with Heart" across the country," Husen elaborated.

The organization, "Hairdressers with Heart" started six years ago, after a fellow stylist, Brandy Hitchcock died of cancer.

Hitchcock worked at NH2 Salon in Novato, owned by her sister Nicole and Husen.

The two saw how much it had meant to Brandy, as she battled cancer, to get help with her hair when chemo made it fall out.

"I think that hairdressers, our community are lovely, healing, humans and want to do something to help," observed Husen.

The non-profit she and Hitchcock launched, enlists stylists who take on clients for free for up to a year, during cancer treatment and its aftermath.

"I thought, heavenly hairdresser, " client Bonnie Joy Kaslan told KTVU, as she sat in a salon chair in Sonoma, with stylist Debra Simpson styling her wig.

Kaslan was diagnosed with breast cancer in November, days after her retirement, and was distressed by her hair loss until she heard about Simpson's services.

"To think there are hairdressers willing to do this", Kaslan marveled, " and the minute I met her, no resistance, you sort of let it happen."

Simpson has three clients in various states of hair loss, so she is comfortable with their needs, and supportive.

"So I'm not worried about the hair, " continued Kaslan, "and when it comes back, we'll figure out what's next."

"As soon as we touch them, it's almost like therapy, " acknowledged Simpson, "and the first time, when we had to shave her heard, there was a moment we sort of broke-down but we took a deep breath, and it was okay."

It's that kind of intimacy and compassion that drives Nina Husen to step away from her salon for two months and hit the road, with her two sons as her road crew.

She hopes that by publicizing the project nationwide, the "style hero" network can expand from 50 stylists to 500 by summer's end.

There's no shortage of cancer patients who need stylists to touch their hair, and their hearts.

"The reward is huge, it's huge, and once you do it, you're hooked, you'll do it over and over again," declared Nina.

Nina expects to ride for two months, camping as she goes, and tracking her progress on her blog and on Facebook.