Positive Image Center helps kids regain their confidence

Positive Image Center helps kids regain their confidence

A drastic change like a major haircut often makes you feel like a new person, and for 12-year-old Natalie Pace, taking off a few inches is more about being the same person no matter how her appearance changes.

Natalie is used to short, bold hair styles. She typically wears a pixie cut and is known for adding bold colors, such as red and blue, to her hair. While she is used to making bold statements, shaving off her entire head holds a different meaning.

“At first, I thought ‘This will be the least of my worries.I’m not really going to care’ and then it actually started falling out. Imagining it, that’s one thing. Having it happen to you, that’s another,” Natalie explained.

In January, Natalie began having pain in the back of her right leg. She didn’t think anything of it, until it began to be hard to move and walk. She was later diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer.

“Everything was new for me. My life had pretty much had just become hospital stays and text from your friends saying if you were OK,” she said.

Last week, within only a couple of days, most of her hair had fallen out.

“I’m still the same person inside and out. Nothing’s changed ,” Natalie explained.

The Positive Image Center at the American Family Children’s Hospital helps to keep the minds of children like Natalie off of their treatment and focuses on giving them a confidence boost.

“I can’t even imagine being faced with some of the challenges that they have, the diagnosis that they have. Just being able to feel like themselves again is huge, said the center’s image consultant, Debbie Machotka.

The center provides one free wig a year to families with children who are dealing with hair loss. Children are given hats and scarves to cover hair loss. The center also uses makeup to mask scars from treatment. And girls are pampered with nail polish and lip gloss if they choose to get glammed up.

Machotka helps clients undergo the transformation, but it’s not only the children who are affected once they leave the center.

“They totally inspire me each and every day. It’s changed my perspective on life. It’s a blessing to work with them, to know I can make just a little bit of a difference in their lives and help them move forward,” Machotka said.

While nothing has changed on the inside, Natalie has a new look and a new outlook on life.

“I think I have come to accept what’s going on and that life is not going to be perfect,” Natalie said. “I think, deep down, inside this is going to build character and I’ll be a stronger person in the long run,” she said.