Vicksburg steps up for cancer survivor

Mandy Miller (left), owner of Vicksburg’s Cutting Edge Salon, drops off a client’s hair donations to Denise James (right).

By Alex Lee

A diagnosis of stage four non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2018 was both frightening and devastating for Denise James.

She was forced to quit working and began a difficult series of chemo sessions to combat the disease. “Rob, my husband, proposed to me despite knowing of the diagnosis and the battle ahead,” Denise says, “and that along with the support of family and friends got me through.”

The treatments were effective against the cancer but took her hair and the stamina to return to work full time.
In 2020 the cancer returned. “I knew it was back, but there was no point in telling anyone until we knew for sure.” This time around chemo treatments were not effective, so T-cell therapy began.

The American Cancer Society describes T-cell therapy as, “a way to get immune cells called T cells (a type of white blood cell) to fight cancer by changing them in the lab so they can find and destroy cancer cells. CAR T-cell therapy is also sometimes talked about as a type of cell-based gene therapy, because it involves altering the genes inside T cells to help them attack the cancer.”

The treatments were effective but eliminated Denise’s hope of ever regrowing her own hair. Denise explains, “There was never a thought of not going through a second difficult fight, and when I did get down my husband pointed out that I beat it once, and I would do it again.”

When Sheryl Oswalt, owner of Vicksburg’s Dawg House, needed additional help at the store due to family health issues, Denise stepped up to help part time. Denise’s warm personality, her quick smile and her genuine desire to make people happy, leaves a big and very positive impression on customers.

Her engaging presence makes a lack of hair quite easy to overlook. It was somewhat of a surprise when Sheryl learned that a neighbor had donated hair to make a wig for Denise.

But Vicksburg stepped up big. Sheryl posted on social media about the situation and donations of both hair and money flowed in.

Denise says she would like a human hair wig. “I want something that belongs on the head of a human being. People seemed surprised that I wanted to do this, because I think sometimes those of us who have gone through something like this feel a need to always be ok, but sometimes we’re not quite as ok as we would lead you to believe.”

Denise believes that once the required amount of hair is collected it will take three to four months for the wig to arrive. Sheryl says, “Any addition hair collected will be donated to help others going through the same difficult situation.” Denise meanwhile is looking forward to wearing the wig to work, “I’ll get to reintroduce myself to all these wonderful people all over again, because no one will recognize me.”

Lending a hand with hair

By Alex Lee

Vicksburg barber Nick DeVito has a soft spot in his heart for kids. Until recently, he had a considerable amount of hair on his head for them too. A recent call for human hair donations for a Vicksburg resident in need of a wig set Nick to thinking about donating.

Response was so strong that when Nick was ready to put his plan into action, donations had already exceeded the local need. But the need for human hair for wigs is ongoing. Nick found an organization, Wigs for Kids, that for more than 40 years has been assisting kids who lose their hair through the difficult fight with cancer. “These wigs help kids feel and look a little more like themselves and take off some of the pressure of being a kid, and fitting in, while they are literally in a fight for their lives,” Nick said.

Nick recruited his friend, Ken Isaacson, to join him in making life better for someone who could use their help. They met at Nick’s Barbershop on a cool April morning to, as Nick describes it, “do something we can be proud of.” Nick would remove and style Ken’s hair, and Mandy Miller of the next-door Cutting Edge Salon would cut and style Nick’s.

In 40 minutes, the job was done and somewhere in this sometimes-difficult world someone’s life will take a turn for the better. More information about Wigs for Kids is at

‘Mind of Mine’ student art show

By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe

The community is invited to attend Vicksburg High School Advanced Placement Art and Design’s annual “Mind of Mine” art show at Prairie Ronde Gallery, 101 East Prairie Street, May 12 from 4 p.m 7 p.m. and May 13 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Advanced Placement Art and Design is a college level course offered at Vicksburg High School, taught by teacher Anna Lacey. The course is a year-long class in which students design an investigation to explore their art-making. They complete various experimental pieces along with many sketches and at least five fully completed works of art.

At the end of the course, students also can photograph and submit their work to the College Board to be evaluated for college credit.

This year, 12 students in grades 10-12 will showcase their work at the May event, featuring a variety of painting, digital, graphite, charcoal and colored pencil pieces.

The name “Mind of Mine” was chosen by the class of 2021 to represent the array of art, styles, and personalities exhibited during the year-long course.

Light refreshments will be offered, and student artists will be present to answer questions and discuss their work.

The event is supported by the Prairie Ronde Residency Program and the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center.