Parenthood is full of struggles, but nothing could prepare Jenn Lyster when she found out her 2-year-old daughter had cancer.
"Our life as we knew it ended that afternoon in August 2011. Our life became about saving our baby," says the 35-year-old mother who lives in Saskatoon.
That summer, Lyster's youngest daughter Teegan was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a condition that caused immature white blood cells to crowd 93 per cent of her bone marrow, getting rid of healthy cells in her body.
"Coping with it in a crazy world where you never expect it to happen, one thing we learned was to trust our own instincts," she tells The Huffington Post Canada. "You are your child's biggest advocate."
Starting locally, Lyster began researching donations for groups fighting childhood cancer. Her search led her to the 46 Mommas Shave for the Brave event, a day when moms across North America shave their heads for children with cancer.
Each weekday, roughly 46 mothers in the United States are told their child has cancer. The 46 Mommas event is meant to represent these mothers and fundraise $1 million for The St. Baldrick's Foundation for cancer research. In Canada, there about 10,000 children who have cancer, and each year, about 1,500 additional children are diagnosed, according to the Childhood Cancer Canada Foundation.
Last year, Lyster travelled to Texas for the event, raising $32,000 through a carnival, as well as email and word-of-mouth donations.
"There is no one in the world that can understand a mother’s pain with a child’s diagnosis like another mother going through the same thing," she says.
On that day, Lyster remembers sitting in a chair with her husband's support, waiting for someone to shave her head. As imagined, she said, the event was emotional and yet, she could feel a sense of hope.
"We're going there to make a difference in these kids' lives, some mommas there who lost their children have amazing strength to do this."
Today, Lyster says Teegan is doing great. She's in school, hanging out with her family and keeping busy like any other young girl. Although she couldn't take her daughter to last year's event, Lyster says she'll try to take her this year.
And while friends, siblings and dads were welcomed to shave their heads as "honourary mommas" in previous years, the event this year is for mothers only.
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