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Local high school student’s service project benefits cancer patients

A school trip to VCU Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center inspired student Shrisha Ramiya to crochet headbands for patients, hoping they “stay strong and confident” during treatment.

Two women standing together smiling and holding up crocheted headbands Becky Massey will distribute the headbands crocheted by high school student Shrisha Ramiya to patients. (VCU Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center)

By Amy Lacey

Shrisha Ramiya was beaming as she entered the Goodwin Research Laboratory at VCU Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center in early February. In her arms were four gift bags.

The freshman at J.R. Tucker High School in Henrico County dropped off more than two dozen headbands she crocheted for patients in active treatment. Ramiya chose Massey as the beneficiary of a project called “Creativity, Action and Service” (CAS), which is part of her school’s International Baccalaureate Program.

“Although I wasn’t able to meet the patients themselves, I hope they enjoy their headbands, each made with love,” Ramiya said. “I would want them to know that there are people loving and supporting them through tough times.”

Becky Massey, patient advocate and chair of the cancer center’s advisory board, expressed her appreciation for Ramiya’s thoughtfulness.

crocheted headbands in several colors

Shirsha Ramiya crocheted two dozen headbands for cancer patients. (VCU Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center)

“It’s going to be extraordinarily meaningful for patients to know that someone cares about them,” Massey told Ramiya. “When a patient receives something handmade like this and finds out it is from a young woman like you, it’s really going to be something extra special for them. It already means so much to have a warm head, and this will help them so much.”

Ramiya’s relationship with the cancer center began a little more than a year ago during a tour with Holman Middle School’s Technology Student Association.

“Ever since coming into Massey last year, I knew it was a place filled with love and determination,” Ramiya said. “When I was asked to do a volunteering project, my mind instantly thought about helping out the patients at Massey. From my perspective, CAS truly allowed me to reconnect with the wonderful people at Massey and share my love for crochet with them.”

Ramiya remembered being mesmerized by the lab, where she had the opportunity to look at cancer cells through a microscope.

“All in all, this experience was one I will remember for years, and the staff at Massey was very welcoming to our team,” she added.

Man speaking with teenagers in a lab.

Director of VCU Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center Robert Winn, M.D., spoke with the Holman Middle School’s Technology Student Association during their tour of the cancer center’s labs last year. (VCU Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center)

During the tour, Ramiya and her classmates had an opportunity to speak with Robert A. Winn, M.D., director and Lipman Chair in Oncology at Massey, and to learn more about the work taking place in his lab. Winn’s research focuses on the molecular mechanisms and unique therapeutic approaches for lung cancer. He also investigates the connections between societal and biological factors which may lead to health disparities for this type of cancer.

Ramiya is thankful to have a better understanding of cancer and why advocacy is an important part of the equation. She has a message for patients who receive the headbands she crocheted.
“Stay strong and confident!”