Uniting Women in the Search for a Cure | OCRA Heroes
If you had to describe Lana Holland in just one word, ‘soothing’ would be the word to use. She’s been a massage therapist for more than a decade, calling forth through her hands her earlier training as a social worker. Her voice – gentle, measured, yet filled with conviction – makes you feel as if you are in the presence of something holy. And her outlook on life is one of inspiration and joy, despite having lost her 22-year-old daughter Lexi to ovarian cancer.
“I try to embrace life,” Lana said. “I’m a true Gemini – the kind of person that likes to try a lot of different things.”
One of the things Lana tried last year, which was “way out the box” was paragliding while traveling with one of her clients to Colorado. “I actually jumped off a mountain. I was terrified!” said Lana.
“When all I could see was the cliff and the sky below, it was like ‘Ooh, what am I doing, God?’ The whole time, I prayed, and I got this peace about it,” Lana described. “’God, I’m not trying to hurt myself. I’m just trying to do something to release myself and enjoy life.’”
God features prominently in Lana’s life. And it was her strong connection to her faith and her church that got her through one of the most trying times imaginable — her daughter’s illness and eventual passing. Lexi was only 19 years old, studying at Southern University in Baton Rouge, LA (Lana’s alma mater), when she first experienced symptoms. Her stomach became bloated and she couldn’t keep food down, but when she went to the infirmary and the hospital, they couldn’t find anything.
“You’re not thinking that your child has cancer,” Lana said.
Sharing Lexi’s story
After months of going from one doctor to another, Lexi finally underwent surgery for what specialists thought might have been a bad case of endometriosis. When they opened her up, they saw it was cancer. Lana described the run around she got from her insurance company, having to reschedule surgeries on the day that they were scheduled, being told the chemotherapy wouldn’t be covered, having a hospital refuse to remove the three liters of fluid that were filling Lexi’s abdomen. But through it all, Lexi persevered, staying in school and working toward her graduation. In fact, it was her studies that kept her motivated.
“She was just amazing,” Lana said. “If she could be this strong, then surely I could too.”
Besides turning to her faith and family, Lana documented Lexi’s experiences on Facebook and felt tremendous community and healing from all those following along with them and praying for her.
“I just couldn’t hold back. I wanted people to know,” Lana said. “And my child was okay with me being able to share her story with everyone while she was living.”
As Lana began feeling that Lexi’s doctors were giving up on her, she reached out to a varied network for support: the school psychologist from Lexi’s high school; an apostle from South Africa; members of the Zion Tabernacle Baptist Church where she belongs, who both prayed at church and came to their house for prayer circles; a Cambodian co-worker who introduced her to the healing properties of the soursop fruit; a Christian hospital in Tijuana; a spiritual advisor who read Lexi’s aura.
“I feel like God, he sent all kinds of people to me,” said Lana.
While each brought much-needed comfort in their own way, nothing could cure Lexi. She passed in September of 2016, just three months after walking the stage and graduating from college.
A time of healing, a new initiative
When Lexi was in treatment and losing her hair, she started wearing wigs and hair wraps, not just to hide the fact that she was going bald, but to protect her scalp from the sun. She borrowed her mother’s head scarves and continued to wear them even after her hair started growing back. And when she died, Lana continued to wear the wraps herself.
“When she passed away,” Lana said, “I was trying to heal myself. The journey I was trying to go on was a sacred one, and I felt like I needed to cover my head.”
Lana purchased some head wraps for herself, then looked into buying them wholesale to sell in her massage therapy day spa. And then she had an idea.
“I called my great aunt in Houston and said, ‘I want to start a head wrap business and I want to promote ovarian cancer awareness in honor of Lexi. And I want to be able to give back to the community with this business.”
And so Headwrapz United was born.
Honoring Lexi by giving back
Lana travelled to her family in Houston and visited fabric stores located in African, Asian and Indian communities, purchasing yards of material. She and her mother made patterns and sewed the colorful fabrics into head wraps.
Through Headwrapz United, Lana is able to carry on Lexi’s dream of volunteering and raising awareness about ovarian cancer. Proceeds from the sales of the wraps go to OCRA to fund ground-breaking research, and the wraps themselves come with cards that educate people on the signs and symptoms of the disease.
“Headwrapz United is about uniting women all over the world,” Lana said. “And when you wear the wraps, you are reminded of women who struggle when they are going through cancer, not just ovarian cancer. It’s not just for African American women, it’s for everyone. I needed to unite all women. They need to know about these symptoms.”
Feeling Lexi’s presence
When Lexi and her mother visited the spiritual advisor in their quest for answers and healing, the advisor read Lexi’s aura. As Lana describes it, everybody has a different color for their aura, but “my child had all of them. Lexi was a very majestic person.”
Now, it’s as if Lexi is embracing all those who wear the multi-colored head wraps her mother creates. Lana knows this to be true and feels Lexi’s presence around her at all times.
“I know my child is with me throughout this whole venture,” Lana said. “I feel her. This business gives me peace. And if Lexi were here on this earth, she’d be wearing the head wraps all the time.”
“Lexi shows me signs all the time. ’Hey mom, I’m doing great. And you’re doing great. And I’m still here guiding you along,’” Lana said. “I know God allows that. I believe that.”
If there are indeed angels on earth, Lana Holland for sure is one of them. Visit Headwrapz United to support ovarian cancer research, honor Lexi, and “bring joy to your day.”