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His burden has lifted, his long locks shorn

River Falls native Terry Pechacek is shown before and after 12 inches of his hair were cut off to be donated to Children with Hair Loss. Pechacek, a cancer survivor, waited until his five-year cancer-free milestone to have his hair cut.

While many men worry about hair loss, River Falls native Terry Pechacek was eager to cut his off.

He’d been growing his hair out for more than five years. Last Wednesday, July 9, all that hair growth was chopped.

“I’m really excited,” Pechacek said. “It’s just another step in completing the journey that I was put on five and a half years ago.”

“It's just like a new chapter I'm kind of closing one chapter and I’m starting another one. A new book.”

Pechacek decided to start growing his hair out while in treatment for colon cancer in 2009.

Just recently he reached his five-year anniversary of finishing chemotherapy.

So on July 9 he took a trip to The Hair Affair, 522 Birch St., to have 12 inches of hair cut off.

“I feel like a whole burden’s been lifted once I reached the five-year mark,” Pechacek said “I was just lucky that I caught it early enough and was able to do the surgery and get the treatments.

“I’m just not looking back. I’m going forward from here.”

Pechacek’s long ponytail will be donated to “Children with Hair Loss,” a nonprofit that, as its name suggests, makes hairpieces for children who have lost their hair.

“I’m excited not to have hair in my mouth and face all the time,” Pechacek said with a smile.

Even after having a foot of hair cut off, Pechacek still has longer hair than most men.

While growing 12 inches of ponytail might be a challenge for some men, Pechacek said it wasn’t really a problem for him.

He often wears his hair longer than the average man, and he is the lead singer of a band with some friends from the Twin Cities. He said the long ponytail fit with the band’s image.

However, Pechacek’s daughter Hillary did help him find a shampoo and conditioner to help with tangles as his hair grew longer. He said dealing with tangles, and keeping it out of his face was something he had to get used to.

Pechacek was diagnosed after doctors discovered what turned out to be a cancerous tumor during a routine colonoscopy at the River Falls Area Hospital.

When he turned 50 in May of 2008, Pechacek knew doctors recommend people have a colonoscopy exam when they turn 50. Pechacek put off the routine exam until late 2008, but he’s certainly glad he had the exam.

“It saved my life,” Pechacek said. “Thank goodness I went in.”

He said even another six months could have made a big difference in his prognosis.

After the colonoscopy, Pechacek had surgery to remove the tumor and a section of his colon in early January 2009. Later that week, he was diagnosed with stage 3a colon cancer.

According to, stage 3a colon cancer is when the cancer has spread to up to three lymph nodes or nearby tissue in the colon wall.

Pechacek had six months of chemotherapy at River Falls Area Hospital. It was during his chemotherapy that he decided to grow his hair out and donate it to Children with Hair Loss. He decided to wait until he reached is five-year cancer-free milestone to cut it.

For the complete story, see the July 17 print edition of the River Falls Journal.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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