CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Trading in her baggy sweats and oversized T-shirt, Sarah Erwin Vance left her Logan home for the bright lights -- and sky-high stilettos -- of New York City.
Vance, 28, traveled to the city Thursday for a "Mommy Makeover" courtesy of the "Live with Kelly and Michael" show, which aired Monday morning.
"It was phenomenal -- once in a lifetime!" Vance said. "My husband and I had never been to New York City, so it was a wonderful trip all around. We got to explore, and I got this new look; I really, really like it."
Vance's dark brown tresses were dyed honey blonde with two rounds of highlights and cut into a modern short shag.
The rest went to Locks of Love, marking the fourth time in eight years the cancer survivor has donated her hair to the organization.
"Friday was hair day. I was at the salon from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. We got the works -- manicure, pedicure, color and cut," the occupational therapist said.
"But what took so long, Lawrence, the stylist, his first decision is not usually his last. He cut my hair four or five times. I never thought I'd be blonde in my life!"
Vance was chosen from a pool of makeover applicants. Her co-worker, Beth Shawver, convinced her to throw her hat in the ring.
"We were just talking one day about getting gray hair; she said she'd love a makeover," said Shawver, 40, a registered nurse at Logan Regional Medical Center.
"I just saw the day before they were having that contest, and I tried to see if I could put her name in, but you had to apply yourself."
With the encouragement of her co-worker, Vance did just that.
She found the show's web site and penned her life story upon the essay prompt. She wrote about being diagnosed with leukemia as a teenager; about undergoing chemotherapy; about her sister donating her own hair for a wig; and about ultimately going into remission, where she has been for the past 12 years.
"When Sara had cancer, she lost all of her hair very quickly," said her sister, Brianne Erwin, 31, of Vancouver, Wash. "At that point in my life, I had very long hair because of my mother's religion. It was almost down to my waist.
"At that point in my life, my hair was a defining factor. That's something people remember you by. But watching what chemotherapy does -- it's such an easy thing to get rid of to make her feel more comfortable."
During that time, Vance didn't know if she would ever be a mother. But she and Joseph, her husband of four years, and are now proud parents of an 8-month-old baby girl, Anna Jean.
Her sister's gift was included in the essay.
"I told them how I had cancer and donated my hair to Locks of Love, and that my sister had a wig made for me out of her hair," Vance said. "That's how we got started in donating for Locks of Love. We did that together the first time.
"I told them all about it. I told them it was truly a blessing to be a mother -- I wasn't sure where life would go then -- and thankfully everything worked out. The Lord healed me, and I am here to share that testimony. It worked!"
Her triumphs captivated the hearts of the producers, who flew her to the city for the five-star treatment. Vance was told to bring her typical mommy outfit and arrive free of makeup and hair styling.
The makeover included personal shoppers -- who would say "yes," "no," "that's great!" or "go change." Her final outfit paired a white skirt with a striped top and denim jacket. Turquoise jewels decorated her neckline, and a pair of hoop earrings finished off the look.
During her trip, she also had dinner out, attended a Cirque du Soleil show and took a boat tour. During free time she explored the city.
The culmination was her appearance on the show, where she said her look was receiving finishing touches right up to air time, when some strands of hair required more texturing and wide-heels were swapped for skinny stilettos.
"It was a whirlwind of four and a half days," Vance said. "Kelly and Michael were both so nice and happy for my good health. It was something else. I can't wait to watch it. I think it went well."
Shawver and her coworkers crowded around a TV to catch a glimpse of their friend.
"She is very, very deserving. She's a very sweet person," Shawver said. "She does a lot. She does the Relay for Life. She donates her hair. She helps as much as she can to give back. She's very deserving."
Vance plans to maintain the new look -- with some minor tweaks.
"I love the clothes -- they are something I would pick out. And I really like the cut of the hair, but I'll continue to grow it out so I can donate it again. The hair was the biggest change. But I'll get it cut like this again. The color will take some time," she said laughing.
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