ISU couple fights cancer together


Photo: Jessica Langr/Iowa State Daily

Riley Nicolay talks about the day his mom took this photo of him and his girlfriend, Deidre Sechi. Sechi and Nicolay were both ISU mechanical engineering students until January, when Sechi was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. They took the photos a few weeks before shaving their heads together.

Daniel Bush

An ISU couple added some fun in the fight against a rare cancer by cutting and shaving their hair together.

Deidre Sechi, former ISU student, was diagnosed with having a desmoplastic small-round-cell tumor in her abdomen in January 2013. 

According to the Office of Rare Diseases Research, the cancer is a rare type of sarcoma.

“It was more fun to cut it with her and to make it a fun experience as opposed to her doing it by herself and then being sad,” said Riley Nicolay, freshman in mechanical engineering and Sechi’s boyfriend. “Doing it together was actually really fun.”

Erin Langhofer, freshman in counseling at University of Kansas and hometown friend of Sechi, said she has never heard of a time when the couple hasn’t been “cracking up at each other and making jokes,” within the first five minutes of being together.

After being diagnosed and realizing that Sechi would eventually become bald, the couple decided to spend an evening cutting their hair in styles they would have otherwise not fashioned.

“On Friday night, when we did it, we shaved hers into a mullet and mine into a Mohawk, and then hers into a cul-de-sac haircut like her dads,” Nicolay said. “We made it more fun than it could have been.”

The couple then proceeded to shave their heads.

“I hadn’t heard her so excited and in such a good mood since she was diagnosed,” Langhofer said.

Throughout the night, they took photos of the different styles. Nicolay later posted one final picture of the couple staring at each other on Reddit.

The photo has reached more than 1.2 million views.

“The joke behind it was when she first found out that she’d have to go bald, she said she was going to make a bald blog and get famous and she would be on ‘Ellen,’” Nicolay said.

The joke suddenly became a reality, as Nicolay was contacted from multiple news outlets.

“It was a little bit more famous than I expected it would be,” Nicolay said. “Let’s just see if the ‘Ellen’ thing actually happens.”

Sechi is undergoing chemotherapy in her hometown at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Overland, Kan., Nicolay said. In April or May, she will be flying to Texas for surgery with a specialist.

Laughter isn’t the only thing that defines the couple:

“[Sechi] is the type of person who will be there for you and support you no matter what you are going through,” Langhofer said. “I had health struggles in high school and she was there for me every step of the way.”

Adam Guenther, senior in animal science and president of the Birch-Welch-Roberts Hall Council, described Nicolay as being one of the most supportive guys on their floor.

“He’s always going around asking people if they need help with anything,” Guenther said. “He’s always been there for everyone else on the floor if they needed anything.”

Langhofer finds comfort in knowing Riley will always be there for Sechi.

“It was really reassuring to know that Riley was there to make the process easy and painless,” Langhofer said. “I wouldn’t even say it was a ‘bit’ more fun; I would say it was a lot more fun!”