Co-workers shave heads to support cancer patient

Kendrick Brinson/Staff
Aiken Public Safety Officer Jacob Pridgen stands surrounded by co-workers. His fellow officers shaved their head in support of Pridgen, who has been receiving chemotherapy treatments for cancer.

AIKEN --- When Aiken Public Safety Officer Jacob Pridgen arrived at work a couple of weeks ago ready to begin his 12-hour shift, he walked in on an odd sight -- nine newly bald men.

The men in his shift, with whom he worked grueling hours 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., had shaved their heads to show their support for Office Pridgen, who was diagnosed with cancer on Jan. 23.

The Saturday before Easter, the rookie officer shaved his head because his chemotherapy treatments, which he began the first week of March, were causing his hair to fall out.

When Lt. Ted Umstead heard about it, he decided to call others in his shift to see if they would be interested in shaving their heads in a show of solidarity.

"Everybody was pretty much on board," he said.

Officer Pridgen laughed and said he thought his coworkers were nuts. "I feel sorry for them." But he admitted that knowing they support him "feels good. It's actually kind of cool."

Officer Pridgen has been with the department for three years -- the first two years as a cadet. After less than a year on active duty with the department, he learned that he had testicular cancer. Doctors were able to remove the tumor and began treatment.

Officer Pridgen goes for the treatments Monday through Friday of every third week. He has two week-long treatments left.

"Life's a team sport. As long as you know you've got friends and family standing behind you, hopefully, it makes it a little easier for him," Lt. Umstead said.

Despite the difficult year, Officer Pridgen is upbeat and optimistic. He said his doctors have told him there is a 95 percent cure rate.

Reach Michelle Guffey at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or michelle.guffey@augustachronicle.com.