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A Neptune Day to Celebrate

Assistant Dean Peggy Campbell-Rush proudly displays her son Taylor's hair that he plans to donate to Beautiful Lengths.
Assistant Executive Dean Peggy Campbell-Rush, dressed as King Neptune, proudly displays her son Taylor’s hair that he plans to donate to Beautiful Lengths in her honor.

It’s been 31 years since Assistant Executive Dean Peggy Campbell-Rush has sailed with Semester at Sea and in that time much has changed. She has established her career, started a family, and battled stage III breast cancer.

In May of 1996, Campbell-Rush was diagnosed suddenly with a cancer so aggressive that she will always be termed “in remission” and never “cured”. After decades of ups and downs, she returned to Semester at Sea for the Fall 2014 voyage. This was a culmination of many dreams for her, most importantly the chance to share in the experience with two of her children, Morgan and Taylor.

Morgan Rush has her hair cut by her mother, whom she will be donating her hair in honor of.
Morgan Rush nervously prepares for her hair to be cut by her mother on Neptune Day.

Only in early primary school when his mother was diagnosed, Taylor admitted that his older sisters had more vividly recalled that time.  “I don’t remember much, but I knew it wasn’t good whatever was happening,” he added. For Morgan, she was still struck by the memory of her family all sitting on a hammock together as her parents shared the news and many of the moments her mother struggled through during her treatments. “She had the most gorgeous blonde hair. One day she came home with a cute short haircut but as she went through chemo she started to lose it. My dad literally took her outside and shaved it (off),” said Morgan. Their mother’s struggles and the image of her losing her hair has stayed with them since childhood.

Over the past three years, Taylor has been growing his hair with the intention of donating it. When the family signed on to the Fall 2014 voyage, his mother told him about the tradition of Neptune Day, where the community comes together and celebrates this sea travelers’ right of passage. His sister, Morgan, has donated her hair once before and has been waiting 7 years for a moment like this. “It’s such a unique opportunity to cut your hair right as you are crossing the equator,” she added. This time they plan to give their hair to Beautiful Lengths, a program created through a partnership of Pantene® and the American Cancer Society®. Through Beautiful Lengths, the ponytails mailed in are used to make wigs for people of all ages fighting cancer. They find this as a great way to honor their mother and help others who continue to battle the disease.

Donation in hand, Taylor Rush sports his new hairstyle in front of the shipboard community receiving cheers of excitement and support.
Donation in hand, Taylor Rush sports his new hairstyle in front of the shipboard community receiving cheers of excitement.

As Campbell-Rush looks back on her family’s journey here, she is nothing but overjoyed by what she deems her “dream come true”. Three decades ago, the program changed the way she looked at the world and left her itching to return. In addition to being a two-time voyager and Semester at Sea alumnus, she is also a mother watching her children experience the world for the first time. “My one wish for my kids is resilience. No matter what gets thrown at you, you’re able to bounce back,” she said.

On her own personal journey of living up to the family mantra of “no regrets”, she looks forward to many more adventures and chances to experience the world. For her, the idea of putting ones dreams on hold is not one she can comprehend. Reflecting on what she has been through, she realized her outlook on life was not a new one and was even older than her kids themselves. She concluded, “Semester at Sea changed me… Cancer really didn’t.”

Photos by: Joshua Gates Weisberg

  • Life at Sea

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