Washington County Commissioner Harlan Shober was sporting pink hair at the Houston Pumpkin Festival to show support for his wife, Jackie, and others who are battling breast cancer.

Ten people are competing in “Real Men Wear Pink” as part of the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer in Washington County fundraiser. As of Oct. 6, amid the pink shirts, pink ribbons, pink ties and pink pocket squares, only one guy was sporting a rosey glow.

The cause became personal for Harlan Shober, a Washington County commissioner, because his wife of 49 years, Jackie, was diagnosed with breast cancer in February.

Breast cancer wasn’t on Jackie Shober’s radar until she was planning knee-replacement surgery and had to undergo a battery of tests, including a mammogram.

“In the beginning, it was just a shock to us,” Jackie Shober said. “He was so strong and he went to the doctors with me. It was OK for people to know that I had cancer. I think people need to know you can fight it. Harlan helped me to stay positive.

“We didn’t tell my kids right away until we talked to the doctors and we knew a course of action.”

Jackie Shober had surgery in February, followed by chemotherapy. She just completed radiation treatments.

“Dr. (Michael) Dougherty and the crew up there are wonderful people,” said Jackie Shober of the radiation oncologist who is director at Washington Health System Radiation Oncology in partnership with UPMC Cancer Center.

As a participant, Shober was thinking of dying his hair, but instead, opted to have the color sprayed on for occasions like commissioners’ meetings, the Senior Expo at Washington Crown Center or the Houston Pumpkin Festival, where his team had a booth.

Diane White of the local cancer society said proceeds from the competition are used for cancer research and education.

“We try to reach those folks early to help save lives,” she told the board. She was accompanied by Matt Pitzarella, spokesman for Range Resources, who was leading the effort with $12,855 raised.

“So many families have been affected by breast cancer and cancer in so many forms,” Shober said. “This has been a real journey and it’s been a long year. It is a life-or-death situation. Our whole lives changed. It makes you appreciate every day you have. We’re moving on and maybe we can help others.”

Whether Shober’s pink locks garner the most contributions makes no difference to the commissioner.

“We all win,” he said of the $3,500 he had raised so far. “I hope everybody raises a bunch of money by the end of October.”

Barbara Miller

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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