As guests mingled inside the Islip Theatre last Monday night waiting for a special screening of the Academy-Award nominated documentary “Mondays at Racine,” to start, many did not realize the film’s poster girl was in their midst. Sporting chin-length curls, Maureen Span looked vastly different from the version of herself that appears on promotional material for the HBO documentary.
“I don’t even feel like it’s me,” said Span, 34, of West Babylon.
Span was in a different place in her life when that photo, which depicts her having her head shaved, was taken in October 2011. That summer, she had been diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32, had a double mastectomy and was undergoing chemotherapy.
“I thought I was going to be dead at 33,” recalled Span, whose cancer is now in remission.
Not wanting to watch her long hair slowly fall out as a side effect of her treatment, Span opted to have her head shaved while cameras were rolling at Racine hair salon in Islip.
For the past decade, the Main Street salon, owned by sisters Cynthia Sansone, 54, of Kings Park, and Rachel DeMolfetto, 50, of Blue Point, has been providing free beauty services to breast cancer patients on the third Monday of every month.
Director Cynthia Wade made this program the focus of her fourth HBO documentary film, which was up for an Oscar earlier this year. The 39-minute film will debut on HBO Monday, Oct. 14 at 9 p.m.
To celebrate the film’s premiere, Wade reunited with many cast members at the screening, but there was one whose absence was greatly felt. Linda Hart, of Massapequa, died on July 8 at the age of 61. She had lived 19 years with breast cancer.
“Linda represents hope for women with metastatic breast cancer, because she lived a beautiful full life for many years,” Cambria Russell, 39, said of her co-star and mentor.
Without Hart, Russell said she couldn’t bring herself to watch the film Monday, but Hart’s husband, Warren, and her two daughters, Jeanine and Lynn, were in the audience.
Warren Hart, 62, said it was difficult to watch the film, but he wanted to support his wife. Although he wasn’t originally on board with the film, because it showed the strain cancer had put on his marriage, he came around.
“If the documentary can help at least one person than it was worth it,” he said.
Following the screening, more than 300 people gathered at nearby Scully Estate to celebrate the HBO premiere and raise funds for the Mondays at Racine Foundation that Sansone and DeMolfetto created.
DeMolfetto said the money will support expanding their salon’s program to every Monday starting in January. Since the release of the documentary, she said the number of women utilizing the program has doubled.
She also hopes when the film hits HBO, other salon owners will be inspired to implement similar programs. She and her sister are available for consulting. For more information, visit mondaysatracine.org.
“I’m hoping in the future, when a woman is given a prescription for chemotherapy, she’s also given a script for a salon program like Mondays at Racine,” Sansone said. “They need help getting through the treatment, and not just the disease.”