Brave the Shave – no Thank you.

Brave the Shave – no Thank you.

It’s not because I’m precious about my hair.  Far from it.  Growing up in the 1980s with a hairdresser Mum, I have had every style and colour you could imagine.  Some were atrocious, but I always had it in my head that a bad haircut/colour only lasts 6 weeks.  Nevertheless, my hair is important to me and with all the kids back to school today my first priority is to get my roots done.

When we explained to Felix that his hair would fall out he didn’t really say much.  At the tender age of 10, how he looked and what he wore was starting to become important to him, particularly his hair.  He had started to gel it up and would spend quite a long time styling it and making sure it looked just so.  Along with this came the head swoosh which naturally flicked his long hair at the front to the side and the constant running of his hand through his hair to make sure it was as it should please.  His preoccupation with his hair soon became a source of entertainment for us and particularly his football coach who ribbed him endlessly about his hair obsession.  He couldn’t imagine not having his hair.  He couldn’t imagine being bald.

When his hair did fall out it didn’t fall out all in one go.  It came out gradually leaving a long, fine covering which looked like he was full of static.  Every morning he would get up and leave a fine covering of hair on his pillow.  When we were eating, we would discretely and sadly notice his hair falling on to the table.  I would watch him glance at himself in the mirror – he couldn’t look at himself for any length of time.  It was heartbreaking.

There were many times when we tried to persuade him to shave it all off.  He wouldn’t.  To him, his hair was one of the few things he still had an element of control over.  To him, it was the last bit of his old self still hanging in there.  To him, it was his last bit of dignity.

As a way of trying to ease the emotional hurt of losing his hair, I offered to shave mine off in support of what he was going through.  He point blank refused.  He said, “Why would anyone choose to look like this? I would do anything to not look like this.  I don’t want you to feel like I do”.

He then brought up the Brave the Shave Campaign and used the same argument.  I could see what he was saying.  Why was this charity using the image, which for Felix symbolised everything he hated about having cancer, to raise money?  Why did this charity not consider that the loss of hair is due to his little body being ravaged by toxic chemicals?  For Felix, this campaign is the most insensitive one of all as it encourages people to emulate children and adults with cancer with complete disregard for the physical and emotional pain attached to their baldness.  In fact, it is promoted in almost a celebratory and enjoyable way.  It’s wrong.

There is a chance that all of Felix’s hair could fall out again.  It does happen.  In fact, it happened to a boy around the same as Felix only a couple of days ago.  This boy is starting school today, far more nervous than his peers because of the way he looks.  He would probably do anything to have his hair, yet this side effect of treatment is being used as a marketing tool.

I don’t know if adults who have lost their hair through treatment or alopecia look at the campaign with the same perspective as Felix.  I would love to hear.

I don’t know if Macmillan considered the thoughts and feelings of children and adults with cancer when they launched this campaign.  I would love to hear.

I don’t know if any of us can contemplate how it must feel to lose your hair unless you’ve been through it yourself.

What I do know is that we should respect it.  I can’t think of any other side effect which would be used such a crass and insensitive way.

This is why I will not Brave the Shave.

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  • muglife2017
    Posted at 10:50h, 06 September Reply

    It’s funny because Mimi was of the same opinion … “why do we have to have two people in the family with no hair? You don’t have cancer – I do. I’d prefer it if you kept your hair”. She coped quite well, and opted for a wig, although never wore it much or for very long. However, her experience of losing her hair was that she chose control by shaving it off … or asking us to. She had long hair at diagnosis that we suggested she got a pixie cut which she loved, but then it began falling out rapidly so she decided she wanted her ‘cancer hair’ gone.
    She has also expressed that if her cancer were to return she would like a few crazy colours before it goes again.

  • Sue
    Posted at 14:24h, 06 September Reply

    I did do Brave the Shave because I wanted to raise money for cancer as I’ve had several friends and relations die from the disease. However as it came to the point where my fringe was about to go I very nearly screamed noooo! But knew I couldn’t as I’d raised nearly £500, so on I went. I can honestly say that I did find the following months quite traumatic as like Felix, my hair is my thing. But I hope in doing what I did I gained some insight into the fight, the feelings etc that just losing your hair can do for whatever reason. But it’s not something I would do again, I’d rather bake a cake and eat one! ?

    • Mrs Brown's Blogs
      Posted at 11:47h, 08 September Reply

      I think baking a cake is a far more sensible idea! Thank you for all you have done to help children like Felix – I know people’s intentions are wholly good when they do it, it just doesn’t seem right to me.

  • Paula
    Posted at 17:24h, 06 September Reply

    Really interesting article, I had never really thought of it like this. Heidi was only two and a half when she lost her hair so she really wasn’t all that aware, or concerned. She rarely wore a hat and when she first lost it, we were the ones who felt more conscious of people’s stares. Now when she looks back at photos it’s as if she doesn’t recognise herself, or remember. One benefit of being diagnosed so young I guess x

    • Mrs Brown's Blogs
      Posted at 11:46h, 08 September Reply

      If there is a benefit then that is definitely one. Felix would not leave the house without his hat. The most horrific moment was at Paulton’s Park when he wasn’t allowed to go on a ride because he wouldn’t remove his hat. He had to walk back fown about 5 flights of stairs past all of the waiting people. It was heartbreaking x

  • Rebecca
    Posted at 20:01h, 06 September Reply

    I refused to let my sister too! She has beautiful hair and I didn’t want to look at her looking ill or punishing herself because she felt helpless! To be honest I didn’t mind losing my hair and my girls thought my baldy head was quite funny too, but one of my nieces was really scared and wouldn’t come near me. Why would anyone want to do that to themselves?

    • Mrs Brown's Blogs
      Posted at 11:44h, 08 September Reply

      I know – I know the intention is wholly good but it’s just wrong.

  • WelshMamaBlog
    Posted at 18:20h, 07 September Reply

    Our Children have the most insightful views that we adults don’t even think of. <3

    • Mrs Brown's Blogs
      Posted at 19:04h, 07 September Reply

      Don’t they ever! And then as they get older and become adults it hard to see beyond what’s in front of us.

  • Leeanne
    Posted at 19:19h, 07 September Reply

    I remember when my mum was losing her hair during her treatment, it hurt her. I think she and I naively thought it would all fall out in one go, and we never thought it would hurt; but it did. About a week into the hair loss process she asked me to come round with some clippers and take it all off, she couldnt cope with the physical pain or the emotional pain of leaving hair all around the house. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. We both had a cry and a hug. I still vividly remember that day.

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