Brave the Shave

Ooooooh, ooooh, oh. I’m so very tempted to get involved in a FB debate but I absolutely will end up being trolled and I never get involved in these situations but I am itching. My fingers have typed the message out five times and I have deleted it five times.

Let me explain. Macmillan are running two fundraising campaigns at the moment – Brave the Shave and Stay up all night. Now you can imagine which one I have my knickers in a twist about!

The comments on Brave the Shave have lit up. So I have spent the last ten minutes reading all the comments (and rights to reply) and considered everyone fairly and objectively (bearing in mind that is taking all of my lovely CP’s work with me to do this). Then BAM. I happen on a comment that has really tipped me over the edge – it went something like this:

‘I think its amazing, if I had cancer and lost my hair through chemo and people did this to support me I’d feel so much better’.

Can you imagine my fury at this point. If. If. If. IF. The operative word there is if Miss Poster. Wow, just wow. If you had cancer, you’d actually know how it felt to lose your hair and maybe you might have the same feeling, but possibly, quite possibly, maybe you won’t. You can’t hypothesis about this situation. Until you live it. Nothing in life prepares you for losing your hair. Nothing. Even if you make the decision. And bear in mind, I did make the choice in the end. But it didn’t change the pain.

I am six months post chop and the hair is growing back Sinead O’Connor esque – its at the very least all the same length (a bit grey!) but it covers my head and I don’t look so ill as along with my head hair, my eyebrows and eyelashes are back (well – getting there!). So I’m feeling OK about looking in the mirror again. OK, not good, but OK. I can actually laugh now when people talk about their bad hair days (my little wicked demon is also back so taking great pleasure in this!). Not having hair has made me realise that we talk about hair a lot. Whether that be because it looks a bit shit, the weather is that misty wetness that makes it frizz like a poodle (my old look pretty much every day!), its having a wild day, it needs a cut, I need to get to the hairdressers – its desperate. Then as I am nodding along, I also see a level of realisation creep in. You can see the ‘aw shit, I’m talking to the bald lass’! The conversation usually gets changed or ended quite quickly and my little devil has a wee chuckle!

So while I am in a much better place, lets consider the argument that Brave the Shave raises a lot of money. Which can do an awful lot of good – paying for nurses, counsellors, research, etc, etc, etc. Regardless of the ignorant comment the there is a cure and the government are hiding it (I will absolutely write about this – a whole other story), the split of people who like this kind of fundraising and those who don’t is about 50/50. 50% are loving it, arranging fundraisers, shaving heads. 50% are getting mad, think its disrespectful, don’t understand how anyone doing it voluntarily can feel the pain. Oh it is so divisive. I’ll also go one step further and challenge the word ‘brave’. How is it ‘brave’ to shave when you walk into the pub, social club, location of event; knowing what you are going to do and be prepared. How ‘brave’ is it to shave when your hair is already falling out in clumps and causing distress beyond your wildest imagination?  Is any of that ‘brave’? I really don’t believe it is.

But then there are comments about solitude. A support from those who do the shave in support and solidarity for family, friends, besties. I’m pleased for these people (honestly, this isn’t patronising), if their mates or family help them with solidarity in baldness then I am pleased that they find some comfort in this. But that also doesn’t reduce the validity of feeling from others like me who don’t get it. I do not need anyone else to do this with me. I can’t imagine having the man cub, my dad, or anyone else for that matter – shaving their head in solidarity, no matter whether it came from the best of places. And I did have the offer. But I could never in sober life have dealt with it. I didn’t want to do it myself – why would I ever put anyone else through it?

This is such a personal journey. For those going through it and those supporting it. It will always cause controversy but as a fundraiser I get that it probably is an absolute winner. A further comment has struck me though:

‘They lose their hair but don’t lose their eyelashes, eyebrows, body hair; and Macmillan are exploiting the worst time of peoples lives’

This – just this, rings so true. I looked tragically ill for months when I had my hair shaved. Regardless of how many people said it was fine, I avoided mirrors like the plague. I couldn’t deal with what I looked like. I have no photos at all of that period of my life (which upsets me as the cub and I always have a cheeky selfie on a weekend morning). So much as I am happy to fundraise (I’m walking 26 bloody miles soon to raise money for Macmillan), I just can’t get on board with this campaign. Going back to those who have commented on the post positively, they appear to be from people who haven’t gone through a personal cancer journey (willing to be corrected – just my view), and those who are upset by it seem to be those, similar to myself, who have dealt with the raw emotion of having to do this and it being out of our control.

So, my final thoughts. After re-reading a lot of comments, my own spiel above and a lot of thinking.

If you are thinking of doing it, please consider those friends, family or relations that cancer has touched. Check in with them and see whether they would view it as solidarity or whether it would upset them. Make your choice from there. If there is a positive response, please go for it and raise as much money as you can as every little helps (whichever charity you choose). If someone even makes a murmur about it in the negative, please consider another option – say a 26 mile walk (!!), running a marathon, giving up a favourite treat, anything; please find another way.

For me, please never shave your head. The distress for me is still so palpable and although it may improve with time and distance (and hair growth), I do know that someone trying to show me solidarity will tip me into a void that won’t be a good place! And much as CP worked his magic on my mindset, I’m not sure I’m that mentally well to deal with it. In time I may decide that I will keep the shaved head – to be honest it is a doddle to manage, or I may decide that I will spend a small bloody fortune each week getting my hair styled (don’t tell the man cub). Whatever I do, I don’t want to confront the idea that someone is voluntarily making a choice to be bald . Don’t judge me! I will also make efforts not to judge those who show their support in this way, much as I may disagree.

If this journey has taught me anything, its that we all weave a different path. This is mine. I am being honest. I am trying to be fair. I hope I have managed to convey both.

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