Don’t you just hate it when you find a hair in your food? Or you wash your hair and it clogs up the shower drain and you have to dig it out? Well that is my life right now: hair, hair everywhere!
I wake in the morning with hair all over my pillow; I have a shower, wash my hair and it covers the shower drain and floor; it coats my shoulders and falls down my neck into my clothes. If I spend any amount of time in the kitchen, I have to make sure I wear a cap to minimize the chance of it getting in our food.
I have always had a very thick head of hair; but, at the moment I look about 90 years old and you can clearly see my scalp through the hair I have left. I guess it may be all gone by the end of the week, but who really knows. I have learnt to take each day as it comes.
My husband, Craig, was pretty concerned that it would be too traumatic for me if my hair began falling out while it was still long and blonde and began encouraging me to cut it short before I began to moult. I resisted at first. I don’t like to admit it but my hair was part of my physical identity; it made me feel feminine and pretty. However, the thought of having long strands of hair falling everywhere did play on my mind, so I finally made the decision to get the chop before it began falling out.
*Melissa was too sick from her latest round of chemo to finish this post and asked me, her sister Kate, to continue on her behalf.*
Finding a silver lining
One week after Melissa’s first round of chemotherapy we were having one of our daily ‘deep and meaningfuls’ on the phone. Mel openly spoke about her fears of losing her hair as well as not having the energy and inspiration to engage in her life – the life she had created and loved. She felt her life was going in a direction that she did not choose and did not want.
“I need to find something good and positive from this crappy, stupid situation,” she told me. “I can’t let a year go by and think that all I did this year was to be treated for breast cancer… something good has to come from this.”
With this longing to find a positive from her cancer experience, Mel decided to create an affirmative opportunity from her moulting hair situation by holding a fundraiser for the McGrath Foundation*. She would have a party and shave off her beautiful locks and use the opportunity to raise money for the Foundation.
When Mel shared her idea with her close friends and family, they immediately rallied together to cook, decorate, send invitations and collect donations from local businesses for her big fundraising raffle. We had one busy week to it all together!
The Morning of Big Head Shave
The morning of the fundraiser, Mel and I met with one of her close friends, Brooke, at the Farmers’ Markets to get pink flowers for the fundraiser. As we sat down for a cup of coffee, my beautiful sister, who had been so stoic and jovial ever since she found out about her breast cancer, finally let her guard down. I share this moment with you because it touched me so deeply. It was also a relief to see my big sister give herself permission to not have to ‘hold it together’.
She shared with Brooke and me that her biggest fear was not so much loosing her hair, but showing her emotions while having her head shaved that afternoon (in front of over 100 people who were attending the fundraiser). It was then that I realised how not only Mel, but we as woman hold our emotions together for the sake of other people. What a gift it would be to all those who attended, not to mention healing for my sister, to allow herself to just express whatever she needed to in that moment? Not just the bright and bubbly side of Mel, but the deep, scared, vulnerable and sensitive side too.
That afternoon, over 100 supportive family, friends, and friends of friends descended upon Mel and Craig’s front yard, which was adorned with pink flowers, balloons and bodies. In a show of solidarity, our brother Chris shaved his head, as did Mel’s husband, Craig, and friend, Brett. Local businesses and individuals generously donated 35 prizes which we collated into a mega fundraising raffle.
Mel lost her long, blonde locks with dignity and good humour. At times, Mel started to get a bit teary, but then our
other sister, Rochy, would say something funny that would make her crack-up with a laugh (like telling Mel she looked like ‘Bros’ – the 1980’s boy band). A bouquet of emotions filled the day and best of all, $5600 was raised for the McGrath Foundation*. It was truly a joyous event, poignant on so many levels.
Mel is so grateful for her amazing friends and family and so humbled by their generosity. Thank you to all who contributed to her special day! Remember, it is always possible to create something good from a crappy situation!
The McGrath Foundation
Supporting woman with Breast Cancer through the Breast Care Nurse Initiative and Breast Awareness. To find our more about the McGrath Foundation or to make a donation, visit http://www.mcgrathfoundation.com.au/