PR expert Mars Webb wasn’t aware of Macmillan Cancer Support’s #BraveTheShave campaign when she decided to shave her hair off in solidarity with a friend undergoing chemo. She’s since raised money and is getting used to colder shoulders. Here’s how and why she went from bouncy to buzz cut…
It was a bit chicken and egg really in terms of getting my head shaved- I hadn’t originally heard about Macmillan Cancer Support’s #BraveTheShave campaign when I decided to do it. My best friend was one week into round two of her chemo treatment. She’s got such a positive outlook, but she texted me to say that she was struggling with the fact that she was losing all of her hair. She then told me that she’d taken the decision to shave it off the night before. I texted her back to say that must be awful, but also that she was still so beautiful (she’d sent me a picture). I also said jokingly that I would shave mine off too to keep her company. It was a ‘ha ha’ type of text. I wasn’t serious!
On that morning I was actually heading to the hairdresser, planning to get my colour done and get it styled nicely. I’m not a fan of straight hair, so the stylist normally puts in rollers to create body- it feels very decadent. I was going away to Edinburgh for a 50th birthday weekend and wanted really fun hair. On the way to the salon I started to think about what I had said to my friend and thought about her, her treatment and the fact that she lives so far away from me in Wales, which makes me feel a bit useless. At that moment I thought that actually yes, I’ll do it, plus I could share pictures and show real solidarity with her. I know deciding to cut your hair off is absolutely not the same as going through chemo, but it was my way of saying “I’m here and I’m with you”.
My friend and were at secondary school together, so we’ve known each other for a long time, and she really is the most upbeat, funny and kind friend- she has a huge heart. She was even my midwife, and delivered my third child into the world. She has been my rock at times and my children absolutely love and adore her. There are five of us girls who have remained really good friends since starting secondary school and we get together every year for a weekend to chill and have fun. It was on one of our girls’ weekend a month ago in Ibiza that she told us she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. It was such as shock and made our weekend celebrating various 50th birthdays almost bittersweet.
I took the plunge before heading off to Edinburgh for the weekend. I called a colleague and friend of mine on Skype from the hairdresser’s and she said straight away: “Ohh have you done #BraveTheShave?” I actually hadn’t deliberately, so in that way my ‘braving the shave’ was accidental, but seeing as Macmillan Cancer Support were so fabulous a few years ago when another friend was going through breast cancer and chemo, I was delighted. I’ve raised over £1000 since shaving my head.
I’m simply saying “hi, I care, and I’m standing by you.”
I had spent the last two years growing my hair out, so when I went into the salon and asked my hairdresser to shave it all off, it’s fair to say that she was beyond shocked. I was enjoying having longer hair but I must admit that, especially at work, I would tie it up. I only ever really wore it loose to go out. I don’t spend much time doing my hair in general, and I hate the glossy blow-dried hair on myself with a passion. I’ve always been a bit of a tousled hair type. I have had short hair before, but funnily enough I did actually grow it long over the years because I felt that it looked too harsh when it was short. I must say it’s weird (and cold!) not having hair but everyone has been beyond kind about it and even said it makes me look younger. The Sharon Malcolm Hairdressing team was truly awesome. Rebecca, my stylist, had never actually shaved someone’s head completely. A colleague of hers filmed the whole thing- Rebecca cut my hair first, and then started shaving. Initially she planned on a “number two”, but in the end we decided to go the whole hog, so technically my cut is a “number one”. Afterwards I sent a picture to my friends, and most of them phoned back in disbelief that I had really done it!
I am totally grey now, but I’m lucky to have the option to colour it- if you are going through chemo you can’t have your hair dyed, so that makes it harder. My colourist Sharon advised on colour. I have chatted a lot to my stylist Rebecca and I think that I may have a mini colour adventure while it’s really short- it’s such a great opportunity to try out some bold and experimental shades. That said I can’t go too dark as the grey starts coming through at the roots very quickly. I normally have to go along to have them done every month. At the moment it’s a light blonde, and all the brighter because I’m lucky enough to have been on sunny trips to Ibiza, Goa and Barcelona recently, so it stands out against my tan. I think I’ll go along for a trim and colour change every four to five weeks or so.
One thing I would say is that I definitely have to wear more makeup with a shaved head. I’m thinking about makeup more than I did when my hair was longer. I would happily have gone out with no makeup on at all beforehand, but I don’t think that I would be as comfortable doing that now. While on holiday in Barcelona I was in Sephora with my youngest daughter Poppy, who’s a complete makeup addict and I bought a Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector . It’s brilliant for lighting up your skin and enhancing cheekbones. We were meant to share it, but I am officially keeping it now, as I love how it looks. I’m also much more adventurous with my lipstick choices now.
I do forget that I don’t have hair at times. People want to touch my head all the time which is kind of funny, and my husband seems to enjoy petting it. I must admit that I didn’t exactly think it through in terms of my professional life. I am a chocolatier and work with children a lot, so I will have to wear a funky cap or something! Otherwise, unless it’s cold, I leave it be.
My friend suffering with cancer was very moved that I’d gone through with it, as were her family, and there was quite a bit of laughter about it too (in a good way). I had a few amazing messages from friends who were just so supportive and kind. My husband wasn’t that shocked- when I told him that I was thinking about shaving my head he was on the golf course- I could just tell that he had glazed over as was thinking “yeah, right.” My eldest daughter said it looked cool. My son (he’s quite the teenager at 17) said that I looked stupid, and my youngest was not happy- she said that I looked awful. It’s fair to say that short hair isn’t to her taste. They’re getting used to it now though. Some people’s reactions have been a bit strange- I get quite a few stares, but overall I simply don’t notice that I’ve shaved it off anymore. For the most part, the reception to my new hair style has been a warm one.
I have promised my friend undergoing chemo that while she has no hair, I’ll have no hair. We’ll be baldies together, and then when hers grows, mine will grow! She’s about to embark on her third round of chemo so it’ll be staying short for that.
I must admit that I actually don’t mind not having hair. I’m certainly up and out of the house much quicker, and I can be in and out of the shower in double quick time. I’ll save a fortune on hair care products as well- my hair was really dry before and I did lots of conditioning treatments. The thought of long hair that reaches my shoulders is so far off now. Although come back to me during the winter months- I may not be so keen on very short hair by then- I have really noticed how much colder I get without hair!
I really don’t feel brave for shaving my hair off. It’s those enduring cancer and chemo that are brave. I’m simply saying “hi, I care, and I’m standing by you.”
Macmillan Cancer Support’s Brave The Shave campaign runs throughout August. Over £1 million has been raised this year alone, with 8,808 shavers signed up so far. Find out more at bravetheshave.org